EMTs and paramedics work in some of the harshest environments imaginable. Outdoors they may labor through rain, wind, snow and baking heat. Indoors they can face cluttered, hazardous and unsanitary conditions. They venture into dangerous scenes like drug labs and bar fights and endure a regular risk of accident and assault.
Obviously they need computers that are pretty darn tough. The Mesa Pro rugged tablet from Juniper Systems comes from a history of “pretty darn tough.” Among its key features, it’s the world’s first rugged tablet with active cooling to achieve an IP68 rating – the common measure of electronic devices’ protection against the ingress of liquids and dust.
That means it offers public safety’s highest level of protection against splashes, spills and other potential penetrations in the unpredictable EMS environment.
“It’s a really unique rating in the 10-inch [screen] market – you don’t see products that have achieved that,” said Darren Hellstern, product manager for the Mesa Pro. “We put a lot of engineering time and effort – hundreds of hours – into developing the product to have that confidence. When we say it’s rugged, it really is rugged.”
That characteristic is a signature of Juniper – so much so that the company trademarked the term Juniper Rugged for its products. It means durability and resilience to the most rigorous kinds of use is integral to the company’s entire line, which includes tablets, handhelds and more for a range of physically demanding industries.
“We build our brand around it,” added Hellstern. “Our smaller seven-inch tablets are also IP68, which is somewhat unique, and we wanted to hold that same type of expectation for our larger tablet. It’s hard to achieve. A lot of our partners look at it as a differentiator.”
WHAT MAKES IT TOUGH?
Building for the challenging requirements of difficult fields has been part of Juniper’s DNA since its founding three decades ago. Originally known as HarvestMaster, the company initially provided data-collection and measurement solutions for the seed research industry. Its parent company, Campbell Scientific, makes data loggers, data acquisition systems, and measurement and control products for various weather, water, energy, infrastructure and soil applications.
“It started with helping farmers look at yield data, and eventually people started asking about data-logging capabilities beyond agriculture,” explained Michelle Brown, the company’s product marketing manager. That grew into areas like utilities and then forestry – difficult outdoor fields with regular exposure to hostile elements.
EMS has that too, making it a logical area for Juniper’s stout products.
“Whether it’s agriculture or land surveying or EMS, in all these cases it’s about collecting data,” noted Hellstern. “We have a long history of building products designed to do that in rugged environments.”
The Mesa Pro has numerous features developed accordingly. These start with that IP68 rating: The 6 signifies it’s entirely dust-tight; the 8 means it can withstand full submersion in a meter of water for 30 minutes. The rating also applies to the internal fan that keeps things cool during long operations in hot environments. It’s tested to MIL-STD-810H, the latest version of the longstanding military standard for withstanding tough circumstances (e.g., extremes of temperature, vibration, fluids and more). It’s easily cleaned with a simple disinfecting wipe.
With many common tablets, display screens become indecipherable in the glare of outdoors. The Mesa Pro features a special sunlight-readable display that won’t delay care and documentation at outdoor scenes. “Being viewable outside isn’t really a focus of consumer tablets like iPads,” said Hellstern. “There are major differences in what you can do with a rugged tablet like ours to generate the brightness to be seen in direct sunlight.” Its touchscreen uses chemically strengthened cover glass to resist impacts and scratches.
CARRY AND USE IT MORE EASILY
Achieving that high level of durability didn’t require sacrificing either processing power or ergonomics. As powerful as a laptop even in its smaller package, the Mesa Pro runs on Windows 11, powered by an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor with up to 16 gigabytes of system memory (suitable for handling large files). It’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G LTE multicarrier-capable and can come with optional FirstNet Band 14 mobile broadband to ensure connection and priority in times of congestion. In low-connectivity situations, all data is stored until it can be automatically uploaded to the cloud. An all-day battery (with an option for a hot-swappable backup) keeps things working through entire shifts.
A powered vehicle mount also lets the Mesa Pro be used in the ambulance. It pops out for easy carrying, with a supportive cradling wrist/hand strap, to accompany care outside the vehicle.
“I think an area people often miss with a device like this is how to make it more ergonomic as you carry and use it,” said Hellstern. “Part of that is small things like rounded edges, but we also wanted to make it comfortable on the hand and arm.”
The result is a unique adjustable support that keeps the bulk of the tablet’s weight – just 3.4 pounds, depending on configuration – on the forearm rather than the palm. A shoulder strap is available as well.
“It’s little things like the weight distribution that facilitate use,” Hellstern added. “We’ve spent the time to think about how users will use this when it’s not in an office environment. In the field they’ll have to hold it and interact with it, and it has to be comfortable. Now they can hold it, securely and comfortably, for a longer time.”
Another unique feature: The Mesa Pro’s touchscreen can be used in wet conditions and with gloved hands or a stylus, depending on the user’s selected touch profile.
“We’ve designed those uniquely for the different environments you may encounter,” said Hellstern. “You select one, and it recalibrates the display – for instance, if you select stylus use, it’ll ignore inadvertent finger touches after that.”
A benefit of the larger screen, though, is that the Mesa Pro requires fewer touches and less scrolling as providers access documents and complete patient care reports.
Each Mesa Pro is designed and built to order in the United States, allowing extensive configurability, including branding. The larger size permits the inclusion of extra space in the body for custom hardware like RFID readers. Juniper is also capable of lower-volume production runs for smaller buyers. The Mesa Pro can run on both Windows and Android operating systems.
WORK WITHOUT WORRY
EMS is a field of battle-tested skeptics with unique needs. For you to help them meet those needs, they’re going to want to know your bona fides. Juniper has 30 years’ worth of those in fields just as data-intensive and environmentally demanding as prehospital care.
“Agriculture’s about as rugged as you can get,” said Brown. “And like agriculture, EMS doesn’t wait for good weather. So we want our users to be confident when the call comes in, whatever its environment or location, that their rugged tablet will keep working for them.”
“The last thing an EMS provider needs to worry about,” added Hellstern, “is whether their product’s going to stop working because it’s too hot, too cold or they happened to drop it.”
For more information, visit Juniper Systems.