"It's one-third router, one-third modem and one-third an applications platform-in a box about 8½ by 11 and about two inches deep with a cell phone radio inside. It's the 'toughbook' of mobile gateways," says Kirk Moir, CEO of In Motion Technology, manufacturer of the onBoard Mobile Gateway, or oMG 1000.
Made specifically for the "command vehicle" market, this little box can connect all the computers and other devices in the truck to each other via wi-fi, and then send the information within them over a cell phone network back to base or hospital as needed, he says.
Some of the country's most (self-described) "aggressive" EMS services-from the standpoint of technology-have gotten on board with the oMG and are installing it in their fleets to aid in dispatch, vehicle information and electronic patient records. American Medical Response (AMR) deployed it last fall in Richmond (VA) Ambulance Authority vehicles where they are the contracted service, and Charlotte, North Carolina's Mecklenburg Emergency Medical Services Agency (commonly known as Medic) is in the middle of deploying it in their 52-ambulance fleet at press time.
So what's the learning curve?
There isn't one, says Moir.
"You don't have to know what WWCS is, or a CDMA or a GSM, or any of that; it's just a network that works. Think of multiple hops," says Moir. "The first is a wi-fi Centrino hop from the tablet PC or PDA or whatever back to the truck; then the oMG hops it again over the wireless network to headquarters or a hospital or both."
"The learning curve is more on the tablets themselves," agrees Medic's GIS (geographic information systems) Coordinator, Monroe Hicks. "This device is one of those that just starts; it maintains communications and it does it automatically, so the term 'transparent to the user' would apply. It's something they don't have to mess with."
Medic uses the oMG for vehicle location/mapping and electronic patient care records, explains Barry Bagwell, EMT-P, assistant director of operations. "We have to understand how to use the software applications—the e-PCR or the mapping system-but how the oMG actually works, who knows? And that's a good thing; that's a positive comment to make about a system."
It's not only transparent, it's a flexible platform: It does not matter what the wireless network is.
That's good for Mecklenburg, which has had to switch networks multiple times-from Verizon CDPD to Cingular WWCS and now to Verizon's wireless broadband system, EV-DO (evolution data optimized or only).
"This is the nice thing about the oMG," says Hicks. "As those technologies change or upgrade, all we have to do is change the PC card in the box."
"The oMG gives us a platform to grow from," agrees Bagwell. "It's supporting the systems we have today, and we think it will continue to support us as we evolve and expand our current systems. This is the foundation of our mobile networks."