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Rugged Toughbook 31s Help Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative Keep Power Running

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When you are responsible for providing electric service during rain or shine to roughly 150,000 customers in Southern Maryland, it is critical to have the most reliable mobile solution for keeping workers connected in the field. When tasked with finding the ideal technology, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) selected Panasonic’s fully-rugged Toughbook 30 laptops for their durability and functionality both in and out of vehicles.

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SMECO had previously depended on radio dispatches and hand-written notes to communicate and direct mobile crews, but this system eventually proved unreliable and inefficient. SMECO decided it was time to upgrade to a modern dispatch system in order to efficiently track and manage work orders. The primary goal was to deploy mobile computers that were capable of issuing computer-assisted dispatches by integrating with SMECO’s outage management system.  SMECO also needed a mobile solution that could withstand the heavy vibrations and inclement weather conditions its workers often encountered in the field.

During Hurricane Irene in 2011, crews working the outages relied heavily on the Toughbook laptops to be in constant contact with the home office.

After evaluating a number of rugged computer vendors in 2007, SMECO selected Panasonic’s fully-rugged Toughbook 30 laptop with integrated Verizon Wireless mobile broadband and GPS. SMECO also installed NetMotion Wireless Mobility XE® mobile VPN software as an upgrade to its previous VPN software, which frequently dropped connections in the field. The combined Panasonic Toughbook and Mobility XE solution allowed SMECO’s field workers to continuously connect back to headquarters for outage information and work orders, ultimately increasing productivity.

Improvements in reporting, field morale and crew efficiency increased as a result of the deployment, which solidified SMECO’s management decision to mobilize its crews. In fact, because of the success with the Toughbook 30, SMECO opted to refresh its mobile solution with the next-generation device in Panasonic’s fully-rugged line, the Toughbook 31. The Toughbook 31 and Mobility XE solution has been extremely reliable for day-to-day meter readings and credit card collections, as well as providing service in disaster situations.

During Hurricane Irene in 2011, crews working the outages relied heavily on the Toughbook laptops to be in constant contact with the home office. Safety concerns were numerous because of downed power and live lines. During storm situations, crews are focused on outage restoration and damage assessments, so their laptops must be extremely durable and able to stay connected 24/7.

To learn more about SMECO’s rugged mobile deployment, we encourage you to view the full case study and video on the Panasonic Solutions for Business website.

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