Data911 yesterday announced the availability of its new Multi-function Display Interface (MDI) that lets the company’s in-vehicle touchscreen displays work with competing non-Data911 computing devices while saving valuable space in the vehicle cabin, according to company officials.

Early this year, Data911 introduced the M7+ Multi-Touch Display in two sizes, but the displays utilize proprietary technology to transmit data from the computing device to the display, so it only worked with a Data911 PC, according to Jason Wise, Data911’s product manager for mobile data computers. With the new MDI box, the displays now can leverage a Data911 tablet or any Windows-based computing device with a USB port, he said.

“This would be specifically for a solution with the Data911 tablet or anybody else’s laptop, tablet or fixed-mount computer interface to our display,” Wise said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

By introducing the MDI, Data911 has increased significantly the potential customer base for its displays, according to Wise.

“We can approach customers in two ways,” he said. “Either they’ve purchased a solution—whether it’s a tablet or a laptop—and it just didn’t work out the way they envisioned. We can provide a solution to resolve some of their pains.

“Or, a customer might already understand that a tablet doesn’t provide the in-car experience that they want their officers to have, but they still want a removable product. Here, we can provide the overall solution with a tablet computer, MDI and our fixed-mount display with a keyboard … so they can have removability and the benefits of our fixed-mount display.”

Existing Data911 customers that use a Data911 computer in their vehicles would not need an MDI, so the MDI is expected to be sold as part of a package with a Data911 display, Wise said. An optional keyboard is also available, he said.

Although introducing the MDI box—7.25 inches long, 1.125 inches high and 3 inches deep—and a Data911 display to an in-vehicle system intuitively might sound like it would introduce more hardware into an already-crowded cabin area, that is not the case, Wise said. In fact, the Data911 solution increase available space in the cabin area, because the MDI and computing device can be housed elsewhere—for instance, in the trunk or under the seat—and the mounted display takes up less room than a mounted laptop or tablet, he said.

“The purpose of the interface box is to provide a more ergonomic cabin within the vehicle,” Wise said. “A laptop, for example, is very bulky, usually mounted on a large vehicle dock on a pole on the passenger’s side of the vehicle, which takes up valuable room and makes it very difficult for a second officer to be in a patrol car.

“Our fixed-mount display and separate keyboard provides a more ergonomics for the driver and opens up more space in the cabin.”

Lee Warner, Data911’s director of marketing, echoed this sentiment.

“Whatever you’re using as your CPU can be in the trunk, but the MDI can be hidden out of the cab, as well,” Warner said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Even though it’s a small piece of hardware that you’re introducing, you’re not introducing it into the cab—the area where you have passengers and already have so much equipment.”

In addition to providing an interface to a Data911 display, the interface also can be used as a general USB hub to support other functions within the vehicle, Wise said.