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When a local fire department asked for rugged tablets with 4G LTE, we worked with Sierra Wireless to engineer a solution.

Late last year, the Lake Shore Fire Company was preparing to replace its clunky laptops with mobile rugged computers. And because a first responder’s success depends on split-second decisions in critical situations, the company knew it needed a device that could communicate information anywhere at any time.

“But we couldn’t make that happen,” says Bak USA Field Manager Lindsay Riggs.

Wait, what?

Without 4G LTE networking modules embedded into the Seal at that time, our rugged tablet was limited to Wi-Fi internet connections—so it couldn’t really connect to the internet in the field.


“The fire department was really excited that the Seal is water-resistant and fully functional in extreme temperatures,” Lindsay explains, “but in order to operate their custom software tool in the field, they’d need a constant internet connection, which we couldn’t provide yet. They could’ve bought a different device from somewhere else, but they were committed to supporting a local business, so they agreed to wait until we found a solution for them.”

Four months later, a solution emerged. But not without some serious help from Sierra Wireless, an IoT leader that builds innovative wireless solutions for companies like ours around the world.

After evaluating modules from other vendors, our engineering team selected the Sierra Wireless AirPrime® EM Series networking modules for the 4G LTE Advanced network. Some of you might know exactly that that means. Others? Eh, maybe not so much. Put simply, these modules:

  • Are Industrial-Grade
  • Meet PCI-SIG Standards
  • Integrate Wireless Connectivity
  • Connect to Verizon Internet

Additionally, Sierra Wireless offers free unlimited firmware-over-the-air updates. With our rugged tablets synced into Sierra Wireless’ Air Vantage® FOTA Edition, the Lake Shore Fire Company can keep their devices updated, connected, and secure. While these capabilities may have been provided by another vendor, they would not have been integrated so quickly.

“With other LTE module providers, it was up to us to develop a system to maintain the modules while they were in the field. This requires a purpose-built system, which would need development time and a big up-front investment,” explains Bak USA Sustaining Product Manager Leonardo Rodriguez. “In the case of Sierra Wireless, this was not necessary since the AirVantage platform was already in place and provided a much more complete service than what would have been developed in a short time on our own.”

Read the Sierra Case Study

But how would the upgrade to 4G LTE impact our manufacturing process? After all, we’d still have to build all those new modules into our rugged tablets. Here’s what Bak USA Seal Technical Product Manager Bo Zhang has to say:

“Because Sierra Wireless 4G modules already have Verizon certification, it saved us a lot of time during our Verizon certification process. To install 4G LTE into our devices, it only takes few seconds to input the module (only one screw) and just a couple minutes for antennas.”


Okay, so what have we learned here? Well, Bak USA is working with businesses big and small to bring solutions to, well, businesses big and small. How are we doing it? In this case, we identified a need, pinpointed a solution, and engineered a result. We worked with a very large company to enable our own smaller company to serve a local fire department. Speaking of which, what does our customer have to say about the finished product?

“The Seal was everything we needed. The right technology can make a real difference and using the Seal allowed us to better respond to emergencies,” says Lake Shore Volunteer Firefighter & Board Member Mark Flack. “It created an opportunity for us to understand a scene before we arrive—and that can be the difference between life and death. Tech like the Seal helps us do our jobs better in an increasingly chaotic world.”

Read the Lake Shore Case Study

If it sounds like a win-win-win, that’s because it is. Do you have a project that requires direct access to mobile technology? Let us help you. Contact us today.