Rugged tablet personal computers built for soldiers on the battlefield should perform well for government inspectors in slaughterhouses, said officials from GTSI Corp., which is to provide the military-style hardware to the Agriculture Department.

Inspectors traditionally use pen and paper in the field to fill out their inspection forms while working in "a pretty messy environment," said Mark Wenners, a GTSI sales manager. "Now they can go in with a tablet that can withstand these types of conditions -- dirt, dust and moisture."

Chantilly-based GTSI, which has more than 850 employees and annual revenue of $1.1 billion, won a contract to provide Panasonic Toughbook 18 computers to the Agriculture Department. The one-year award with four option years could be worth up to $25 million, said GTSI officials.

GTSI also won a contract, worth up to $25 million, to provide wireless infrastructure technology and services to the Agriculture Department. Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose is to partner with GTSI on the contract, company officials said.

To meet military specifications, the tablet PCs were tested to measure resistance to heat, cold, moisture and a three-foot drop.

The outer casing is made from magnesium alloy, which protects the screen and internal parts, and the PCs are equipped with shock-mounted hard drives, Wenners said. The tablets are sealed with rubber gaskets and have a sealed keyboard. The ports and connectors also have protective covers.

A sealed, ceramic pipe heat-disbursement system is used instead of a fan. A laptop fan has an opening that allows dirt, dust and water inside, but the ceramic pipe that disperses heat in the rugged PC is sealed, Wenners said.

"The average laptop has about a 35 percent failure rate, and if you take that into a field environment those failure rates more than double," Wenners said. "The Panasonic rugged notebooks have a less than 3 percent failure rate."

While field work for the Agriculture Department might not test the limits of PCs that were engineered to go to war, the rugged tablets fit well with a mobile workforce, said Chris Pate, GTSI's senior director for Panasonic mobile solutions.

"It's really uptime and reliability that we're after," Pate said. "It's a trend we've seen across the entire government towards developing mobile solutions."

The wireless infrastructure contract is focused on establishing policy and ensuring the system is secure, said Mohamed Elrefai, a senior director at GTSI. The department-wide contract is to include applications from the headquarters office to service centers to inspectors in the field, he said.

There is "a great deal of pent-up demand" for wireless applications throughout the Agriculture Department, Elrefai said.

Doug Beizer is a staff writer with Washington Technology. For more details on this and other technology contracts, go to