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EETE JAN 2015

Tracking offenders and consumers alike By Julien Happich Last month was taking place the 9th annual CEP (Confederation of European Probation) conference in Frankfurt, aiming to address the state of electronic monitoring (EM) in Europe and set this penal measure in the context of human rights (including data protection). It is interesting to note that such a conference would address the very same issues around privacy (while monitoring a convict outside jail) as they would typically need to be addressed at consumer level with smartphone geo-localization and relentless in-shop The ReliAlert XC, a tough wearable. behaviour analysis. Leading EM solution provider Track Group was among the conference attendees, closely watching the market evolutions with plans to expand in Europe. EEtimes Europe caught up with the company’s CTO, Tom Gilgan, to learn more about the specificity of the European market. Like many of its competitors in this niche market, Track Group commercializes EM bracelets, looking very much like beefed-up wearables with a tamper-proof strap (including tamper detection and alert). One model, the Shadow, reports realtime GPS data about the wearer and can automatically notify the offender of a no-go area (through a flashing LED, sound or vibration), based on pre-established geofencing scenarios. A more elaborate device, the ReliAlert XC, not only tracks offender movements but features two/three-way voice communication as well as a loud 95-db siren that can be activated through the monitoring centre in case the offender would not comply with his/ her geo-fencing restrictions. All right, that’s all a bit coercive, but still better than jail, so much so that in some countries, EM is nearly considered as a favour being made to convicts who have a good conduct The TrackerPAL Mobile App, a web-based application that records and stores all data transmitted from ReliAlert, for real time and historical offender location viewing track-record or for mild criminals (the economics and better re-insertion are other drivers). While in the US, Canada and in a lot of countries outside Europe, law enforcement agencies typically grant themselves the right to do whatever they want with the GPS data to ensure public safety (on the basis that a convict’s privacy doesn’t matter to them), Europe apparently has a different stance. “The most interesting part of the conference was the discussion about electronic monitoring human rights on data protection. There is a huge diversity across countries, and in Europe, each country has a very different mandate”, said Gilgan. In Germany for example, officers are not even allowed to look at GPS data from the previous day. So together with its wearables, Track Group has developed strong data analytics solutions that crunch the GPS data into summary reports rather than detailed views of the convict’s whereabouts. Gilgan sees these analytics as a key differentiator for the company, a capability on data interpretation that can be tuned to whatever country’s legal framework. “This analytics side of our reporting software helps officers understand loads of things about the offender, but in a summarized way that respects data privacy. Our analytic tools can bring up patterns of life that can be interpreted so as to prioritize the officer’s actions”, Gilgan said. “There is a lot of academic work involved in this, but the behavioural analysis gives a lot of clues on the lifestyle. For example, it has been shown that an unstructured lifestyle is more likely to lead to recidivism”. When big data is thrown into the equation, for example blending GPS data with crime data, gun registry data, or other known offenders’ addresses, the picture gets wider and wider. Without even having to dig into all of the data, at regular interviews, a probation officer could notice suspect repeat visits or acquaintances and issue warnings (either these stop or you go back behind bars). Although Track Group is selling its products globally, Europe is a growing market for the company. Each country is its own market, with specific mandates on how offenders should be dealt with, and the analytics can be tuned accordingly to safeguard their privacy. Recently, Track Group acquired Canadian G2 Research, a global provider of analytical software with solutions ranging from data analysis and reporting to advanced predictive analytics. This acquisition is very much in line with the company’s goals to expand in Europe with customizable tracking solutions. But with this acquisition, the company is also hoping to break the mould from its niche surveillance market to adjacent markets, including the advertising industry prone to track consumers’ dollars. Gilgan admits that although advertising has nothing to do with Track Group’s today core offerings, the behavioural analysis and lifestyle pattern extractions share something in common with today’s big data marketing tactics, and the advertising market is just too tantalizing to be ignored. “We have to think about how we want to approach the consumer market, but some of our predictive technology could be used to launch mobile ads. For example, we could serve a Starbucks promotion just before they make a move to take their coffee break“, said Gilgan. According to market research, such predictive advertising could be 5 to 10% more effective than merely geo-localized advertising. 4 Electronic Engineering Times Europe January 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE JAN 2015
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