Corrections officials need to track people who have been placed on probation or parole, and the most common solution is a wearable device: an ankle bracelet that uses GPS and other systems to track location. These devices are expensive, and many departments cannot afford them for all the individuals they need to track. Telmate is a company that has come up with a different approach that saves government agencies a lot of money while providing more accurate and flexible tracking services.

The company’s Guardian service relies on the individual’s smartphone as the tracking device. Using an app that is free to the user, the system uses a combination of voice and facial recognition to confirm that the person responding to a check-in request is indeed the individual being tracked. Check-ins can be programmed by the case manager for a fixed schedule or random times. GPS and other location information can pinpoint where the individual is at all times, and not just at check-ins. Specific areas can be programmed as permitted — such as work and home locations — or prohibited and alerts can be generated if the individual strays from where he or she is supposed to be. The system provides much more flexibility and detail than an ankle bracelet, and makes it easy to relax the restrictions as the individual demonstrates trust and reliability.

As smartwatches and other wearables gain more functionality, these devices could take over this sort of tracking function from the smartphone. Biometric data gathered by the device could provide even more accurate identification of the individual, and could even eliminate the need to explicitly check-in. There are many parallels between the need to track probation and parole subjects, and the need to track children and the elderly, so the technology that is developed to help one group will likely benefit the other as well.