TSI Wins Prisoner Tracking Contract

July 4, 2002 — Tracking prisoners hasn’t evolved much since the invention of leg irons. But RFID may change that. Technology Systems International Inc. (TSI), a subsidiary of Alanco Technologies Inc., has signed a $3 million contract to install its inmate tracking system at an undisclosed prison in the Midwest.

TSI’s Prism system will track and assist in managing a population of up to several thousand inmates in the medium security facility, which has more than 30 prison buildings spread over a 25 acre site. “This is our first opportunity at the big house, so to speak, and that makes it exciting for us,” says Greg M. Oester, TSI’s president.

Between now and November, TSI will install RFID readers throughout the interior and exterior of the prison facility. Prisoners will each be given a wristband that looks like an industrial-size wristwatch. The unit contains a tamperproof transmitter that beams a signal out every two seconds.

The TSI readers pick up signals from every inmate in the facility. Software is used to calculate the position of individual inmates. The information can be stored for as long as the prison wants. TSI’s software can be set up to prevent prisoners from getting within, say, 10 feet of the perimeter fence.

Guards are also given transmitters, but their units have a man-down button. If prisoners threaten them, the guards can push the button. The system records their location and the location of the nearest 20 prisoners. And it identifies the nearest guards who can assist. (For more details on the TSI system, see RFID Reforms Prison Management.)

The Midwest prison was particularly interested in the man-down feature. “They have some officer safety issues,” says Oester. “They want to use our technology to augment the security of the staff without adding a lot more staff.”

TSI, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., was formed in 1994. Its technology was originally created by Motorola to track soldiers on the battlefields. After the military cutbacks in the late 1980s, Motorola began looking for alternative markets for the technology. Eventually it sold its patents to TSI.

The company was recently acquired by Alanco Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq (SC): ALAN), also of Scottsdale. Alanco started out in the pollution business, moved into data storage and purchased TSI in May.