The software platforms used within your facility hold security-critical information, but how do they interact with your enterprise system? An interface allows two software systems to work together, leveraging their best features to add value and maintain constant, steady data flow.

There are 3 positions that new software can take to existing software:

  1. One-way interface
  2. Two-way interface
  3. No interface

This article will help explain what an interface is and walk you through the differences between a one-way and two-way interface of two software platforms. Then, it will cover the implications of not interfacing.

What is an interface?

An interface is like a bridge between two software platforms that allows data to flow freely without any human input. It can be created between many different types of software platforms, but for this blog, we will focus on an interface between commonly deployed enterprise software in corrections, including jail management systems (JMS), offender management systems (OMS), and case management systems (CMS) and a third party software platform such as a commissary vendor or a security rounds solution. GUARDIAN RFID integrates with many enterprise public safety software companies, as well as homegrown systems.

Differences between a one-way interface and a two-way interface

A one-way and two-way interface differ in two major ways: the technical approach and the value it provides the third party software. The cost of each will also be included.

One-Way Interface

Technical Approach

A one-way interface is sending data over from one software platform to the other. For the example, we will assume that the two platforms are the facility’s enterprise software and GUARDIAN RFID. The general approach is as follows:

Step 1) Staff manually enters inmate data into the enterprise software

Step 2) The enterprise software automatically sends the inmate data to GUARDIAN RFID

Step 3) GUARDIAN RFID allows staff to reuse the enterprise software while continuing to collect and log new data

Step 4) GUARDIAN RFID analyses the data collected from both platforms and offers insightful reports

Cost

The price of a one-way interface will vary depending on the software vendor and the complexity of the project. Some vendors, like GUARDIAN RFID, build an interface with another vendor at no charge. Others will charge anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000. The vendors of both software platforms will have to build the data bridge and will charge the end user a development fee.

Value

With a one-way interface, value is being added to the third party software. The interface helps to bridge the gap between the two software platforms and brings them together through the sharing of information. Without any human input, the data in your CMS or OMS will appear within your third party software.

Let's use the booking process as an example. When an inmate is being booked, an officer enters the offender’s information directly into the enterprise system. That information will be automatically sent over to the interfaced third party software. Without that data bridge, officers spend their time manually entering that information into both platforms. Utilizing an interface means officers can waste less time and increase efficiency.

The Burleigh Co. Detention Center in Bismarck, North Dakota, currently has about 10 platforms interfacing with their jail management system, JailTracker. JailTracker is interfaced with vendors for commissary, phone services, video visitation, and GUARDIAN RFID. IT Director Tom Schroeder said that “every interface has an important role.” He went on to share that the interface with GUARDIAN RFID makes it possible for staff to have “current information available at their fingertips.” Without a data bridge, that wouldn't be possible.

Additionally, an interface allows correction staff to log inmate specific cell checks, something stand alone software can’t achieve. Sevier Co. Detention Center in De Queen, Arkansas has a one-way interface between their JMS and GUARDIAN RFID. This allows staff to reuse the inmate housing data and demographic information to know everything about that inmate. That data is then used within GUARDIAN RFID to execute important responsibilities, including inmate specific cell checks. Because the JMS sends over information every two minutes, GUARDIAN RFID knows the housing locations of every inmate within the facility at all times.

The data collected in the third party platform will be more detailed because of the JMS data, and more detail leads to higher quality data. Overall, the third party software provides more value to your staff with a one-way interface.

Pros

Cons

  • Reuse booking data without human input
  • Staff work faster and performance improves
  • Data being captured is more detailed
  • better quality of data
  • Potential cost to build and licence interface
  • Time added to implementation timeline (1-3 months)

Two-Way Interface

Technical Approach

A two-way interface is sending raw data over from one software to a second software, and then the information from the second software is sent back to the first. For our example, we will assume that the two platforms are the enterprise software and GUARDIAN RFID. The general approach is as follows:

Step 1) Staff manually enters inmate data into the enterprise software

Step 2) The enterprise software automatically sends the inmate data to GUARDIAN RFID

Step 3) GUARDIAN RFID allows staff to reuse the enterprise software while continuing to collect and log new data

Step 4) GUARDIAN RFID automatically sends the newly collected data to the enterprise software

Step 5) The enterprise software is now the System of Record

Cost

The price of a two-way interface can range from $7,000 and $25,000. It will vary depending on the software vendor and complexity of the project. Generally speaking, the price of a two-way interface is higher than that of a one-way interface.

More complex interfaces requires more time and effort by the software companies, leading to higher costs. It also has a non-monetary cost: the implementation of the new third party software can be stalled. If you’re not in a rush to get the security rounds solution or commissary software up and running, the added time to build the interface won’t harm your facility. But for those in a pinch, a two-way interface can delay the use of a much-needed software platform.

Value

With a two-way interface, value is being added to both software platforms. It offers the same value as the one face, but also creates a system of record.

Everything that was possible with a one-way interface is also possible with a two-way. A two-way interface allows the platforms to reuse booking data without human input, and the data is more detailed and of higher quality. The staff will also save time and increase performance.

Now that data is also being sent back to the enterprise software, it becomes the permanent or system or record. This is helpful for correctional facilities that want to standardize on workflows and reporting. If choosing to standardize, staff will only need to be trained on the enterprise software because the data will be accessed solely from that platform. The is the only additional value to a two-way interface in comparison to a one-way.

Elkhart Co. Jail in Elkhart, Indiana, has an average daily population of 1,000 inmates. In 2017, the jail deployed a two-way interface between Inform, their JMS from TriTech and GUARDIAN RFID. According to their staff, the two-way interface has significantly improved efficiency within the jail. The control room operators are logging less and focus more on safety and security now that GUARDIAN RFID sends inmate data, such as cell checks, movements, and activity logging, to their JMS.

It is important to note that an enterprise system collects only raw data from the third party software. Any analytics or insights cannot be sent over. Analytics and insights can only be accessed by logging into the third party software.

Pros

Cons

  • Reuse booking data without human input
  • Staff work faster and performance improves
  • Data being captured is more detailed
  • better quality of data
  • Create a system of record
  • Cost
  • Complexity
  • Time added to implementation timeline (5-10 months)

What Happens Without an Interface?

Without an interface, the two software platforms work independently from one another. The data will be siloed, remaining in system where it was initially entered. Without the automation of an interface, all data needs to be entered manually in both platforms.

The data is much less detailed and insightful when it’s siloed. Each software program is only able to show a portion of each inmate’s record. To get a full look at one inmate, officers would need to get reports from both platforms.

Our Recommendation

Choose to Interface

GUARDIAN RFID encourages correctional facilities to have an interface between their enterprise software and a third party software. A single software platform can’t meet every single need. Interfacing allows two best-in-class platforms to work cohesively and provide the end user with better results.

Let Experience Dictate Whether Two-way Interface is Necessary

When deciding the interface type, we recommend that facilities start with a one-way and let experience dictate whether or not a two-way is necessary. A one-way interface will improve efficiency and accuracy, while supporting higher quality data collection and reporting. It also tends to be more budget-friendly with a sound return on investment. If you find that the one-way interface isn’t sufficient for the correctional facility, a two-way interface can still be built. The two-way technically provides more value, but at a higher price. Before spending more money, make sure it’s something your facility actually needs.