One question commonly asked by those in a procurement role: “Who are GUARDIAN RFID’s competitors?”

Interestingly, corrections professionals don’t ask this quite as often, but in this blog, we thought we’d do both corrections users and those in purchasing a solid by compiling a list of companies that may offer a competitive product or solution organized by use case. This list isn’t a SWOT analysis. We’re not breaking down these companies by price, feature set, experience, etc. But, If you ask nicely, maybe we’ll do so in a follow-up video blog. To maintain objectivity, we’re simply listing these companies in alphabetical order. One last comment: we intentionally excluded jail management systems that provide a mobile solution. Why? We don’t encounter these add-on solutions frequently enough to mention them.

Cell Checks/Security Rounds/Guard Tour

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a guard tour system. But here are the companies that have found a niche in corrections with a guard tour/watch tour/cell check/security round solution. We’re not breaking down features, functions, pricing, experience, or technical details. These are just dudes that compete in the correctional guard tour use case.

(In alphabetical order)

Black Creek Integrated Systems
Black Creek Integrated Systems offers a wide range of products and solutions, including an Android-based device called a Personal Detention Assistant, which scans a barcode plate to automate watch tours.

Dynamic Imaging Systems
Corretrak is an iPod-based solution that supports scanning QR codes to log security rounds via Wi-Fi or a docking cradle.

Guard1/Timekeeping Systems
Guard1 has an affordable, longstanding product called the “Pipe” that touches circular metal dots called iButtons to log proof of presence during security rounds. It also supports a wallet with iButtons to log observations about specific locations. Their latest product entry is an Android device that scans QR codes or optionally RFID tags.

JailCore
JailCore uses an Android device and RFID tags to log security rounds.

Morse Watchman
Morse Watchman’s Powercheck device scans its proprietary checkpoints to log rounds.

Premises/Unit Innovations
Premises uses an Android device and QR codes or RFID tags to log security rounds.

Rhyan Consulting
LogSoft from Rhyan Consulting uses a tablet to scan QR codes or RFID tags to log security rounds.

Inmate Identification

Inmate identification solutions, specifically inmate wristbands, has fewer competitors. For the sake of complete disclosure, GUARDIAN RFID is the distributor of Clincher X-Wide RFID Wristbands from PDC (A Brady Corporation). We also deploy our own RFID Cards. Each company takes a drastically different engineering approach to their inmate wristbands.

(In alphabetical order)

Endur ID
Endur ID’s wristbands print onto a perforated, Tyvek-like wristband secured by a plastic fastener.

Pinnacle
Pinnacle armbands are a thick, tube-like band that works by sliding a printed insert into the tube, then placed into a rolling laminator to seal. Pinnacle armbands are fastened by metal rivets.

Inmate Tracking (Short and Long-Range)

When we’re asked about “inmate tracking” solutions by corrections and IT professionals, we actually need to clarify their meaning of “inmate tracking.” For some, it’s about seeing little dots on a screen, like they’re wanting to be human air traffic controllers. For others, they mean the ability to automate activity logging that may include short or long-range inmate identification and movement tracking.

Regardless of inmate identification range, here are companies that compete in this space.

(In alphabetical order)

Black Creek Integrated Systems
TSI/Prism is Black Creek’s long-range inmate tracking system that uses Active RFID tags and readers. Commercially available since 1998, TSI/Prism was one of the first entrants into active RFID in corrections.

Dynamic Imaging Systems
Corretrak uses iPods and wristbands with QR codes to track inmate movements from short distances.

Guard1/Timekeeping Systems
Guard1 uses active RFID technology with its proprietary wristbands and readers.

Radianse
Radianse uses active RFID technology with its proprietary wristbands and readers.

Long-Range Inmate Tracking

So if you want to play human air traffic controller and look at inmates like vectoring 737s from long-range distances, here are some companies that market inmate tracking solutions in this area for confined offenders.

Black Creek Integrated Systems

Guard1/Timekeeping Systems

Radianse

What about GPS or Active RF Tracking Systems?

This section is only for purchasing departments. GUARDIAN RFID does not target community corrections use cases. Generally speaking, ankle monitoring solutions for tracking defendants on bail or parolees are supported by longer-range tracking solutions that use GPS or active RF.

What questions should we be asking vendors?

Here are 10 questions to ask your inmate tracking vendor.

  1. Do you interface with our jail management system? If so, which facilities are currently using this interface?
  2. Do you support wristbands and ID Cards? Inmate identification solutions, such as wristbands, can be extremely effective for some facilities, and huge mistake for others. We recommend asking so that you know the capabilities and limitations of any vendor. Not sure which path is right for you? Read our blog about Wristbands vs. ID Cards to learn more about their pros and cons. Bottom line: optionality is your key to long-term success.
  3. What’s the average life expectancy of the wristband?
  4. What’s the battery life of your mobile devices?
  5. What’s the warranty period of your mobile devices and what may preclude a warranty claim? Also, is anything not covered under the warranty, and if so, what?
  6. Are the RFID tags battery powered or passive? If battery powered, what’s the life expectancy of each tag and its replacement cost?
  7. Is your solution Cloud-based or on-premises? If Cloud, who owns the data? Who’s your Cloud provider?
  8. If your solution is Cloud-based, what happens if we lose Internet or power?
  9. How is training coordinated? Is this train-the-trainer or do you train all staff directly? How is go-live coordinated? What’s the depth of your training team’s correctional experience?
  10. How are software updates and upgrades managed? What fees are associated?

GUARDIAN RFID vs. The Competition

So you’re probably expecting this section to espouse all of the great things we do, while exploiting the weaknesses of our competitors. Nope. To be sure, GUARDIAN RFID has a lot of strengths, but we’re not great at everything and are constantly evolving. Where are we weakest?

  1. GUARDIAN RFID doesn’t manufacture the RFID wristbands we deploy. We’re a distributor for PDC (a Brady Corporation) who manufactures Clincher X-Wide wristbands. We’re their preferred partner, and together, we co-designed the Clincher X-Wide RFID wristband. This wristband comes in eight colors. Want a ninth? Tough rockos. Want an alarm to go off if the band is ripped off? Too bad. That’s not a criticism of PDC. It’s also not validation that these types of ideas are actually practical, either. But the reality is: we don’t set the innovation roadmap. We can work to persuade the manufacturer, but we are not the manufacturer.
  2. GUARDIAN RFID is pure play Cloud. What's that mean? Using GUARDIAN RFID is akin to streaming videos and music. There's no servers. Our application and data is stored completely in the Cloud, which we've supported since 2007. Want an on-premises solution? You’ll have to beg, plead, give us your first born, and then maybe, just maybe, we’ll tell you no gently. In all seriousness, we don’t see the need or value in on-premises deployments. But maybe you can convince us with some truly fresh thinking.
  3. SPARTAN, our mobile device, is more expensive than others. Why? The answer’s actually really simple: you get what you pay for. We’ve deployed mobile devices in corrections since 2005. We deployed what ended up being garbage when we first started. Our earliest users will recall the old Pocket PCs we dropped in an Otterbox case, using an external compact flash (CF) RFID reader. The case was fine, but the Achilles heel was a thin little proprietary board that would break frequently anytime someone needed to charge the device or sync data without Wi-Fi and didn’t remove the cable correctly. When you deploy a low-cost mobile device, it’s low-cost for a reason. Either the manufacturer has compromised on processor, memory, storage, durability, battery life, camera quality, warranty length, or some combination of areas. After nearly 15 years, we’ve custom-built a device that withstands a ton of accidental drops. It’s been used in hand-to-hand combat against unruly inmates. SPARTAN delivers peace of mind for the long haul.

Keys for Success

As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Diligence is the mother of good fortune.” Beyond market research, accurately define the problem or challenges you’re needing to solve. Don’t identify the technology you think you should use first.

Equally as important: consider how you’ll measure the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the solution you deploy. What’s manageable must be measurable.

Work to obtain a baseline set of quantifiable metrics today so you can measure against the effectiveness of the chosen solution. For example, how long is it presently taking you to clear formal headcount? How many times per day is a formal headcount conducted? How many instances per day, week, or month is there a delay in clearing a formal headcount because of a count discrepancy or a communication breakdown? Are these problems originating in the same area of the facility, or does it differ? Which shifts run counts most to least efficiently, and where?

Knowing these types of baseline answers will help you to better identify the solution you think best meets your objectives, and measure for its effectiveness in the first 30, 60, and 90 days.

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