The Evolution of Cellular Networks & What It Could Mean for Your Agency

In just 10 years, smartphone usage has climbed almost 700% with no expectation of slowing down.1 In order to support the growing bandwidth, cellular providers work on a next-generation operating model with more frequent releases. We hear a lot about “5th generation (5G)” and “Long-term Evolution (LTE)” technology, but the typical consumer may not understand what these terms mean.

As more community corrections agencies leverage technology to enhance community supervision, we want to help you understand the impact and future implications. Each generation of wireless technology has the potential to reduce cost, increase device longevity, and provide more reliable supervision techniques for agencies.

The primary goal of next generation networks is to support more users and faster data transfers. To understand where cellular network technology is headed, it’s helpful to look back on the different cellular generations.

The History of Wireless Networks

1st Generation (1G)

The first generation was introduced in the late 1970s and ran on an analog system. Motorola, Inc. produced the first commercially available cellphone in 1983, named DynaTAC. The device ran on 1G with limited coverage, poor sound quality, and zero security. While revolutionary at the time, providers quickly recognized the need for a more reliable and secure communication channel.

2nd Generation (2G)

2G launched in the early ‘90s through one of two communication technologies to handle the demand for mobile broadband. This generation transferred data from one device to another with text messages and multimedia content, changing the way we communicate.

The Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks provided many fundamental features still in use today, including Short Message Service (SMS), internal roaming, conference calls, call holding, and billing based on long-distance calls.2 The main distinction between the two networks is GSM transmitted data and voice simultaneously, while CDMA did not. As a result, approximately 95% of the world’s devices operated under GSM.3

3rd Generation (3G)

As the world became more digital, 3G was introduced in 2001 to facilitate greater voice and data capacity, support a wider range of applications, and increase data transmission at a lower cost. During the 3G era, smartphone technology emerged giving us the ability to stream data, surf the internet, listen to music, conduct video conferences, and send emails. By this stage, CDMA technology had progressed and became equivalent to GSM. While 3G mobile devices operated on GSM and CDMA, the emergence of LTE technology would soon make these networks obsolete.

4th Generation (4G)

In 2010, the focus was on 4G and the implementation of Long-term Evolution (LTE) technology-enabled devices. 4G was a major milestone for wireless technology as it enhanced mobile applications, high-definition TV, video conferencing, cloud-computing, and gaming. 4G’s backward compatibility created some panic in the technology industry as devices on GSM and CDMA networks will be inoperable at the end of 2022.

What’s Next for Wireless Technology?

5th Generation (5G)

While you have probably heard about 5G technology, it is still under development. The future of 5G will support wireless Virtual Reality (VR) gaming, remote control robots, and driverless vehicles. The new generation promises even faster data rates, higher connection density, and lower latency, but it will take some time before we see the tangible benefits of 5G.

Implications for Community Corrections

The progressive transformation has both benefits and disadvantages. Wireless network improvements give electronic monitoring (EM) devices the opportunity to hold and transfer more data at faster speeds, making them more agile and reliable. However, devices running on the previous generation, GSM and CDMA wireless systems, are scheduled to become inoperable by the end of 2022.

When choosing an EM provider, agencies need cost-effective solutions that meet their current and future needs. BI considers these needs on a daily basis and has worked diligently to integrate LTE technology into our present and future products, including GPS, alcohol, RF, and mobile solutions. According to Joe Newell, Senior Director of BI Labs and Wireless Strategy, “One of the core missions of our research is to continually evaluate each new generation of wireless technology and understand how it can improve the products and services we offer. As a result, we’ve engineered BI LOC8® XT and BI HomeGuard® 20|20 to operate on both 4G and 5G networks, providing our public sector partners with the longevity on which they depend.”

1https://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/
2http://net-informations.com/q/diff/generations
3https://www.hindawi.com/journals/wcmc/2017/2315036/

Technology Trend Series, Part 4: Evidence-Based Population Management

Part 4 of our series covers Evidence-based Population Management from the Corrections Tech 2020: Technological Trends in Custodial and Community Corrections white paper. Recidivism reduction remains a primary goal of correctional agencies throughout the country, and over the past decade, extensive research has focused on technology to accelerate these efforts. Recent legislation has relied on data to develop new strategies and approaches to criminal justice reform. For example, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), developed by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), leverages data to generate cost savings that can be reinvested in high-performing public strategies.1 As the population of individuals under community supervision continues to grow, future correctional funds will shift towards technology that combines electronic monitoring with reentry programming.

Key Takeaways

  • Predictive Performance to Reduce Recidivism: Validated risk/needs assessments will become more sophisticated to predict offender risk, drive decisions, and modify program delivery. Today, states use different risk/needs assessments, but efforts to centralize the data are underway. Several states already have databases that pull offender data from probation, parole, and service provider sources to forecast outcomes.
  • Service Delivery Enhancements: The demand for electronic monitoring technology that connects individuals to community service providers is expected to rise as community referrals become a larger component of offender case management. Agencies will seek technology that provides real-time communication and recordkeeping between community providers supporting health, housing, employment, education, and child welfare.
  • Agency Collaboration: New collaborative tools such as messaging, audio, and video conferencing have great potential to foster closer working relationships between correctional staff and community partners.
  • Data Collection: Advanced algorithms that examine evidence-based data will have a significant impact on sentencing, correctional policies, and community supervision.

Cost-Saving Solutions for Agencies

BI understands the challenges agencies face due to prison overcrowding and tight correctional budgets. Our full continuum of electronic monitoring products coupled with evidence-based programming is a cost-effective way to enhance public safety. Learn how we helped Lycoming County, in Pennsylvania, alleviate jail overcrowding and generate savings.


1Evidence-Based Decision Making in Local Criminal Justice Systems, National Institute of Corrections. http://info.nicic.gov/ebdm/, accessed February 15, 2016.  

Technology Trend Series, Part 3: Big Data & Advanced Analytics

Part 3 of the series examines big data and advanced analytics. As the world becomes more digitized through the convergence of mobile, social, cloud, and information, the volume, variety, and velocity of data are growing exponentially. From 2010 to 2020, the amount of data created, captured, copied, and consumed in the world increased by 5,000%.1

The use of digital technology and data analytics in corrections drives decision-making capabilities, infrastructure enhancements, and automation services. Correctional agencies will need to make a significant investment in tools to manage and leverage larger, more complex data and real-time data flow. The challenge is not about just learning from big data but doing it quickly enough so that it can bring value, and soon enough to make a difference regarding public safety.2

Key Takeaways

  • Predictive Modeling to Manage & Mitigate Risk: Analytics platforms offering statistical predictions about potential criminal activity may have the ability to forecast when and where crimes are more likely to occur. Predictive algorithms are currently used for pretrial and bail, sentencing, probation and parole, and juvenile justice.3
  • Multimodal Biometric Database: The biometric authentication and identification market is expected to undergo significant growth over the next five years. Since 2008, the FBI has been assembling the Next Generation Identification system, a $1 billion multimodal biometric database that combines fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition, voice data and other biometrics. While this initiative greatly expands the amount of data searchable by federal and state agencies, new laws and regulations have been created to protect this confidential data.4
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology: Advances in machine learning technology and big data have paved the way for new AI applications and capabilities. Agencies are predicted to make investments in AI teaching computers that improvise solutions to problems. AI will likely transform the corrections industry, and agencies will use it as a tool for officers, not a replacement.
  • Data Mining & Analytics: Large quantities of unstructured data need technology to search, analyze, and organize complex data sets. Automated tools look for patterns or groups of records (cluster analysis), unusual records (anomalies), and dependencies (association rule mining).

Make Your Data Work for You

BI understands the many demands placed on community corrections agencies and officers. As more individuals transition from incarceration to community supervision, agencies are expected to do more with less. Our advanced statistical software, BI Analytics® Suite, incorporates client behavior and calculates potential risk, offering officers and managers convenient tools to quickly identify and address issues. The suite includes two distinct modules seamlessly accessible through BI TotalAccess®. Discover how our Analytics Suite can benefit your agency.


1https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2021/12/30/54-predictions-about-the-state-of-data-in-2021/?sh=97e0381397d3.
2https://nicic.gov/corrections-tech-2020-technological-trends-custodial-community-corrections-2017.
3http://www.datacivilrights.org/pubs/2015-1027/Courts_and_Predictive_Algorithms.pdf.
4http://www.datacivilrights.org/pubs/2015-1027/Biometrics_Primer.pdf.

Technology Trend Series, Part 2: Increasing Mobility

Part 2 of the series looks at Trend 3: Increasing Mobility. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most significant technologies of the 21st century, especially in the mobile arena. IoT refers to a network of internet-connected devices that collect, analyze, and exchange real-time data to create actions. Popular applications include the smart home products such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, and wearables such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit.

IoT is symbiotic with mobility, and recent adoption in community corrections has changed the way agencies and officers use electronic monitoring to optimize processes, save time, and increase efficiency. As a result, legal and technological developments regarding mobile devices and applications should be closely followed over the next few years. There will be new requirements for IT services, and agencies will have to examine how best to scale them up.1

Key Takeaways

  • Emerging Capabilities of IoT: Devices and applications that automate case notes and provide real-time access to court orders, supervision records, and violations enable officers to manage their caseloads from anywhere.
  • Client-supplied Devices: As commercial mobile technology becomes more advanced, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach for mobile monitoring is expected to continue to increase. This may impact legal standards around privacy policies. For example, probation and parole officers in California can search a supervised client’s phone or tablet without a warrant, and other states are predicted to follow.
  • Unified Communication Tools: Single platform communication tools will help increase productivity and reduce cost for cases that require collaboration from different agencies. The demand for video conferencing, messaging, and voice access commands will rise.
  • Enterprise Approach to Criminal Justice System: Considerable investment will be geared toward technology that promotes “boundary-less” collaboration between all agencies in the judicial system. Unified communication between police, prosecutors, courts, parole, and probation will also create a need for new IT systems and infrastructure.
  • Hands-free, Heads-up Technology: Wearables such as watches, glasses, and body cameras, enabling officers to perform multiple tasks simultaneously while working in the field, will continue to enter the market.

BI Approach to Innovation

Our in-house Research & Development team, BI Labs, keeps BI abreast of current technology trends and continually looks for products and technology that lead to the creation of future-ready products and solutions. Learn more about our mobile solutions, BI SL3®, BI TotalAccess® Mobile, and BI SmartLINK®, and stay tuned for Part 3 of our series on big data and analytics.

1https://nicic.gov/corrections-tech-2020-technological-trends-custodial-community-corrections-2017.

Technology Trend Series, Part 1: Cost Avoidance & Reducing Workloads

In September 2021, we published a summary of the Corrections Tech 2020: Technological Trends in Custodial and Community Corrections white paper by the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS). This Technology Trends Series will highlight notable trends, summarize key points, and outline the implications for the community corrections industry.

Part 1 of the series looks at Trend 2: Cost Avoidance & Reducing Workloads. Two problems most agencies face are exhausted correctional funds and unmanageable officer caseloads. “Corrections is doubly hit because the same actions that reduce cost (keeping people out of jail) make the business more complex (figuring who, how, and when to keep people out of jail). Technology is vital to both sides of this equation, making all the parts work together in the most cost-effective way. The business challenges are fostering innovation in agencies large and small, and technology is contributing to the rapid spread of new and effective techniques nationwide.”1

Key Takeaways

  • Technology from Other Markets in the Hands of Officers: Agencies are encouraged to explore new tools and techniques allowing officers to streamline communication, enhance case management, and facilitate access to real-time information while officers are in the field. Examples of this include the ability for officers to upload data into Google Maps to plan fieldwork, minimize travel, and save time.
  • Video Technology: The use of video conferencing is expected to become the routine way probationers and parolees communicate with courts, agencies, and officers. Video technology saves time and money by reducing the number of in-person hearings and appointments.
  • Revenue Opportunities: More cloud-based options for the “back office”, including human resources, finance and accounting, and cross-department messaging will help reduce the cost of IT infrastructure support. Products and services at cost to clients including personal devices and mobile applications, will increase revenue for agencies.
  • Collaboration Across the Criminal Justice System: There is an increase in agencies using secure, cloud-based software to share real-time information across courts, legal professionals, and other public safety agencies. Transparent cross-collaboration helps reduce cost and increase efficiency across the board.

BI Approach to Innovation

As the industry continues to evolve, it’s important that agencies understand how community corrections electronic monitoring technology can be implemented to meet current supervision demands and future needs. BI Incorporated continues to lead community corrections in an era of rapid technological innovation with our continuum of future-ready products and services. Our solutions are configurable to meet the needs of agencies of all sizes. Learn More about our mobile and software solutions and stay tuned for Part 2 of our series on increased mobility.

1https://nicic.gov/corrections-tech-2020-technological-trends-custodial-community-corrections-2017.

Federal Aviation Administration Raises Concerns Over 5G

On November 2, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) raised concerns about the impact that new 5th generation (5G) mobile network may have on aircraft navigation and safety. 5G uses signals known as the C-Band and specifically, frequencies from 3.7 to 3.98 GHz. Cellular carriers were scheduled to begin using the C-Band in December 2021, but the rollout has been postponed until July 2022 to provide more time to assure the FAA that the technology can safely coexist with aircraft operations.

BI customers can rest assured. BI LOC8® XT, BI HomeGuard® 20|20, and BI SL3® devices are 5G-ready however, these devices do not operate in the C-Band and are exempt from the FAA’s concerns.

If you are not a BI customer, we encourage you to discuss with your provider to better understand their 5G status and implementation plans.

Electronic Monitoring Solutions to Support Bail Reform

Bail reform continues to be a controversial topic in the criminal justice field, and for good reason. American taxpayers spend approximately $14 billion a year on pretrial detention, and with just over four percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has almost 20% of the pretrial population.1, 2 Nearly two-thirds of the people in U.S. jails have not been convicted of a crime, and on any given day, more than 450,000 people remain in jail whom a judge has deemed low-risk.3, 4 Legislative reform that eliminates cash bail for pretrial defendants is needed, but raises many questions and concerns.

How is risk assessed? How are individuals being monitored pre-conviction? Does crime increase when defendants remain in the community pretrial? Are there benefits for states and counties that divert individuals from jail?

Risk Assessment

Pretrial risk assessment tools use algorithms and actuarial data to predict the likelihood a defender appears in court with no new arrest during the pretrial period. These tools are designed to assist, not replace, judicial decision-making and discretion. Research shows that validated risk assessment tools can improve the accuracy of defendant risk, compared to decisions that rely solely on subjective judgement.

Pretrial Monitoring

The removal and regulation of cash bail diverts pretrial defendants from jail, resulting in a significant shift in the criminal justice system. Agencies need to adapt to support an increase in pretrial monitoring to keep communities safe and individuals accountable. Similar to probation and parole, pretrial monitoring manages risk to community safety, failure to appear in court, and the risk of these individuals committing future crimes. Pretrial monitoring works to help individuals, presumably innocent, make their court appointments and provides resources to help them remain crime free until trial.

Benefits of Bail Reform

Research shows that shifting resources from pretrial incarceration to community supervision not only decreases jail and prison overcrowding, but saves taxpayers dollars. Community supervision programs that leverage technology enable courts and agencies to monitor pretrial defendants while lessening the burden on prisons and jails. Successful reentry planning coupled with technology-driven programs and services can positively impact outcomes. In some states, research suggests that electronic monitoring equipment has helped decrease failure to appear rates, through device notifications, defendant/officer communication, and sobriety checks. In Maryland, bail reform decreased the state’s failure to appear rate from 10.1% to 9.2%.5

In addition to saving taxpayer dollars, bail reform removes the bias that the current criminal justice system has towards poor individuals and people of color. Money bail has long been criticized for disproportionately affecting poor people and minorities, civil rights, and racial justice, and criminal justice reform advocates for years have worked to eliminate it.6

What Does Bail Reform Mean for Electronic Monitoring?

As state and federal lawmakers continue to enact legislation that reduces the use of cash bail, the need for electronic monitoring as an alternative to detention is escalating. Currently, only seven states have fully implemented bail reform legislation including Alaska, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. In California, electronic monitoring usage nearly tripled, a 200% increase from pre- to post-reform.7 Similarly, New York’s electronic monitoring pretrial population grew from 2,162 in September 2018 to 3,543 in September 2020.8 Although there are only a handful of states that have successfully passed laws to reform bail, almost all U.S. states have a history of moving in this direction. Criminal justice reform regarding pretrial bail goes back four generations, and it’s apparent that legislation around the topic will continue. Agencies need to be proactive and prepare for the potential increase of pretrial individuals that will require electronic monitoring.

Technology Tailored for the Pretrial Population

Based on individual risk, solutions such as alcohol detection, GPS tracking, and mobile monitoring can be used to supervise individuals, helping them to stay accountable while they await trial. BI Incorporated understands that pretrial defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and the needs of this population may be different from individuals on probation or parole. BI supports agencies with systems that are effective, varied, and fair alternatives to jail. We offer a full continuum of products, intuitive software platforms for officers, and mobile apps to keep low- and high-risk defendants engaged in the court process.

1Pretrial Justice Inst., Pretrial Justice: How Much Does It Cost? (2017).

2d. at 5, 13 (pretrial percent); Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Does the United States Really Have 5 Percent of the World’s Population and One Quarter of the World’s Prisoners?, WASH. POST (Apr. 30, 2015), http://wapo.st/1Q2ymvo [https://perma.cc/6PGN-8HV2]

3Todd D. Minton & Zhen Zeng, Bureau Of Justice Statistics, Jail Inmates At Midyear 2014, At 4 (2015).

4Roy Walmsley, Inst. For Criminal Policy Research, World Pre-Trial/Remand Imprisonment List 2 (3d. Ed. 2016).

5Pretrial Justice Reform: A Pathway for A Safer New York. New Yorkers United for Justice. (n.d.). https://nyuj.org/resources/pretrial-justice-reform-a-pathway-for-a-safer-new-york/.

6See Rachel Smith, “Condemned to Repeat History? Why the Last Movement for Bail Reform Failed, and How This One Can Succeed,” Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy (Spring 2018), available at https://www.law.georgetown.edu/poverty.

7“Ankle Monitors Are Replacing Cash Bail, But at A Cost.” Law360, www.law360.com/articles/1271391/ankle-monitors-are-replacing-cash-bail-but-at-a-cost.

8Fresh Facts on Crime: Post-bail-reform New York City by the Numbers.” Daily News, https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-edit-rearrest-report-nypd-policing-bail-reform-crime-20210205-x6x7plsrljajthbm2s7cuvyvty-story.html.

Electronic Monitoring Alleviates Prison Overcrowding & Generates Savings in Lycoming County

For decades, Lycoming County, along with the rest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has faced many challenges around incarceration and public safety. Lycoming County’s high recidivism rate, prison overcrowding, and over-exhausted correctional budget was threatening public safety and costing taxpayers. To combat the overpopulated prison, Lycoming County was in discussion to build a new county prison with a $40 million price tag.

The Approach

Instead of building the costly prison, the county implemented an electronic monitoring program, enabling the county’s court and agency to release individuals to community supervision. Electronic monitoring allows individuals to live their lives, support their families, and contribute to the community, all while meeting conditions of release. In turn, with the support of these innovative tools, fewer individuals are packing the prison system, which saves taxpayers dollars and helps enhance public safety.

Prison Diversion Cost Savings

Effective prison diversion strategies have the potential to generate significant correctional cost savings and enable counties to re-invest their resources towards other pressing initiatives. Using data provided by the Lycoming County Adult Probation Office, researchers analyzed the impact that the BI electronic monitoring program has on county funds. Since 2015, the Lycoming County Prison saved 73,496 days; at $70 per day, per inmate, that is more than $5.1 million in savings.

Journal Commentary Separates Electronic Monitoring from Incarceration

Joe Russo, a researcher and a longtime director of the National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center at University of Denver, recently penned a commentary in The Journal of Offender Monitoring (December 2020) that debunks the concept that electronic monitoring is a form of incarceration.

In “Electronic Monitoring: Control Not Incarceration,” Russo says equating electronic monitoring to incarceration both minimizes the effect incarceration has on offenders and families as well curbs the use of electronic monitoring when it can be helpful and appropriate. “Electronic monitoring is not incarceration,” he argues.

In fact, Russo writes: “Without the option of a community-based alternative that includes electronic monitoring, courts, parole boards and other authorities will be more inclined to continue over-using detention and incarceration.”

Russo then highlights the advantages of electronic monitoring versus incarceration in key areas:

Medical Health: Jails and prisons are not healthy environments, more so during the pandemic, and electronic monitoring is an option many authorities have used effectively to transition offenders to community supervision while monitoring compliance to conditions of release.

Mental Health: Confinement is also detrimental to mental health, and electronic monitoring allows offenders to be in the community where these issues can be monitored and managed.

Violence: Electronic monitoring reduces exposure to violence more prevalent in prisons and jails than community life.

Substance Abuse: By releasing offenders to electronic monitoring, individuals managing substance abuse issues can better maintain treatment regimens.

Economics: When individuals are diverted to electronic monitoring, savings to jurisdictions are well documented.

Impact on Children: Allowing offenders to be released on electronic monitoring maintains critical family connections that help stabilize individuals and reduce criminal behavior.

Finally, Russo highlights that using electronic monitoring appropriately is more humane than incarceration, and that agencies using electronic monitoring should have clear policies in place “that are consistent with best practices.”

To read the complete commentary, visit https://civicresearchinstitute.com/jom.html.