Smartphone Monitoring Apps for Individuals Under Supervision: An Article Synopsis

In this blog post, we will provide a synopsis of the article “Smartphone Monitoring Today: A Survey of Applications” by the Journal of Offender Monitoring. The article looks at the features and benefits of a wide variety of vendor solutions including BI SmartLINK® and BI Mobile®.

Smartphone Monitoring Apps: Advantages and Models

According to the article, smartphone monitoring apps are becoming an increasingly popular supervision tool for community corrections officers. These apps offer several advantages over traditional electronic monitoring devices, such as:

  • Improved communication: Smartphone apps allow for direct communication between officers and clients via voice, text, email, vibration, and popup display. Officers can also use video conferencing to view clients and their surroundings and to conduct virtual home visits.
  • Remote reporting and check-ins: Smartphone applications enable clients to submit reports and check in with their officers remotely, which can save time and resources for both parties.
  • Alcohol monitoring: Smartphone applications can be connected to remote breathalyzers to enable officers to schedule and monitor breath tests.
  • Drug testing notification: Smartphone applications can be linked to drug testing databases to automatically notify clients when they need to submit a drug test.
  • Fee collection: Smartphone applications can be used to collect fees from clients, such as fees for smartphone monitoring services, restitution, court fees, and other financial obligations.
  • Response to non-compliance: Smartphone applications can automatically document non-compliance and send alerts to officers.
  • Stabilization support functionality: Smartphone applications can be used to provide clients with positive reinforcement, appointment and event reminders, access to community providers, and other support services.

The article outlines two basic models of smartphone monitoring applications: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and vendor-provided, secure devices.

Generally, BYOD offers a lower rate, but may provide some security concerns. While vendor-provided devices offer greater security and are capable of monitoring phone activity and restricting the client’s access to device functionality as determined by the officer.

Smartphone Monitoring Apps: Confirming Client Identity and Location

Vendors generally take three approaches to confirming client identity and proximity to the smartphone: periodic confirmation, continuous confirmation, and a hybrid approach.

  • Periodic confirmation employs a type of automated biometric comparison (e.g., fingerprint, voice, facial) or requires the officer to manually compare a client’s photo/video with the enrollment photos to validate identity.
  • Continuous confirmation uses GPS tracking to monitor client location at all times.
  • The hybrid approach combines elements of periodic and continuous confirmation. For example, the client may be required to check in with the officer at regular intervals using a biometric identification method, but the officer may also be able to track the device’s location continuously using GPS.

The right approach for an agency depends on the client’s risk level and the resources that are available.

Smartphone Monitoring Apps: Location Monitoring and Tracking Features

Smartphone monitoring applications offer a choice of features for location monitoring and tracking, including:

  • Continuous tracking: This feature enables officers to track the client’s location at all times using a secure, body-worn tether. This approach is similar to traditional GPS tracking systems, but the components may be smaller and more discreet.
  • Periodic location sampling: This feature collects location points and uses automated biometrics, manual comparison of photos, or login credentials to confirm the client’s identity and proximity to the smartphone at various intervals during the day. This approach may be appropriate for low- to moderate-risk clients to ensure compliance with the conditions of supervision.
  • Zone monitoring: This feature enables officers to create and monitor inclusion and exclusion zones for each client. The system automatically generates an inclusion zone for the place/time of a required appointment and notifies the officer if the client does not appear as required.

It is important to note that the article stipulates that the accuracy of location data can vary due to several hardware and environmental factors.  It is recommended that agencies carefully consider their needs when choosing a smartphone monitoring application, including level of accuracy they need, the level of compliance they expect, as well as the resources they have available.

What About BI SmartLINK and BI Mobile?

When comparing the options, you will find BI SmartLINK to be one of the more comprehensive and feature-rich apps available, while BI Mobile is a reliable, affordable option for agencies on a budget. See how they stand up versus the competition. Download the full article here.

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