RFID-Enabled Phone Geared To Jails

AGM Telecom plans to offer correctional facilities an RFID application for pre-paid or direct-bill telephone service geared toward inmates, to automatically identify and bill the caller.
AGM Telecom plans to offer correctional facilities a radio frequency identification technology application for pre-paid or direct bill telephone service geared toward inmates in Idaho, Oklahoma and Texas, the carrier said Wednesday.

AirGATE Technologies Inc. has been working to integrate an RFID application into AGM phones that would automatically identify and bill the caller when a call is placed from a coin-less AGM phone inside the jail. "We have a couple of hundred phones in three states that are used for collect calling," said Brian Dieter, director of partner relations at AGM Telecom, which provides telephone systems for jails. "We're trying to determine the feasibility and how much interest there is at correctional facilities."

A ninety-day test is pending at an undisclosed facility. AirGATE would provide RFID-enabled wristbands to inmates. The tags inside bands, similar to plastic hospital wristbands, operate on the 13.5 megahertz frequency. Each waterproof band is assigned to an inmate.

Typically, inmates are required to type into the phone a personal identification number prior to placing the call. This PIN indicates who is making the call and how the person is changed. The RFID application will provide a method to verify the caller and is expected to stop unauthorized use of PINs.

When the inmate makes a telephone call, the correctional facility's private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system would verify the RFID. The service will work with or without a PIN and either collect or debit card calls. It's activated when the RFID chip in the wristband transmits the signal to a reader in the AGM telephone.

The 12-inch long wristbands that inmates would wear cost approximately $1 each, and are deactivated when cut, said Ivan Chow, AirGATE's vice president of software solutions. "If the jail or prison wants to continue to use a PIN, we would program it into the RFID wristband for them," he said. "We're also working on an application where you could use the RFID wristbands to buy things from vending machines that sell soap, candy bars or juice."

AirGATE will grant AGM Telecom an exclusive license agreement on the technology for one year. It will receive 5 cents per phone call for use of its technology. Inmates make more than 1 million phone calls daily in correctional institutions throughout the United States.

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