April 1, 2013 By Colin Wood
The rapid evolution of technology in recent years has put a lot of focus on what cutting-edge technology can do -- but can new ideas and tactics sometimes come from older technology?
For some police departments, the answer is yes. In the past few decades, they have found a specialized use for radio telemetry technology -- a method of transmitting a signal accurately through the air that was first developed in 1930 and subsequently used to track rockets.
These days, many municipalities allow for Alzheimer’s patients and people with autism to be equipped with lightweight transmitter bracelets that allow police to find them should they wander away from their caretakers. These same radio transmitters also help police track stolen items, such as bicycles, laptops, boats and firearms -- even drugs.
A small company based in southern Illinois is making much of this tracking possible. Called Wildlife Materials, which started out making transmitters for tracking animals, the company now has a division called Care Trak, which outfits police and sheriffs departments around the country with transmitter bracelets and tracking receivers.
“You see it in the news all the time,” said Mike Chylewski, vice president of Care Trak, “where they’re looking for some guy that has Alzheimer’s disease and wandered away from his house, and they get everybody in the world out there looking for him -- and dogs and helicopters and Boy Scouts and fire departments. This eliminates all that. And within minutes you’ll be able to tell what direction you’re in.”
Radio telemetry is extremely accurate, and with the right equipment, it’s literally possible to find a needle in a haystack. Police simply point the antenna in various directions until they get a signal on which direction their person went. “It’s like playing hot and cold when you were a kid,” Chylewski said.