When most people hear about undercover operations they picture an appropriately scruffy-looking police officer wearing a hidden wire taped to his chest to capture audio proof of illicit activity. Countless TV shows and movies have shown the bad guys patting down disguised cops for signs of the telltale wire. But what if you could get the necessary audio in a much higher quality without a wire?
It turns out you can. The Phantom from Tag 5 Industries allows undercover officers to covertly record and broadcast conversations using a smartphone app and remote hardware instead of a physical wire on the body.
"An undercover officer would have an iPhone with an app running in the background without being seen," explains Tag 5 owner Russell Davies. "While running, it's sending audio to the Phantom, which is a hardware box that talks to the iPhone and decodes it. If you need it to go to another location, audio can be rebroadcast to another IP address."
This means a team waiting in the wings to back up an officer in the middle of a sting operation can listen to the audio as it's being recorded and know when to intercede. The audio can also be heard in multiple locations at the same time.
"It's a mixture of software and hardware, which is why it's so efficient and can get such high-quality audio from A to B, anywhere in your jurisdiction," says Davies.
The app needed to run The Phantom system is called Report-It, so named because this entire system was originally developed by parent company Tieline Technology for use by news reporters. "Yes, there is an app for that," jokes Davies.
Although The Phantom uses Report-It, Davies has tailored the hardware and all of the components to law enforcement. He's adapted other broadcast devices from Tieline as well to be used for covert operations. This law enforcement product is much smaller than the broadcast version, and the software is law enforcement-specific.
Davies was a police officer for 10 years in Australia before working for the federal government, and his specialty over this time was covert operations, so he understands the requirements for law enforcement.
"I thought, police officers could use this. It sounds much better than what they're using right now," says Davies.
Sale of The Phantom is restricted to government and law enforcement. While it's initially offered for use on the iPhone, versions of The Phantom that will run on Android phones and other smartphones are near completion.
That means as long as you have a smartphone, you'll soon be able to simultaneously record your conversation with a drug dealer and broadcast it to multiple locations without the bad guys ever knowing. And thanks to Tag 5, you can start using it right away.
"I put it in a Pelican case that has the enclosures in it and all the connectors, with everything ready to go," says Davies. "You just open a lid, turn it on, and plug it into your Internet or 3G."