“No cell phone use in this area.” It’s not an uncommon sight in any restricted-access area, but one that’s rather difficult to enforce. How does a corporation or government entity know who’s using wireless service in any given area, and even if they know, how would they stop it?
Wireless researcher Chuck Bokath has developed a product that answers both of those questions — and it’s so accurate that even the U.S. Armed Forces are intrigued. His startup, Blind Tiger Communications, develops a hardware and software product that essentially acts as a wireless network system to identify all devices in a defined area and can either choose to allow them to continue operating, or shut down their service.
“Given about a minute or so, the system will self-configure itself and morph into that environment, never to be seen again, protecting against phones, drones, etc.” explains Bokath, who recently took his company through the Techstars accelerator program in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force in Boston.
“When you walk into that area, if you’re a known vetted device — a good guy — we’ll let you operate, but if you’re not we’ll disable you. It allows you to take complete control of your wireless environment, giving you the power to allow, deny, monitor or disable any communications in the area we’re operating.”
Bokath already had experience dealing with government entities from his time while serving as a software engineer in the mobile space at Georgia Tech, where he worked on projects for the DEA, DOD and others.
The first application of the technology was put in place while he still was affiliated with the university, when it was used to secure certain wireless communications at prison facilities in Georgia. But the client asked for more capabilities, and Bokath wanted to delve further into the technology. So two years ago he spun it out of Georgia Tech and set up an independent company.
Prison systems are still one of their target audiences; Bokath says they’re in talks with a system in another state right now. Blind Tiger’s “communications umbrella,” as Bokath calls it, allows the prison leadership to communicate, while denying everyone else.
They also work directly with private companies who want to secure access to certain areas, prevent their IP from being stolen or protect sensitive R&D. Though the Techstars accelerator had military mentors and sponsors, the entrepreneurs were instructed to be commercial-first.
They are continuing their talks with the military branches, however. The startup was selected as one of only a few companies out of hundreds that will present to high-ranking DoD officials later this month.
Blind Tiger usually operates on a SaaS-based revenue model, though Bokath says that for entities like the military, they can sell them the hardware and allow them to operate it themselves. They don’t collect any identifying information from devices and don’t touch any of the device’s internal information or data.
The next field they’re venturing into? Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, which operate on a wireless network similarly to mobile devices. Bokath says that most security against drones currently is what’s known as “line-of-sight” protection, where the drone must be in view to sense or stop it.
“The military wants to know when these things are coming,” says Bokath. “It’s also very interesting for outdoor venues. It’s only a matter of time before you see something nefarious flying over those outdoor venues.”
The three-person team is looking to grow in the next few months, hiring a team of engineers and sales reps with a background in wireless technology. “As we move into different verticals, the system is going to have to be a little bit more hardened,” says Bokath. “I’d like to bring in all of that engineering in-house.”