SpartanTek’s “Tick” GPS Device Helps Police Slow Down High-Speed Pursuits

An officer would place the "Tick" GPS device on a car during a routine traffic stop, serving as a deterrent to the driver from fleeing—and tracking the car if they do.

Every year, police across the U.S. execute about 60,000 high-speed vehicle chases. Many times, the suspect and police car are going three times the speed limit, causing about 50% of the pursuits to lead to a pedestrian injury or even death. SpartanTek, a RTP-based startup participating the current cohort of the RIoT Accelerator Program, aims to prevent deaths and injuries from pursuit by enabling officers to track a suspect’s car via GPS, thereby eliminating the need for a high-speed chase.

When Jon McGuire, the Founder and CEO of SpartanTek who’s also a software engineer at IBM, learned about the high number of casualties caused by high-speed pursuits—which also cost police departments $600 million in annual litigation costs—he said it immediately seemed to him like a problem that could be alleviated with tracking technology. 

SpartanTek’s flagship hardware device—called “The Tick”—is placed on cars and then tracked by the accompanying software, “Phalanx-AI.” On the GPS map on the mobile app, police officers can track suspects and each other to strategically coordinate where and how best to apprehend a suspect safely. Case studies show that within two minutes, suspects will slow down their speed 10 miles an hour once they think they are not being chased, McGuire said.

“Instead of pushing the individual to speed up or try to run away,” McGuire said, “we can use strategy to apprehend them in a manner that is a lot more safe for the suspect, officers and the community all around.”

McGuire, who founded SpartanTek in March, said a handful of police departments across the U.S. are currently pilot-testing the MVP and providing feedback. McGuire plans to have a production unit established in time to officially launch in Q1 2022 with a more refined version of the product that also serves other police department needs.

For instance, McGuire is working on a version of the Tick that has a battery life of up to nine months, which would help officers busting a narcotics trafficking scheme. That pursuit tends to be a careful, long-term process where the tracking of suspects must be done covertly and carefully, he said. 

McGuire said he is also working on creating a smaller version of the hardware device that can fit on a dog collar to help officers with canine tracking. He said he’s received feedback from customers, especially ones located in swampy or woody areas, who express the difficulty of safely tracking canines once they are deployed in the field.

How it works

Because the majority of pursuits begin at routine traffic stops, the Tick is attached to a car at a traffic stop to prevent a pursuit from occurring—or to track it using the Phalanx AI GPS software if the car flees. If the traffic stop ends uneventfully, the officers simply remove the device.

Police departments across the country spend a total amount of $600 million in litigation claims due to deaths and injuries every year, McGuire said. SpartanTek’s mission is to increase public safety and save lives. In the process, they are also helping municipalities avoid significant costs that could be spent to address other community needs.

“Life is precious and I think anything we can do to prevent injuries and deaths is really important, especially when they’re preventable,” McGuire said. “And the more we reduce that amount, the more we can use that money for some other kind of social good, or to help the community as a whole.”