The technology works by detecting the telltale radio frequencies that emit from a vehicle when someone inside is using a cellphone, said Malcolm McIntyre of ComSonics. Cable repairmen use similar means to find where a cable is damaged – from a rodent, for instance – by looking for frequencies leaking in a transmission, McIntyre said.
A text message, phone call and data transfer emit different frequencies that can be distinguished by the device ComSonics is working on, according to McIntyre. That would prove particularly useful for law enforcement in states such as Virginia, where texting behind the wheel is banned but talking on the phone is legal for adult drivers.
ComSonics, based in Harrisonburg, got its start in the cable TV industry and provides calibration services for speed enforcement equipment.
He said the device is “close to production” but still has several hurdles to clear, including legislative approval and adoption by law enforcement. There are also privacy concerns, though McIntyre said the equipment could not decrypt the information that is transmitted by drivers.