LAS VEGAS--I had my first encounter with Escort here at CES this week, and I'm not talking about looking for a date or an inexpensive sedan from the 1990s.
Escort is an Ohio-based company that's been making radar and laser detectors for decades now. This week, its "ticket protection social network for drivers," Escort Live, won a 2012 Innovation Design and Engineering award at CES.
The system is made up of the same kind of radar detector with which you're probably familiar, along with a Bluetooth-embedded "SmartCord Live" cord that connects to your iOS or Android smartphone using a companion app. The radar detector passes any indications of nearby fuzz to the app, which forwards them on to the Escort Live "cloud" to share with other users.
Using Google Maps and GPS, the app displays icons for any radar alert in your area that the Escort crowd of users has picked up in the past hour and a half. After 90 minutes, those alert icons disappear from the database.
"It's a self-cleaning database, so the data are timely and accurate," Escort's Ron Gividen explained to me. But the data isn't all dynamic because not all "ticket threats" take a lunch break or check back in at the local police precinct. "For our red-light camera data, we paid three different companies to verify in the public domain [the cameras' locations] with the licensing [records] of those cameras, and we keep that data updated on a weekly basis."
According to Escort, there are hundreds of thousands, and possibly more than a million, Escort Live users on the roads. But Gividen told me that it doesn't take much to paint your local speed trap landscape.
"Take a city with an interstate system with a loop--all it takes is one or two drivers to populate that city. Now anyone coming into the city will see what's in that location."
That's a lot of city circling for two drivers--a handful might be better--but point taken.
But what about road trips or those of us outside of major metropolitan areas? Gividen says Escort Live downloads all alerts within a 25-mile radius of the user's location. So if you happen to meander into an area with spotty service, you'll still see nearby alerts for at least 25 miles.
He also says the system won't gobble up your data plan. He estimates that a daily commuter might use about 20MB a month.
The iPhone version of Escort Live has been available since November, and the Android model debuted this week. The cord retails for $99.95, and a subscription to the service is $39.95, but Gividen says there's some special deals on right now, particularly if you buy the whole package with a radar detector. Just don't rush out to get one too fast--it won't help you until you've actually bought it.