The Phone Cop
A technological solution to the illegal robocall problem.
The Phone Cop (TPC) solution has been divided into a Customer-Premises Equipment (CPE) design which protects wired land lines and a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service to protect cell phones.
To protect wired land lines I have created an embedded hardware and software device which is installed at the demarcation point between the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and the end users phone system. This allows my device to answer all incoming calls WITHOUT ringing the end users phone.
Any incoming calls are greeted with a message which asks the caller to push a number in order to continue their call. If the caller pushes the required number their call rings through and may be answered normally by the end user. If the caller doesn't push the required number then the message is repeated twice before the device disconnects the call.
The current model of CPE is the 'Cadet' and is a series of prototypes which are shown in the pictures of my submission. It has progressed from breadboard to prototype to custom PCB in the last several months. Revision 3.0 of the Cadet is fully operational and currently protecting my home phone.
The Cadet is 100% effective at blocking ALL robocalls. This means that it also blocks legal robocalls. Future models of the CPE will add Caller-ID capabilities and expanded memory storage which will allow the end user to create a 'white-list' of phone numbers. If an incoming call has a caller-id which is contained in the white-list then the call would NOT be screened and will pass directly through the CPE.
This CPE device is just another 'black box' I have put together over the last 10 years to stop robocalls and I have had many different implementations over this time. I first started with basic answering machines which screened calls but I was still subjected to the constant ringing and harassment. I then used various dedicated 'blocker' boxes found on the Internet but they all failed within a year or two. This was also after the manufacturer was no longer in business making repairs or replacements no longer possible.
After that, I switched to proprietary small business phone systems which had a 'auto attendant' feature to screen calls. They were not ideal due to cost and complexity and they eventually failed as well. My previous implementation was a desktop computer running Asterisk (http://www.asterisk.org/) software and using Digium (http://www.digium.com/) hardware. This worked rather well for several years but was not very practical due to the large footprint of a desktop computer, a complex setup, a moderate dollar cost, and the increased electric bill.
With recent advancements in embedded systems it was possible for me to develop a system to run on a dedicated microprocessor using basic components which are readily available.
To protect cell phones I propose a VOIP Service which provides the same features as the CPE version. This service would be very similar to current offerings by VOIP providers but without any of the tedious manual operation and setup or excessive feature list.
Users would simply register with the service and be assigned a TPC# along with providing a forwarding number which is their current number. The system would be immediately usable without any further user interaction.
Any calls to their TPC# would be screened and if the caller passes then the call is forwarded and the caller ID is added to the users whitelist. If that caller calls again then their call is immediately forwarded without having to be screened.
The user would also be able to use a website to manually add numbers to their whitelist for purposes such as 'Reverse 911' or other desired types of legal robocalls.
Regardless of how "The Phone Cop" fairs in this contest I plan to continue its development. The Cadet model of boards are complete and I have started on the Officer model. The new model will combine the host cpu board and Phone Cop board into a single board to cut down on costs and expand the feature set.
Here is a brief list of planned features: *Caller-ID (black-list, white-list, etc..) *SD card (virtually unlimited message storage) *Answering Machine (uses SD card) *Privacy Manager (announces callers with their recorded name before connecting call) *Call recording (uses SD card) *Internet connectivity (based on user interest)
FYI: The Phone Cop website is not operational yet but check back later and keep an eye on Kickstarter and YouTube. Thanks.