British businessman Steve Salmon was having lunch with his family one day when his young daughter went absent.
“She went off to the toilet and was missing for a little longer than expected. As parents do, we went into a mild panic. We couldn’t find her and as we would discover later, she was out in the field feeding a pony!” he recalls.
“As a good parent, I wondered, ‘Why panic when we could’ve created a solution instead?’”
His realisation resulted in the creation of a tracking device known as the Lok8u (locate you) nu·m8+, a convenient and cool-looking wristwatch that uses the Global Positioning System or GPS.
Nu·m8+ is now available in Malaysia and is distributed by IntoEquity Sdn Bhd, an importer of medical supplies and gadgets based in Kuala Lumpur.
“With the item parents can be assured of their children’s whereabouts,” says IntoEquity managing director Farah Othman, 31, a mother of two children aged six and five.
Nu·m8+ and Freedom (a similar device for adults) are the world’s first and smallest GPS locators, which can only be disengaged with a special pin kept by the parent or carer. They are the flagship products of the British technology firm Lok8u.
Through Lok8u’s patented cell ID algorithm and the GPS and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), it is able to quickly produce a report of the device’s exact location .
“We don’t expect children to remember to keep their locator with them in a bag or pocket, so when the nu·m8+ is strapped on, it stays there until their parents remove it,” Farah says.
It only starts working when the device is connected to the child’s wrist, and once strapped on, it’s very difficult to get off, according to the manufacturer.
In the case of accidental removal, the device will send an emergency text message to the parent’s mobile phone.
Parents need only type “wru” or click on the “where r u” icon on the screen for the child’s exact location to be displayed on Google Maps.
“We are working with a local telecommunications provider,” says IntoEquity co-director Rajesh Tripathi.
The device costs RM599 and the GPS service fee is anticipated to fall between RM40 and RM50 a month. Resistant to water and shock, it lasts for three days with a full charge.
Freedom is meant for adults at risk, specifically Alzheimer’s patients, lone workers and employees with location demands.
As sufferers of Alzheimer’s tend to wander and panic easily, the panic button reassures the wearer that their loved ones are coming for them.
“It works the same for workers or travellers who traverse dangerous and remote terrain. If they fail to return on time, rescuers know where to find them,” explains Rajesh. “Alternatively, employers may want to know their domestic helpers’ whereabouts.”
The LCD screen on Freedom displays simple, pre-formatted messages to employees whilst they are away from the workplace.
“The device is also useful in times of natural disaster,” Rajesh adds.
Freedom, however, has not reached Malaysia.
“We’re working on it,” Farah assures.
The only flip side of the security benefits of both devices seems to be what Australian child psychologist Evelyn Field pointed out in an online interview: “Children might resent their parents (or maids their employers) hovering over them through the device. It is certainly a way for parents to watch their children from afar, but hopefully in special circumstances such as dealing with a child with autism or one who’s depressed and not coping.”
While there virtually may be nothing to stop the worst predators from their prey, Farah feels that the device would be parents’ best chance at peace of mind when they allow their children out to play.
Malaysia, followed by Brunei and Thailand, are the first countries in South-East Asia to offer a product of its kind, according to Farah.
“It is not a luxury item, but a necessity for parents. In light of the long-term benefits, the device will prove affordable,” she concludes.
For more information, e-mail Farah Othman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping track of kids via GPS
Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011