We've written about people-tracking devices before, typically to keep track of elderly loved ones with some form of dementia. The downside has always been that those being tracked must remember to wear or carry the device that tracks them (i.e. a pendant, a watch, a shoe, etc.). The problem is built-in, so to speak.
Today the firm Iconosys, which develops safety-related mobile communication apps, has released Tell My Geo, a new app for Android OS smartphones to help keep track of those with dementia.
The app requires at least two phones, one for the person being looked after, the other for the person doing the looking. One adhesive decal is supposed to be placed on the back of the phone being tracked, and a second on the rear window of the car of the person being tracked.
Tell My Geo has a few things going for it. First, the caregiver need push just one button to call up the exact whereabouts of the cared-for's phone, not to mention a whole range of medication information. And the cared-for's phone can be set to send regular updates with location points as frequently as 15-, 30-, and 60-minute intervals. It also stores medical information that emergency personnel can access with a single click, as well as edit via www.tellmygeo.com.
Unfortunately, the app does not tackle the fundamental flaw of its predecessors. The cared-for still has to remember to carry, look after, and use the phone and corresponding app, neither of which is cheap (the app costs $9.95 per month per phone).
And then there's the question of that second decal going on the back of the cared-for's car. This surprised me; the app is being marketed as a way to track the elderly with dementia or children, neither of whom should be driving.
But developer Wayne Irvine says he is primarily targeting adults with early-onset Alzheimer's or slight forgetfulness. "We're focused on that specific space, folks who have cell phones and are still driving but are starting to forget things, or it's determined they have early-onset Alzheimer's," says Irvine, who adds that his grandfather has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's but still drives. "If we can bring some anxiety relief to the adult children of these people, that's really our focus."
Considering how the app works and what it requires of the cared-for, the best application I see is using this as a means of tracking a tech-savvy and unforgetful child in a crowded or unfamiliar place, i.e. while shopping, at a busy event, in a large park, etc.
As for those with dementia, I hope to see future apps and devices that track them without requiring that they remember to do anything, and that includes remembering to pack, carry, and use a smartphone.