Va. professor champions shoes with GPS tracking
By late 2011, a new GPS-equipped shoe was ready for people with a variety of cognitive disorders, including traumatic brain injury and autism.
Helping elderly people with different forms of dementia, blind, disabled and with other cognitive conditions with GPS technology has been a special interest for me for several years.
This article highlights forward steps that are being made in the ability to provide technology that works, particularly in being able to locate people who have become lost and disoriented.
The most common technology for SAR is RF (Radio Frequency) technology which involves small devices with a radio transmitter hidden inside an item such as a necklace or a wristwatch. The benefit is they can hold a charge for weeks. The negative is (a bit like locating Malaysian flight MH370) is that the range is up to 1km and you have to know what direction to look in. SAR people carry portable directional antennas and go out in search parties to find these missing people. This is expensive and time consuming.
A problem I found with an elderly relative was that she didn’t even want to wear the necklace because it “wasn’t hers” nor the style she would wear.
Next comes the issue of charging. Something that was missed from this story is that it is now possible (yes a little more expensive) to do inductive charging. There are inductive charging pads for a variety of devices including mobile phones today. Basically you drop your mobile (with a charging sleeve/case around it) or other device on a pad and it charges. No more little fiddly plugs and cables that elderly or disabled people struggle with.
Wearable computing is a great answer and the idea of shoes, or even better, GPS insoles, is a perfect solution. Insoles mean they can be worn with any shoe and with inductive charging, pop them on the charging mate overnight and they are ready to locate this person if required the following day.
Think this is expensive. Ask at your local retirement village, or police station how much time and manpower is lost when someone with one of these conditions goes missing. The RF technology may be cheap, but search parties aren’t. Oh and what about when the missing person isn’t located, or worse, they have a serious accident. This also happens with great frequency.
This is an evolutionary step, but it could be a very bog one in giving people greater mobility and their loved ones a lot less stress.