Bluetooth and GPS Trackers Extends Reach of Parents
It’s natural for parents to want to keep an eye on their children, but the day will always come when parents should step away and let their child make calculated mistakes, enjoy a bit of freedom, and learn how to navigate the world themselves. Some parents are interested in giving their child the semblance of independence at even younger ages. There are ways to allow a child the freedom to explore independently, while also having an invisible eye on their movements and location.
Using GPS and Bluetooth Beacon technology, developers are creating child trackers along with security phone applications and hardware to put parent’s minds at ease. The answer to the question: “Where is my child?” is just a click away.
Child tracking is a controversial topic wrapped up within the larger framework of living in a society obsessed with surveillance. Many are concerned that child trackers violate the rights of children – but these concerns pertain primarily to older children such as pre-teens and teenagers. For toddlers and primary age children, trackers, in the shape of a soft rubber wristband or carabiner, have great potential. No tracker should replace active parenting and constant vigilance. However, if anything happens to your child, they wander off or take a detour when coming home from school, you have a tool which allows you to react immediately
So far, we’ve been vague on how child trackers work, simply because there are so many companies offering unique products paired with mobile applications.
One company, Wonder Technology Solutions AB, developed a clip-on tracker which children can attach to their belt loop or backpack. Using the application, parents can define a set of perimeters which demarcate, or geofence, a space. For example, parents can create a virtual border within the application around their child’s school. When the child leaves school, to play hookey or walk home at the end of the day, parents are notified via the app. Through accelerometer sensors within the tracker, parents can also determine how fast their child is moving which prompts the app to alert the parent to travel by foot or car. The company is marketing the product not only to consumers, but to schools as well.
If schools were to adopt a standardized student tracking system, taking attendance would become effortless. School outings to zoos, museums, and points of interest would progress without the constant head-counts. Teachers would receive notifications if children wandered – and critically, would be able to see where they had gone on a map.
Another company, Monkey, relies on Bluetooth rather than GPS to surveil children. Monkey works better with younger children, as the range of Bluetooth is less than that of GPS. Just like Wonder Technology Solutions AB, the app alerts parents when their little monkey has wandered past a pre-defined boundary such as 15-30 meters.
What’s fantastic about using Bluetooth is the ability of the app to tell you the proximity of your child in relation to YOU. While GPS depends on defining virtual borders, Bluetooth can accurately relay the distance between a Bluetooth Beacon and its Gateway (in this case, your cell-phone). So, if you bring your toddler to a playground, you can afford to enjoy your time there instead of remaining vigilant for the entire play session.
It also takes a bit of the burden off of parents of special-needs children. One mom, Joseleen Coco, said, “My son has autism and is going to High School by public transportation. I need one of these [trackers] to know where he is if he forgets how to get to his location.”
Since Bluetooth Beacon technology is a smaller, local connection, it requires less juice than GPS (which relies on Satellites for triangulation).
Another perk of using Bluetooth is the lower cost and smaller size of the hardware components. You can make Bluetooth Beacons that are the size of a quarter. In fact, the radio board for the Monkey tracker is small enough to fit snugly onto a child’s shoe by threading the shoe strings through handy tunnels.
“Monkey is for that critical 1-2 minute range of when kids start to go wandering,” Gavin, developer of Moneky, said. “The average child wanders approximately 300 yards from their parents, so I wanted something that would work closely and in real time. The beacon was perfect for that.”
To toot Bluetooth’s horn one final time, unlike GPS, it can work indoors. In fact, Wonder Technology Solutions AB is planning to switch over to Bluetooth in future, 2018, iterations of the Trax product. Child-tracking is just one exciting possibility within the realm of proximity technology and services. While proximity technology can never be a full replacement for active parenting, security, attendance systems, etc – it fulfills its intent perfectly which is to say, it makes our lives easier.
Child Tracking is a Safety Net in our Busy Modern World
Modern life has spread our attention between emails, social media, traffic, and advertisements. Our work/life balance has been forever tipped in favour of work and constant connectivity. Expectations to always be in contact and reachable are higher than ever. Fortunately, more of the same can be used as a tertiary option for when all else fails and we lose sight of our children. Nor are these wristbands and tracking chits a one-hit wonder: Bluetooth is already being used in a medical context to monitor in-patients, out-patients, and the elderly.