Grandmothers Miracle Survival


So it happened again. A 62 year old woman driving home from Christchurch crashed her car down a 5 metre bank on her way home to Greymouth, was the story in this morning’s NZ Herald.  If she had a GPS capable mobile with the type of tracking application I have been blogging about here and here, she may not have had to spend2 days lying on broken grass out in the cold and could have been rescued far sooner.

The GPS in her phone could have told family or rescuers exactly where she was and with tools like GeoSmart’s Directions API, her rescuers could have had turn by turn directions right to the site of her misfortune.

This is not an uncommon story. Given the bush, the narrow, dark and windy roads around New Zealand’s beautiful countryside, combined with sometimes treacherous conditions of rain, black ice, snow, flooding and slips, there are frequently stories of people losing their car and slipping into a ravine, or worse. I hate to think of what the cost is in resources for search and rescue. Over a year it must mount up to far more than the cost of developing a mobile application that could work on all phones.

In urban areas, often cell triangulation would work, but in the many rural areas, the cell towers are often too far apart to provide an accurate fix. It’s interesting that the topic of Tracking Elderly People is one of the most popular searches that find my blogs. Of course it isn’t just about elderly people. There are many segments of our population that could benefit from a mobile tracking application. People like diabetics, blind or disabled, people with other illnesses such as asthma, allergies such as bee and wasp stings, epilepsy and Alzheimers or other forms of dementia are just a few examples.

Hopefully sometime soon, someone will use GeoSmart’s tools or come up with some funding to develop a tracking system to solve this problem.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

GPS Tracking for Elderly People and others


I recently posted a blog on this topic which has proven quite popular. It appears that there are many people concerned about the safety of people when they are away from their home. There are already products such as Lifelink from St Johns which are excellent products around the house, but there are many people looking for products to help out when people are out of range of their home.

Having had yet another call from one of many companies looking at bringing in products from China and other parts I have decided to check one out for myself. The one I am going to check out is one that has gone through a number of refinements which will probably make it a little more expensive, but possibly far more beneficial as well. I won’t mention any brands yet, but what I like about this product includes:

  • A drop sensor. If the devices falls or the person carrying it in their pocket, or perhaps around their necks, falls, as elderly people sometimes do, it will set of an alarm which will call someone and send them a message.
  • A panic button which can allow the device to send an emergency signal to a predetermined location if there is a problem and the person needs assistance.
  • A microphone and speaker so that not only can the person send an emergancy message but they can talk to a call centre or their help service.
  • The ability to call up to 3 predetermined numbers and talk to the person at the other end.

These services also include the ability for authorised people to view the location of the device, i.e. the person carrying it, on a map from anywhere that they can access an internet browser.

If this product is as good as the supplier says, it will have huge value for a variety of services including, elderly or infirm people, children, people with severe allergies or other potential health problems, people in risky careers such as security guards or investigators, or even police as well as services such as mental health nurses and midwives who are helping people in the community.

By having a combination of a SIM card with GPRS and SMS capabaility as well as speech, any wearer can be located on a map and can also be in voice contact where necessary. Obviously as these devices prove their worth, their popularity will increase and consequently prices will come down. Because they are portable they can also be used on an ad hoc basis or in a pooled environment to be shared.

I’ll let you know how my pilot goes.

GPS Tracking and Navigation for Elderly People


The other day I read about a new invention, which is a GPS enabled walker for elderly patients. Apparently this is a student research product and being tested in Nursing Centres. It uses Wi-Fi communication and helps guide people around a complex such as a hospital or retirement centre. My first reaction was that this was a joke, but the more I think about this navigation for zimmer frames, the more it makes me think about solutions we will see soon.

Firstly, people do get lost in hospitals and large complexes, and the people most likely to lose their way will be elderly patients, perhaps with dementia or simply struggling with stress, pain or under influence of medication that makes them a little dopey and disoriented. If they are in a wheelchair or using some other aid, a mapping or navigation device could well be useful. Hospitals will in future have WiFi networks for their and this could be a device that is supported by it.

I often hear stories about elderly people with dementia getting lost when they go for walks and understand this is quite common. If they remember that they do live in a village or rest home and have a navigation device, it could guide them safely back home.

The other side is far more likely in the near future and that is tracking of people. I had a discussion today with someone from a New Zealand hospital about tracking of staff who visit mental health patients in their homes and the value of being able to locate them if they haven’t checked in within a pre-aranged time. Small pocket GPS tracking devices with GPRS connectivity already exist commercially and some of them also have ‘panic buttons’ that send an urgent alert together with the current GPS co-ordinates. These are typically still quite expensive, i.e. over $500 but with volume the prices will come down.

St Johns and other organisations have solutions such as LifeLink which is a great solution for in and around the home, but what happens when people go further from home. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a solution that would allow you to locate your elderly or ill relative if they don’t return from shopping or a quiet walk. What if they just want to walk a few houses down the road to visit a friend? I would have gladly paid a rental for a service like that for my late grandmother who had a fall one evening and wasn’t found until the following day with a broken hip.

Although it’s not aimed at  elderly people, you will soon find walking directions on portable navigation devices (PND’s). You will be able to download a map that tells you where to park your car and then how to find your way around shopping malls, hospitals and unversity campuses, through parks and arcades. Maps of this nature will be commerically available within the next 12 months. They will also be available on map web sites in the very near future.

Most countries will also very soon have sophisticated navigation software and maps available to run on mobile phones, which will be as impressive as the portable Navigation Devices that are so popular today. Many phones have GPS built in and Bluetooth GPS Receivers abound for much less than $50.

It’s not a big stretch to see software being added that allow your location to be sent to other people on demand (with your permission of course). This isn’t Sci-Fi I’m talking about, it’s 2008 technology.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

When Science Fiction becomes Reality


Yesterday I read in the news http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/2/story.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10486868 that they are looking at implanting security tags into criminals to allow them to keep track of them. They would then be able to locate them using Satellite GPS and other technologies. These RFID chips would contain information about offenders and allow them to be monitored on demand. This is a next generation development of ID tags used to track animals.

This is just one example of SF becoming a reality and is just the first step towards the potential for a Big Brother society that writers like Philip K Dick envisioned in some cases more than 50 years ago. Even in New Zealand our prison populations are growing faster than we can manage and more and more people are getting off with Home Detention requiring and anklets are becoming the fashion to make sure people on detention don’t leave their homes.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think forward to a day where one of these little devices are implanted into children shortly after birth, along with the collection of DNA samples and stem cells from their umbilical chords. This is not an if, it is a when, and it is not too far in the future.

In an ideal world, we can think of all the good reasons for this. Crime would be reduced as it would be much harder to get away without leaving easy to track evidence. Missing children would become a thing of the past and life expectancy will increase exponentially. In a democratic world where information will not be misused we could end up in Utopia.

Unfortunately, again as predicted by  Sci-Fi writers we live in a world where corruption in politics is rife and that human trait of greed and hunger for power means that it would be very simple for people to find and round up ‘dissidents’ and keep everyone in their place. I expect that we will experience the good and the bad and given the pace of change, this will happen in our lifetimes.