Wearable devices track people via wireless network

May 02, 2012 By Roger Yu, USA Today

Mobile technology is opening new channels for remotely monitoring family members and others who need to be tracked.

Several companies, including medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific, have struck deals with major to support a new generation of products that incorporate sensors, accelerometers, GPS and technologies that use to help triangulate positions and locate people.

Research firm ABI Research estimates the market for GPS personal tracking devices will grow 40 percent or more annually and exceed $1 billion by 2017.

Families use them to track parents with Alzheimer's or toddlers. And doctors and military medics have adopted the technology to remotely track the health conditions - readings, body temperature, heart rate, and stress or dehydration levels - of recently released patients or soldiers on dangerous assignments.

Wireless carriers, looking for ways to make money beyond transmitting data along their networks for smartphones and tablets, are fueling the boom. "We think this is the single-biggest growth opportunity - that every device is connected," said Glenn Lurie, head of AT&T's emerging devices team.

But for consumers, the tracking services aren't cheap, requiring an upfront cost for devices and a subscription plan, ranging from $10 to $40 a month.

Limited emergency medical alert systems have been around for years, relying on the telephone landline. But the new devices are vastly superior in locating people, assessing motion and sending comprehensive data in real time to doctors, parents and other caregivers, companies say.

"GPS alone would only work when you're outside and you have a good view of the sky," said Daniel Graff-Radford, vice president of sales for Omnilink, a tracking-device maker. "You need sensors. You need cell towers and the software to locate cell towers and satellites."

Some examples:

-Comfort Zone is a Web-based service for remotely monitoring a person with Alzheimer's. The alert device, which is made by Omnilink and sold by the Alzheimer's Association, is about the size of a breath mint and can be installed in a car or worn around the neck. Aetrex, a shoemaker, also inserts the device into special shoes.

-AmberWatch GPS uses the same technology but is marketed by the AmberWatch Foundation. School-age children can clip it to a backpack. "If someone leaves a (preset) zone, the loved one gets a text on their phone," said Graff-Radford of Omnilink.

-BioHarness sensors by Zephyr Technology are worn as a patch or strap by U.S. Special Forces troops, pro athletes and hospital patients. Information about their health condition is sent to cloud servers, and doctors download it to their computer or phone. "It has to be wearable and fashionable," said Brian Russell, CEO of Zephyr. "Even 70-year-olds don't want to look silly."

-Exmobaby, a line of infant pajamas with sensors that send vital signs (heart rate, temp) and information about the baby's "emotional state" to parents' mobile devices, will be on sale later this year, said David Bychkov, CEO of Exmovere, which makes the product.

-Boston Scientific is updating its 6-year-old Latitude implanted heart monitor, which was once dependent on landlines, so that doctors can receive information on their mobile devices throughout the day. "People are abandoning landlines," said Kenneth Stein, chief medical officer of Boston Scientific's Cardiac Rhythm Management program. "It's also to make it portable for patients who are moving around."

Explore further: A smart wristband for nocturnal cyclists

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

GPS shoe lets families keep track of elderly relatives

Feb 03, 2012

A Teaneck, N.J., shoe maker has joined with a California technology company to create a shoe that uses GPS technology that records where a wearer walks - and can send alerts to caregivers if someone suffering from Alzheimer's ...

Health monitoring? There's an app for that

Mar 09, 2012

Researchers in New Zealand have developed a prototype Bluetooth-enabled medical monitoring device that can be connected wirelessly to your smart phone and keep track of various physiological parameters, such as body temperature, ...

GPS shoes for Alzheimer's patients

Jun 06, 2009

A shoe-maker and a technology company are teaming up to develop footwear with a built-in GPS device that could help track down "wandering" seniors suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

GPS shoes for Alzheimer's patients to hit US

Oct 23, 2011

The first shoes with built-in GPS devices -- to help track down dementia-suffering seniors who wander off and get lost -- are set to hit the US market this month, the manufacturer says.

Going high-tech to track Alzheimer's patients

Nov 16, 2009

(AP) -- Tom Dougherty jokes that he takes "get-lost walks." To his wife, Cleo, it's a constant fear: When will his Alzheimer's get bad enough that she has to end his 4-mile daily strolls?

Recommended for you

A smart wristband for nocturnal cyclists

19 hours ago

Five EPFL PhD students have developed a wristband that flashes when the rider reaches out to indicate a turn. Their invention was recognized at a European competition.

Lenovo's smart glasses prototype has battery at neck

Jul 28, 2014

China's PC giant Lenovo last week offered a peek at its Google Glass-competing smart glass prototype, further details of which are to be announced in October. Lenovo's glasses prototype is not an extreme ...

Sapphire talk enlivens guesswork over iPhone 6

Jul 27, 2014

Sapphire screens for the next iPhone? Sapphire is second only to diamond in hardness scratch-proof properties, used in making LEDs, missiles sensors, and on screens for luxury-tier phones. Last year, the ...

Startup offers elderly an Internet key to family links

Jul 27, 2014

Two grandmothers mystified by computer tablets have inspired a French-Romanian startup to develop an application and service to help the elderly stay in touch with their relatives through the Internet.

User comments : 0