There has been so much written on wearable devices for fitness, we’re tuning out a more important message about wearables – safety.  Wearable devices come in all shapes and forms.  They are a broad category.  But the number one feature I want to emphasize is GPS, short for Global Positioning System.

GPS is a satellite-based navigation system.  It consists of 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).  Since being deployed into space during the 1980s the government made GPS available for non-DoD use.  As a result, we’ve seen many innovations using GPS such as:

  • the creation of early automobile tracking systems like LoJack,
  • the adoption of navigation and routing systems by fleet truck and transportation companies,
  • the popularization of vehicle navigation systems in the consumer market,
  • the incorporation of GPS into wearable devices such as certain versions of the Fitbit, Misfit, Garmin, and
  • the evolution of GPS tracking for locating our keys, our cell phones, our keys and even our pets which might have a habit of getting lost.

But none of these are the purpose I’m asking you to consider.  There is one more important than all the rest, and that is personal safety.

We have a vulnerable population of individuals that suffer from forms of dementia, traumatic brain injury, autism, and other disorders that affect their ability to navigate our world with complete competency.  This segment of our population is not small.

  • The Alzheimer’s Association, indicates more than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, they estimate that 1 out of every 3 senior adults will die from Alzheimer’s or another type of Dementia.
  • We are learning more everyday about Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). But whether received as a soldier in action, an athlete participating in contact sports, or in an accident such as a high speed collision, TBI can leave an individual cognitively damaged.
  • All our children are vulnerable. But those on the autism spectrum, those mentally impaired, and those with communication impairments have special difficulties.  Imagine if you had little to no ability to communicate.  If you were lost you’d be confused, upset, scared and wouldn’t be able to get your message across to the average adult.

We love and value our parents, wounded warriors, children and others in this population.  A personal GPS device or ‘wearable’ can save their lives.  These wearables come in many forms, some are wonderful pieces of jewelry, some are watches, and some are personal fitness devices.  In selecting a wearable device keep in mind the following factors:

  • Price: The price for these devices varies quite a bit.  A tracking device to find your keys could be $30 but prices can quickly escalate depending upon not only the technology but also materials and the ‘look’ of the piece.
  • Service: Investigate whether your device requires a service, subscription, or connectivity in addition to the cost of the device.
  • Technology: How well does the technology work?  Remember this is satellite technology.  In the same way that your vehicle navigation may not work when you are parked in a garage there are places that the technology may not work.  You should not expect 100% perfection but you should look for a device that gives you sufficient piece of mind for the price you are paying.  How is the device powered?  Devices require power.  Determine whether the device you are evaluating requires recharging, a new battery, or replacement.  Knowing this information can help you stay on top of ensuring it is powered.  Moreover, it can help you educate other care takers on how to ensure your loved one’s device is operational.
  • Wear-ability: What do I mean… “wear-ability”?  I mean will the recipient actually keep the device on all the time?  If you buy the most expensive GPS device and your child takes it off at every opportunity, then it isn’t effective no matter what you paid for it.  If your parent has dementia and will wear the bracelet 24 hours a day, then you’re headed down the right path.  This may be the factor we forget the most.  If you can provide a GPS tracking device that is worn constantly then it stands to reason a loved one that wanders off has a better likelihood of being found.

Now that you have more information about GPS location devices, I hope you will think about individuals in your life that may wander or may be vulnerable and might benefit from a wearable GPS device.  It is a frightening experience for the individual that is lost as well as for their family.  If a GPS device can offer a reasonable level of support in finding a loved one and fits your family’s budget, then consider one as a gift of security.   If they are able to track their daily steps, then consider it a terrific bonus feature!

Lisa Foy, Founder, The Curious Coyote

www.TheCuriousCoyote.comOn-Line Business Magazine