Would you want to track the whereabouts of your kids or significant other using a mobile tracking system tied to your loved one’s personal device? As a concerned parent trying to give your offspring a bit of freedom from constant calls, finding out if your child arrived at school safely, or if she was hanging out at a friend’s home for the night using GPS tracking might bring you the peace-of-mind you’ve been looking for. Services such as Sprint Family Locator and Disney Mobile’s Family Locator allow for visual tracking of your family’s digital devices – using GPS technology to pinpoint location with amazing accuracy unless you’re inside of a mall or a concrete parking lot. Disney states ‘accuracy within 10 yards’ which is pretty incredible.
The location-based service Cat TRAX operated by CATS (Child Alert Tracking Service) takes proximity to another level by tracking the known whereabouts of known sex offenders and alerts you if your child is within range of an offender’s home. The service allows you to ‘Monitor your children on their way to and from school, running errands, and at play.’ According to their stats, nearly every 40 seconds, a child is reported missing. But operating on a worst case, fear basis seems a bit extreme – however recently a friend in Seattle did receive a call from local authorities after they found her 9-year old daughter profiled in their neighbor ‘Dave’s’ home. Freaky. This service is offered at $19.99 per month through Sprint’s Network using Motorola phones.
Talking to actual parents reveals some interesting insights.
Wherify is a company that has been around for a while – nearly 5 years. They started with a wristwatch device that allowed for kids to be tagged and tracked with ease. While this wristwatch device may have been ahead of its time and is no longer offered by the service, the concept was a smart one and parents are now searching for solutions that allow the safety and security of knowing where their kids are without the heavy technical investment or privacy invading open sharing of personal data. Wherify released a Wherifone, which uses a web site to act as the ‘hub’ and tracks the whereabouts of family members using ‘locates’ as ‘minutes.’ The technology is sound and has been used for several years. Their mobile phone for kids has a limited set of buttons that can be pre-programmed for ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ and an emergency button to call 911 if needed. This service targets 7 – 11 year olds.
LBS (location based systems) using GPS for tracking has a multitude of uses from the trucking and transport industry to the pet industry. This introduction of LBS into personal and family life is an interesting move forward – however are families ready for the shift? Is this considered a luxury to be able to track, or is it an invasion of privacy? Is the tracking accurate enough in urban areas and are their kids going to be OK with the lack of privacy in return for the liberty of having a mobile device of their own?