GPS technology helps protect the vulnerable

The impetus for SafeTracks GPS Solutions Inc. was a desire to help victims of domestic violence.

The impetus for SafeTracks GPS Solutions Inc. was a desire to help victims of domestic violence.

But while developing their system for tracking and monitoring the perpetrators of such acts, it occurred to Vince Morelli and Bob Aloisio — SafeTracks’ president and director of business development respectively — that their technology could protect these and other vulnerable people.

The result is a personal electronic monitoring division, through which victims of violence and others can carry small GPS devices.

The units have an SOS button with which to summon help. They also provide two-way voice communication, can call designated phone numbers with the push of a button, and allow for the wearer’s location, direction and speed of travel, and movement history to be determined.

“It’s like an OnStar in the palm of your hand,” said Morelli.

In addition to giving peace of mind to past and potential victims of violence, the units could help safeguard people in potentially hazardous occupations, he added. Social workers, real estate agents, probation officers, taxi drivers, security guards and convenience store clerk are among the possibilities.

Additionally, said Morelli, people with special needs — such as those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia — could be monitored to ensure they don’t leave a predetermined zone. SafeTracks has been testing its personal electronic monitoring equipment in a variety of situations and settings, said Morelli. In one case, it helped prevent a Central Alberta youth with severe mental health and substance abuse issues from putting himself in danger.

Working with his mother and mental health officials, SafeTracks fit the teen with one of its GPS ankle bracelets. If he left his family’s rural home, the unit vibrated and the monitoring centre notified his mother.

The woman, who did not want herself of her son identified in this story, said he quickly learned to return to his yard when the unit prompted him. On one occasion, the monitoring centre was able to verify that he was sitting in the brush not far away.

“We just waited and then he started walking back home,” said his mother. “But if he’d gone on the highway and we’d seen that he was moving, we could have called the police to get him.”

After 100 days, the bracelet was removed. But the youth still remained within his boundaries.

“It’s totally extinguished any running away behaviour,” said his mother, adding that keeping him in a controlled area reduced the severity of his addiction and allowed his mental state to improve.

“He’s a totally different kid.”

This application is the tip of the iceberg, agreed Morelli and Aloisio.

Law enforcement officers are another group who could benefit from location monitoring, and they’ve also discussed their technology with the operators of an Alberta ski hill.

Not only could it pinpoint the location of ski patrollers tending to injured people, the units might be used to ensure people stay away from dangerous areas and vacate the resort at day’s end.

“This is going to be national,” predicted Morelli. “We’re just in the process now of working out our marketing and distribution and things like that,” added Aloisio.