Avoid getting lost, even in familiar places

In our day to day lives, we want to feel like we can get out and about, do our things, and get home safely.  Using technology can ease our worries about being able to get home, without incident.  It can connect us to our husband, wife, parent, or child so we can know where they are and they can ask for help.  Here at Smart in Five, we think using technology to build confidence, ease worries and avoid getting lost improves quality of life.

1. Who needs help not getting lost?

We use Google Maps to help us navigate someplace new; usually we don’t need help navigating someplace familiar.  And, sometimes we get lost.  Or, we fear someone we love will get lost or wander.  

Instead of being afraid of getting lost, and hiding in our houses, let’s consider how to use technology to help reduce our risk of getting lost, and add the ability to get support from a loved one or family member when we need it.

2. What are the products that can help avoid getting lost?

Phones, shoes, pendant or personal location tracking devices.

Our phone is our primary tool.  If you tend to not carry a phone, or it feels too complex to try to make your phone work for this purpose, there are many other location tracker devices that aren’t phones.

Phones:

  • GPS services with Google or Apple Maps.  Turn on your location services on your phone, and open Google Maps, or whatever mapping tech you have.  Set your location, and see if you can establish from the map where you are.  If you can, great.  If you can’t, you can send your location via text or email to someone else.
  • Find my iPhone.  For this one, IPhone only.  First, you can use the app to ‘find yourself’.  Or, you can call someone else and ask them to find you in the app.  They will be able to see you on a map, and then call you back and help as appropriate.

Cellular Trackers:

Samsung is now offering a SmartThings tracker that is LTE based and has an SOS button.  This means it is about the same size as a tile, but will work anywhere you have cell coverage – which is way more flexible that bluetooth.    When I carry it, my partner can look in the app to see where i am, or set geofences to send notifications when I leave my neighborhood.

As of October 2018, you can purchase this device with an included cell plan for $100.  This is a great deal.

GPS Trackers:

  • 3D Pocketfinder+, from Pocketfinder, which is pretty typical family-type device.  This one uses both 2G and 3G GSM connectivity, which means you have more coverage / connectivity.  It can also do a wifi-based indoor location, if the user chooses to be located inside.  When you use Pocketfinder+, your people will appear on GoogleMaps.  You can set up geo-fenced zones to track someone leaving a certain area (you could set a perimeter of your neighborhood gate, and then have it send you an alert if the PocketFinder+ passes outside of this gate).
  • Smart Sole.   Your shoes can have GPS in them, and then you just don’t have to think about any of this.  Smart Sole has it’s own tracking system online, or in the app, and caregivers can share this app to see where the shoes are currently located, as well as where they have been.  This will give you a breadcrumb sense of where someone has been, which is different than other GPS that only shows where you are at one point in space and time.   Smart Sole is a 2G based system currently, so T-mobile 2G coverage in your area is something to consider.
  • Taking this sideways, if all this seems to fancy, just use a luggage tracker.  No, I’m not saying you are a piece of luggage.  I’m saying that a cheaper device, with a lower monthly price point, that is able to let someone know where you are, gets the job done.  LugLoc is one system i’m seeing a lot about, but you get the point and can research GSM GPS luggage trackers

Wearables / Smart Watches which don’t require you to carry a phone:

  • Samsung Gear G3.  This watch looks amazing, but also complex.  The big sexy here is that it connects on LTE without your phone present.  Battery power is going to be a big factor in how well this works in real life.  I want one, but I can’t find a place where i can touch one before I order it online.  I don’t want to buy something i can’t even see; I’m still holding out.
  • Apple Series 4 or Apple Series 3 watches both have built in cellular functionality, so these can be useful if you are more Apple and interested in wearables.  Series 4 includes expanded bio-metric monitoring like heart rate with ECG detail, fall detection and SOS functionality.

FREE PROGRAMS which are available to help:

  • Alzheimer’s Association MedicAlert and Safe Return.  Great free program!  A bracelet and registration program with health records that are universally accessible takes a simple approach.
  • Colorado Life Trak.  Great free program offered by your county department!  This is cool because it shows municipal investment in helping people who get lost.  It is currently a Colorado based program; you must find your county resource then ask about Life Trak.  See this list of Google Results for Colorado Counties.  if you live in another county, ask them if they have a similar program, and when they will be getting one if they don’t.

3.  Where are these technology products available and being used?

You can buy everything online.   Price shop, check warranty, check return policies, order from the provider links above.

So let’s be real: it will take a little time and energy to make anything you get work.  Not too much, but we need to have the attitude that we have to play with technology to make it work for us.   There will be trial and error required.  Make it fun.  Smart in Five plays with technology.  It’s always a good idea to ask someone to help you set something up, too.  Our vision is a circle of people working together to use a tool to solve a problem.

If playing with technology makes you uncomfortable, then you need a solution that requires the least effort from you (like LifeTrak or GPSSmartSoles), and puts more dependency on a loved one to help set you up and be there for you if you need support.

Since our municipalities are also invested in helping us avoid getting lost, Life Trak is through your county office in Colorado.  Other states may have comparable programs.  You can always take the LifeTrak program info to your county rep to find out what services are available, or encourage them to provide similar.  This means print the info, and take it in and say “do we have anything like this here?”

4.  When can I get products that help me avoid getting lost ?

Today these products are available online, and Colorado LifeTrak is through your county office in Colorado.

Beyond 24 months, network infrastructure changes, and devices are evolving.  Two factors are causing disruption: shutdown of 2G / move to LTE, AND the cost of hardware production.   Since we are moving away from 2G, people aren’t making a ton of new 2G devices.

  • The PeopleFinder+ is 3G which is more than the 2G but isn’t quite bleeding edge, like the Samsung Gear G3 which is LTE.
  • Samsung has developed the Samsung Gear G3 as a wearable that is GPS device using LTE AND it is also a phone (like you can use the watch without your phone).

So, in May 2018 I was focused on that there are lots of options that you can use for the next two years without issue.  You should test any product in your neighborhood to ensure you have any required coverage to support your Smart Soles, or PeopleFinder+.

But now in October 2018, the Samsung SmartThings tracker is the first cellular based location tracker with SOS that I think is price point accessible.   This makes me so happy !!!!

As products work based on their coverage area, it is a key element to picking the right solution.  If you live in an urban area with lots of cellular coverage you may have more options.  The best thing to do is to find a product you like with a GPS or Cell service plan that makes sense for you, then check the return policy.  If the return policy allows you to order it and return it without too much hassle, then order something that you can play with at home.   Use it in your neighborhood to make sure it has ample coverage to do what you want.  If it doesn’t work well because the coverage is spotty, send it back.

Now I hate returning stuff.  I get why this sounds like an unattractive approach.  However, since we have a ‘play with it to make it work’ attitude at Smart in Five, ordering something to see if it works, and then returning it if it doesn’t, is a good strategy.  This lets me choose which products work for me based on how well they actually work in real life.

5.  Why would I want help to not get lost?

Aging means things change, and I want technology and tools that help to fill new needs that I have.  When getting lost becomes a risk, staying home can seem safer.  And it may be safer for you where you are; we aren’t saying you should do something you aren’t comfortable with.  What we are saying is that there are some technology tools that can give you confidence about getting around independently, because THEN you have a plan in case something goes wrong, so you can just go back to living your best life.