Written on 2016/01/19 by: Joe Young; Marketing and Communications Manager for Friendship Circle of Michigan.
Over the past four years, we have covered a number of articles about individuals with special needs that have a tendency to wander/elope and the numerous tracking deviceson the market that are available prevent disaster from striking.
These devices have generally been worn as a watch or attached to clothing. Recently a new and innovative way to track individuals with special needs has been revealed.
Meet GPS SmartSole
GPS SmartSole is an invisible wearable technology device intended for non-invasive tracking of individuals with cognitive disorders (such as Alzheimer’s, autism, traumatic brain injuries) in its second generation.
The miniaturized GPS/Cellular device is built into an insole designed to be worn in shoes, providing tracking and monitoring for the individual while giving complete peace of mind to the parent who can easily monitor the connected insole right from a mobile app.
This technology is a boon for the special needs community, especially the parents and family members that are familiar with the wandering and elopement of those with cognitive impairments.
The SmartSole is the invisible wearable technology; the child has no way of knowing that this device is present on their body because it is hidden in the shoe, affording a great advantage to the special needs community.
A Few Questions with the CEO
Friendship Circle talked with Patrick Bertagna, CEO of GPS SmartSole’s manufacturer,GTX Corp. (OTC: GTXO), to discuss the latest developments in the technology that bolsters this product.
1. Where did the idea/inspiration for GPS SmartSole come from?
PB: The idea originally was conceived from a smart shoe (the first generation of this product) which basically came from the story of Elizabeth Smart in Utah who was abducted at the age of 14 and held captive for nine months.
After seeing this story all over the news, the team thought: “What if we had tracking devices in shoes?”
The first generation ‘smart shoe’ device was released in 2012, which was an actual shoe with the electronics built in. Over time, the product design was decreased in size while the second generation was developed to be placed in the sole of the shoe. The new designs also featured increased durability and logistics of the device was much more feasible for the development team to create.
The first generation ‘smart shoe’ was discontinued in May 2014, followed by a six month hiatus, after which in December of 2014, the second generation GPS SmartSole was launched with a retail price of $299.
2. Was anything unexpected learned in the development of this product?
PB: Yes. A tremendous amount was learned about the way people walk, the arch of their foot, their weight, all sorts of different individual factors that had some kind of an effect (either mild or significant) on the outcome of the device.
Our first product version had a micro-USB port for charging, but that made it obvious this wasn’t just a pair of Dr. Scholl’s and of course that made them not water resistant.
After speaking to experts in the autistic community and getting an understanding of how critical it was for the SmartSoles to be completely invisible and being waterproof, we then converted to inductive charging (see video below), making it a lot easier to charge, sealing the insoles from moisture and now they look like any ordinary orthotic insole.
We also learned about the way people walk, the arch of their foot, their weight, all sorts of different individual factors that had some kind of an effect on the user experience.
3. What need does the GPS SmartSole serve?
PB: Originally, this product was developed in order to prevent future occurrences, like the Elizabeth Smart abduction in Utah. The inspiration came from the idea of tracking human beings. This evolved into discovering there’s a segment of the population that needs to be tracked because they have a tendency to wander.
Nine million people (and growing) in the U.S. currently have some kind of cognitive memory disorder (traumatic brain injuries, alzheimer’s, autism). These people have a tendency to wander and the situation becomes becomes much more complex if they are not found within 24 hours.
Once we learned about this growing number of individuals in the U.S., the product was geared more towards this population. The GPS SmartSole product was intended for the masses, but was then altered to focus on people with memory or cognitive disorders.
4. What are next steps in GPS SmartSole’s development?
PB: We’ve got an extensive technology roadmap. Basically, we’re looking at adding a few more advanced features, like biometric sensors and implementing bluetooth for tracking indoors.
The bluetooth will help pick up where GPS has a tendency to fail, which would be for really granular tracking in places like inside malls, buildings and schools, where GPS struggles with placement. Our expectation is that this will help broaden the audience.
The biometric sensors are intended to supplement the GPS tracking, so that not only will I know where you are, but now I know how you’re doing.
Take for example: An elderly gentleman with Alzheimer’s that has a tendency to wander and also recently to suffered from a heart attack. The family member responsible for this gentleman’s care can now can monitor the man’s location and his vitals, allowing them the ability to contact emergency services from a remote location in order to give medical attention in a timely manner, if needed. This device can also be helpful for monitoring those under supervisory care, whether at home or in an assisted living facility.
Eventually, the sensors will be able to monitor all biometric readings, such as heart rate, pulse, temperature; and in the future be advanced enough to monitor glucose and insulin levels monitoring for those with diabetes.
5. Any additional comments about GPS SmartSole…
PB: Parents have said that this device has been life changing for them and their child because of the tactile element, many individuals with special needs do not like changes to their routine or attachments to their body.
There is no age gap for this device; it’s not just for seniors and not just for children. Families that have children with special needs are finding use for this product into the adult years of their child’s life as well as finding use with elderly family members.
For the future, GTX Corp. is getting involved with robots to serve as companions to children with special needs to better help translate emotions, facial expressions and communication. The robots can keep calm during these scenarios when a person with special needs may be behaving erratically and process the information without the interference of human emotion and interpretation. In the coming years, GTX Corp. will be working with companies that work with this technology.