An ever-increasing range of technologies are available that can provide reassurance to a person at risk and their family/whanau/carers if they do get lost or go missing, they can be safely located.
TECHNOLOGIES EMPLOYED IN NEW ZEALAND FALL INTO SIX DIFFERENT GENERAL TYPES: SIMPLE IDENTIFICATION, CELL PHONE APPLICATIONS, GPS TRACKERS, PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACON (PLB), SATELLITE DEVICES (SPOT AND SPOT TRACE) AND RADIO FREQUENCY DEVICES (WANDERSEARCH)

SIMPLE IDENTIFICATION

Identification objects (cards, bracelets, or other items) could be useful if the person at risk keeps it with them whenever they go out. If they get lost they could show their ID to someone who can help by calling their contact person or police (as they may have been reported missing). There are many options available, from making your own to looking on the internet for suitable options.

MEDICAL IDENTIFICATION

MedicAlert Foundation has a range of identification products including necklace, bracelets, and wallet cards.

For more information on MedicAlert and their products check out their website.

CELL PHONE APPLICATIONS

These are great, an easy way for a family to monitor the whereabouts of their family members if:

  • Agreement is given by the person at risk
  • The person at risk keeps their cell phone with them whenever they go out
  • The cell phone is kept charged (battery charging required once every 1 – 3 days depending on the use of the cell phone) and turned on
  • Wherever the person at risk goes is within the cellular network coverage area
  • The person at risk would generally need a mobile phone plan that includes sufficient data
  • The person who is monitoring their family member will need internet access (or be within a cellular network and have data if using a cell phone)
  • Cell phones need to be carefully looked after; they can be easily broken if dropped onto hard surfaces.

There are a range of apps available including some that are free
Online reviews of location sharing apps that may help in deciding what one will fit best, for example:
Best 10 Location Tracking Apps for Android and iPhone To Trace Your Loved Ones [2021] https://www.mobileappdaily.com/best-location-tracking-apps
7 Best Free Location Sharing or Tracking Apps for Android & iOS (2021)
https://gadgetliv.com/best-location-tracking-apps/

GPS DEVICES

Buddi device attached to keyring

Spark Spacetalk wrist device

Mercari device on belt clip

There are many GPS location devices available in New Zealand. These are a good option if cell phones are not. Things to consider are:

  • Agreement is given by the person at risk.
  • The person at risk will keep the device with them whenever they go out.
  • Form of the device – a wrist device / pendant / clipped onto belt / keyring and size / weight so it fits with the person’s lifestyle.
  • Some devices could be attached to a bike if the person always uses their bike to go out.
  • The device could stay in their handbag or as a belt clip or key-ring.
  • If the person always goes out with their pet dog then a device could be attached to the dog’s collar.
  • A child may always keep a special object such as a toy to which the device could be attached.
  • The device needs to be kept charged and turned on.
  • The battery will last between a few days to weeks depending on what functions are active on the device.
  • The person at risk stays within the cellular network coverage area. To check for coverage, see each Telcos’s coverage map: Spark
    Vodafone and 2degrees
  • The person at risk would generally need to purchase the device and/or some form of data plan that includes sufficient data or pay a monthly fee to the GPS Tracker provider.
  • The person who is monitoring their family member will need internet access (or be within a cellular network and have data if using a cell phone).
  • If monitoring is provided via a provider monitoring service, there maybe a limit on the number of alerts per month.
  • Devices need to be carefully looked after. Some may come with protective covers allowing them to be more robust.
  • What buttons are on the device – for example on/off and SOS alert that the person at risk can activate.
  • What features are available for example, geo-fencing alerts. A boundary may be able to be set and when the device moves beyond that “fence” an alert is sent.
  • The Cellular Network the device uses (usually 3G or 4G). Some devices use 2G, the only provider supporting this network is Vodafone in New Zealand. Vodafone is planning to shut the 2G network down in 2025. In Australia, the 2G network was shut down in 2018.

Examples of GPS devices:

Buddi is a Medical Alarm that offers GPS location and is funded for individuals that qualify for MSD’s Disability Allowance. The supplier of the Buddi system is TraceCare. More information is available from their website.

ADT Home Assist beacons are a new offering.  It is a mobile personal alert system and can be used for GPS location.  It can also be used to make and receive calls with a limited number of contacts. This device is available from ADT Security or one of their agents. For more information and pricing for this device contact ADT Security  or Security Alert.

Guardian Plus – Personal Safety Alarm is an offering from Direct Safety it can be used for GPS location.  It has a number of other safety functions.  It connects to the supplier’s 24/7 staffed Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). For information on this device and price visit the website.

Mercari Limited offer a Personal Medical Alert Alarm device.  This device can be monitored by the family / Whanau /carer rather than through an agency. For information on this device and price visit the website.

St John Alarm – Mobile plan these new alarms are able to be used outside of the home and have GPS location functions. For more information visit the St John website.

Spark Spacetalk has been designed for children. It is a phone and GPS tracker in the form of a watch. To find out more about the Spacetalk visit the Spark website.

BLUETOOTH DEVICES

AirTag

For Apple product users there is a new offering called the AirTag.

This is a small device designed to be attached to a key, wallet or other item.  The AirTag uses Bluetooth technology for location.  Apple iPhone with the Find My app can monitor the whereabouts of the AirTag.

To find out what type of iPhone is required and for more information about the AirTag visit the Apple website.

TilePro

Tile Pro is a small Bluetooth device. It can be attached to keys, purses or belts. The tile can be located using the Tile app on a mobile phone or computer.  The Tile Pro has a range of 122 m.  Similar, to the AirTag, the detection range is extended where there are a network of other mobiles or computers that also have the Tile app.

To find out more about the Tile Pro and pricing visit Tile NZ.

There are an increasing range of Bluetooth devices available
Online reviews of Bluetooth devices may help in deciding what one will fit best, for example this review.

PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACON (PLB)

These beacons may be of use for a person at risk who is outside of any cellular network area and is able to activate the beacon in an emergency.  Things to consider are:

  • The person is able to recognise when they need help and they are in imminent danger.
  • The person is able to activate the beacon (this usually involves some coordination to avoid accidentally setting the beacon off).
  • The person at risk needs to keep the beacon with them whenever they go out by themselves.
  • Beacons are larger than GPS trackers or medical alarms and need to be carried in a pocket or bag that the person keeps with them.
  • Beacons need to be registered.

For more information on PLBs go to the NZ Search & Rescue Beacons website.

SPOT AND SPOT TRACE SATELLITE DEVICES

Spot and Spot Trace Satellite Devices: SPOT Trace or Spot Gen 3 (the Generation 3 Spot is now being replaced by the new Gen 4 model) may be of use for a person at risk of going missing who is outside of any cellular network area. It requires someone who can carry out the required set-up, monitoring and maintenance.  Things to consider are:

  • The person at risk needs to keep the device with them whenever they go out by themselves.
  • The device must stay in such a position that the top of the device is pointed towards the sky.  It won’t work if it is covered by metal e.g., inside a car or buried inside pack.
  • The Spot Gen 3 (or Gen 4) personal alarm needs the person at risk to be able to recognise they need help and they are in imminent danger.  They must be able to activate the SOS button, or the help required button.  The SPOT Trace however just needs to kept turned on.The person at risk would generally need to purchase the Spot device.  They would also need to pay monthly for a data plan from the provider of the device.
  • The devices use 4 AAA lithium batteries.  The battery life will depend on how often it sends a signal (5 or 10 minute intervals).  Also the amount of time it is moving per day and how obstructed its view is of the sky.
  • Both the devices have on/off buttons on them. The Spot Gen 3 (or 4) has several buttons including SOS for emergency response.

For more information on Spot products check out the Track Me website.

WANDERSEARCH

WanderSearch also known as Wandatrak devices are small, robust radio-frequency signal transmitters that are worn by the person at risk.  They have no moving parts and cannot be turned off by the user. The devices are worn continuously as they are shower proof and do not need charging. They are replaced after 6 months or every 3 months if the person wearing the device chews it.  They do not use the cellular network, so they operate in any place in New Zealand. If the person does go missing who is wearing the device, they can be rapidly located by trained Police and/or Land Search and Rescue volunteers using specialist equipment to detect the specific radio-frequency number of the device.

The WanderSearch programme has been developed in New Zealand over the last 15 years. It is delivered by not-for profit organisations, working in partnership with NZ Police. The system does not monitor devices.  The only time a person will be searched for using WanderSearch search equipment is when the police are notified that they have gone missing.  Things to consider are:

  • Agreement is given by the person at risk at the time the WanderSearch device is issued.
  • The person at risk will keep the device with them whenever they go out.  Devices can be fitted to children so they cannot easily be removed or forgotten.
  • The devices can be in the form of a wrist device / pendant / keyring (this can be clipped onto the person’s belt).
  • The battery is sealed within the device. It lasts for at least 6 months. After six months the old device is removed for refurbishment and a new device fitted.
  • The devices are very hard wearing, showerproof and robust.
  • There are no external buttons or lights on the device. The person using the device cannot turn it off.
  • The cost varies with the group that runs the programme. However Charitable funding is being sought so funds are not a barrier to accessing a device.

WanderSearch is suitable for people that are for some reason not able to use the other technologies successfully.  For more information go to the WanderSearch website.

Listen to New Zealanders telling their own stories of going missing