Radio Frequency verse GPS

Why does the WanderSearch Auckland Charitable Trust use radio frequency (RF) rather than GPS for their tracking program?

The answer is simple.  We wanted a tracking device which was small, had a long battery life and was easy to use.

Prior to settling on our current tracking device, we interrogated the internet both nationally and internationally to see what type of tracking devices were being used around the world and what their specifications were. 

Most of the devices which we found were GPS based with some of them set up as a two-way system in that the client could press a button on the device and be connected to a pre-programmed phone number of a family member / care-giver or a call-centre which could assist them.   For those who were cognitively aware enough to be able to do this, then these systems would have been appropriate.  

Unfortunately, not all of the clients’ we were dealing with were capable of understanding that they had to push a button to call for help and therefore we dis-regarded these devices.    

We tested a few devices however we found various drawbacks with them so we decided we had to set certain parameters for tracking devices to meet before we would look at them seriously.

The main parameters we wanted were:

1.      Small enough not to be intrusive,

2.      Long battery life – in excess of three / four months,

3.      Easy to operate.

Seeing the stress which the care-givers / families were experiencing caring for a person living with dementia, we decided we wanted a device which had a long battery life which meant that the care-givers / families didn’t have to remember to re-charge the device every few days.   Plus we wanted something that would not be obvious when worn by the client and which the client would be happy to wear.

Our research took us all over the world where different devices were being used by various agencies.   In America, the main device at that time was used by Project Life-Saver.   The downside of this device was the size which was about that of a cigarette packet which did not meet our parameter with regards to size.

During our research, we became aware of a device being used in the Nelson area called WandaTrak.  It was a New Zealand produced system using radio frequency (line of sight) and is similar to what is used by the Department of Conservation for tracking animals in the wild.

We looked further into this device and found that the battery life exceeded what we were wanting in that it exceeded six months and it was also small enough to be worn comfortably by the client and came in several designs.    The other benefit was that the families didn’t need to remember to re-charge the batteries as we would be exchanging the device for a new one every six months.   

This system was introduced into Auckland in 2009 as a trail and we have been using it ever since.  

To date there have been in excess of 1000 referrals for our services, we have expanded into 71 Care Facilities within the greater Auckland region as well as private homes and there have been in excess of 370 searches for clients who had been reported missing.

While the WanderSearch Auckland Tracking program doesn’t suit everyone, it has provided ‘peace of mind’ for countless families and care-givers.

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