How does WanderSearch Work?

Our clients wear a tracking device which comes in three forms – wrist, necklace, keyring (see Tracking Devices) and each device has a unique frequency.

When on, the tracking device emits an electronic pulse every three seconds, which can only be heard by using the Receiver unit. Without the receiver unit and knowledge of the unique frequency for a particular device, no-one can track the device or client. The batteries in the devices last up to eight months however we change them, as part of device refurbishment, very six months.

Without the receiver unit and knowledge of the unique frequency for a particular device, no-one can track the device or client.

When a client goes missing and a search commences, Police Search and Rescue and/or Auckland LandSAR volunteers will take a receiver unit and drive to the person’s last known location. Once the pulse has been detected, the Search personnel will then triangulate the location of the pulse to reduce the search area. The range of the pulse can be detected up to 5 km from a high point using line of sight.

Tracking devices

We have three different tracking devices – a pendant (necklace), watch (wrist) and keyring, each with a unique frequency number.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the criteria for getting a WanderSearch device?

    WanderSearch Auckland will issue a tracking device to a person of any age or ethnicity with a cognitive impairment, who wanders or who is likely to wander.   Therefore, children from toddler age, up a person in their 90’s is eligible to wear a WanderSearch device.

    Please note: the WanderSearch device is a tool used to assist in finding the cognitively impaired wanderer faster: vigilance and close monitoring by caregivers remain vital to the safety and care of the client.

  • My father has a WanderSearch device. What information about him does your organisation keep on file?

    WanderSearch Auckland keeps only relevant information which may help in searching for a client i.e. his physical appearance; his age; his level of mobility; any favourite place he might try to go to; other medical conditions; previous wandering history etc.

    This information is collected at the time of issuing the tracking device and is kept on both our database and the Police computer system which can be accessed 24/7 by Police staff when required.

  • Who has access to the private details of my aunt who wears a WanderSearch device?

    The WanderSearch Auckland staff and Trust Chair can access the database.  Our Volunteers who help with battery changes, are given clients details to enable them to carry out the battery changes.  The Police keep all client information on their computer system, which can be accessed 24/7 by Police personal.

    When searching for a client, the search team is only given information about an individual at the time when that person is reported missing.

  • Is my child, who wears a WanderSearch device monitored 24/7?

    No. The only time that the tracking devices are tracked is when your child wanders and gets lost. When your child goes missing you need to call 111, ask for the Police and give the details of your child and the circumstances of them wandering to the Police Communication staff. You also need to inform them that they have a WanderSearch tracking device. The Police will look up the details on their computer system and the tracking process will begin at this point.

  • Can the devices be turned on and off?

    The WanderSearch devices remain constantly on once they have been issued. The battery life is up to eight months so there is no need to try to conserve the battery. As the devices are turned on and off with a magnet, it is advisable to keep them away from magnetic fields such as bio-mag beds so that they don’t get accidentally turned off.

  • What about a GPS System?

    WanderSearch Auckland has researched a number of GPS systems both nationally and internationally. The majority of the GPS systems available on the market at this stage are bulkier than the devices we currently use and have a battery life from 3 – 15 days, which requires someone to take responsibility to ensure the device is always charged.  With our radio frequency system, the battery lasts up to eight months and doesn’t require anything from the user or their whanau.

    If you would like further information on GSP devices, please look at the Safer Walking website -

  • What are the costs for us as a whanau for my dad to have a WanderSearch device?

    WanderSearch Auckland is a Charitable Trust and relies on donations, trust & philanthropic grants and fundraising to operate in the Auckland community.

    It costs our Trust $350 to issue a tracking device with an on-going yearly maintenance cost of $120.   Therefore, all donations are most gratefully received.  If you would like to donate the details are:

    WanderSearch Auckland Charitable Trust

    ASB Bank         12-3038-0453017-00              Reference: your name

    Please email  with your contact information so we can send you a tax receipt.

  • Who goes looking for my dad when he goes missing?

    When you call 111 to notify the Police your dad is missing, the Police will look up your dad’s details on their computer system. They will contact Police Search and Rescue who will send out the closest search member with the tracking equipment to find him. Only the Police and potentially Auckland Land Search and Rescue Volunteers will look for your father.

  • How long does it take to find a missing person wearing a WanderSearch device?

    While we cannot give a specified time frame, as every circumstance is different, the tracking system has proved very effective. The average search for those wearing WanderSearch devices is around 60 – 90 minutes which includes travel time to the location. However, depending on the location and circumstances, this can be longer or shorter.

  • What happens if my mum is not wearing her WanderSearch watch when she wanders away?

    The Police will look for her using their normal practices and, if necessary, they will call upon the experience and skills of the Police Search and Rescue team and Auckland Land Search and Rescue Volunteers.

  • Does the care facility where my mum lives have to recharge her device battery?

    No. The life of the device battery is up to 8 months. However, after 6 months (well within the lifespan of the device) a WanderSearch representative will visit your mother’s home and replace the pendant with another one. Her used one will be sent for recalibration, a new battery, and cleaning before coming back into the pool of usable devices.

    For your mother, the swap only takes a couple of minutes and WanderSearch endeavours to make the transfer low-key and with minimal disruption. Your mother is not required to remember any details or provide any information.

  • My autistic son has had his wristwatch for 3 years and he is now a teenager. How long can he keep his device for?

    For as long as he requires it – until he stops wandering. Wearing a ‘wrist device’ is intended to allow your son to maintain maximum independence while ensuring he can be found quickly if he goes missing.

    Some clients stay with WanderSearch for years; for others less than 12 months may be sufficient to keep them safe.

  • My grandfather has been moved to a secure unit and is no longer in danger of wandering. What should the care facility do with his device?

    Simply contact us and we will arrange to collect the device. Your grandfather’s information will then be removed from the Police computer system and kept by WanderSearch Auckland for a further 12 months before being removed.

  • I know someone who has a pacemaker. Would he be able to have a WanderSearch device?


    Ideally the device should be kept 15cm from the site of the pacemaker so the WanderSearch ‘wrist device’ would be safe. Alternatively, attaching the keyring device to the waistband of clothing or a similar adaptation would also be sufficient.

  • Can my mother travel with her device? By plane? Overseas?

    The WanderSearch tracking system operates only in New Zealand so is not used overseas.

    WanderSearch Auckland operates, in conjunction with the Police only in the greater Auckland region. Around the country other organisations facilitate the WanderSearch programme  (follow the link for areas outside Auckland ) , but the Police will search for a missing person, wherever they are in New Zealand.

    It is advisable that you do not fly with the device turned on as the tracking device emits an electronic signal, which could interfere with the aircraft’s electronics. As of October 2021 WanderSearch Auckland and Air New Zealand are undergoing compatibility testing of tracking devices and the use of them on their Aircraft fleet.

  • Does WanderSearch Auckland only issue devices to the elderly?

    No. WanderSearch Auckland will issue a device to a person of any age with a cognitive impairment, who wanders or who is likely to wander.   Therefore, children from toddler age are eligible to wear a WanderSearch device.

  • Can I buy a device for my grandson who is a “Houdini” and vanishes in the blink of an eye? He has no brain injuries.

    No, sorry, for two reasons:

    1) WanderSearch Auckland is a charity set up for the express purpose of assisting those with cognitive impairments.

    2) WanderSearch Auckland Charitable Trust remains the owners of all devices, not the clients nor their families. We do not sell the devices.

  • My dog is expert as escaping from our yard. Could I get a WanderSearch device for him? I am willing to pay for it.

    No, sorry; WanderSearch Auckland only serves the cognitively impaired (human) clientele of the Auckland region.

If you have any other questions which are not covered above, please contact:

(09) 480 4448