Mobile Alerts for People who Wander: Where RFID/NFC, Biometrics and GPS meet

Primary carers of people who wander have a substantial onus to keep their loved ones and clients safe. Though patterns of wandering differ between various stakeholder types in various contexts, the two main design points include:

  1. Ensuring an individual does not go beyond the perimeters of a home (in-building) or a facility (on-campus)
  2. Ensuring an individual who has wandered can be found quickly (usually traversing a public space).

Wandering about a public space is one of the freedoms people enjoy about being alive. Whether it is a brisk walk to the local park, a bus or train trip to the beach, or aeroplane travel to various parts of the world, we can all enjoy the world around us. Walking does not require any token, travel often requires a ticket such as a TravelPass, and flying a passport with an appropriate VISA. People who wander usually do so on foot or by public transport. This session tries to narrow in to the potential for using RFID/NFC, facial recognition, and GPS to trigger mobile alerts when someone has wandered outside a minimum bounded area.

Children with autism for example, have often escaped their homes, only to find themselves in danger, either from oncoming traffic or from deep waters. Those suffering from varying levels of dementia have found themselves on public transport or disoriented at the wheel. Quite often wanderers frequent paths they know well. Wanderers who are in urban centres can have a very different experience to those in regional or rural settings. Context awareness is paramount for a carer. Is there a lake nearby? Is their busy traffic outside the family home? Is the wanderer known to people in the local community like café owners or train station attendants?

Since the early 2000s, various kinds of technological solutions have attempted to help those in need in various markets. Though we are making major inroads into what we have termed hierarchical positioning systems, most systems seem to fall short and so we still have many reports of wanderers falling to their deaths, or drowning, or suffering some other plight. The anguish for carers is significant. There is no respite for them, and the responsibility takes a grave toll on individuals.

This session will explore how technologies could be utilized to monitor people in need within the family home or institutional facility (e.g. wearing RFID/NFC tags) and furthermore how once traversing a public space the wanderer can be located. A number of factors can impact findability: morphological conditions, the individual’s agreement to wear a device, how to respond to mobile alerts once a trigger has been executed.

Participants will learn about:

-          Individual wearer responses to wearable medic alert bracelets and tag technology

-          In-building and on-campus solutions offered by BLE and UWB

-          Advances in satellite-to-base chips (GPS sensors) used by the military

-          The role of visual analytics in near real-time analysis

-          Informed consent issues, duty of care, and getting privacy right

-          Patterns of analysis in human activity monitoring and what that can tell us

-          The importance of affordable solutions for primary carers who usually do not have a full time job while they are caring for loved ones who wander

-          Coordination with emergency services for assistance in finding a missing person

Presenter: Professor Katina Michael, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong

Collaborator: Dr Roba Abbas, honorary fellow, School of Computing and Information Technology, University of Wollongong

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Source: Tee Chew and Katina Michael, 2005

Source: Tee Chew and Katina Michael, 2005

Source: Tee Chew and Katina Michael, 2005

Source: Tee Chew and Katina Michael, 2005


Tragic stories involving wanderers

It's a devastating occurrence, but it's not rare.

About 20 times a month, a child with autism wanders off, according to national statistics tracked by the nonprofit Autism Speaks.

Two or three of those children die each month in the United States, the group’s numbers from 2017 show.

The most common cause of death will not surprise anyone who followed last weekend's disappearance of 4-year-old Chelsea Noel.

It's drowning.

Of these children, 74 percent run or wander from their own home or from someone else’s home, 40 percent run or wander from stores and 29 percent run or wander from schools. Close calls with traffic injuries were reported for 65 percent of the missing children and close calls with drowning were reported for 24 percent of the missing children. Running and wandering in children and teens with autism takes an enormous toll on families and caregivers, Schumer said: 56 percent of parents reported running as one of the most stressful behaviors they have had to cope with as caregivers of a child with autism. And 50 percent of parents reported receiving little guidance on preventing or addressing this common behavior.
— Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education Collaboration and the National Autism Association

"Autistic children aged 14 years and younger are 40 times more likely to die from injury than the general pediatric population," Li said. Specifically, drowning accounts for 46% of all injury deaths among children with autism, which translates to 160 times the chance of dying from drowning compared to other children.

"The risk of drowning in autistic children peaks at age 5 to 7 years," Li said.

He explained that children with the disorder often feel anxiety, and wandering, especially toward water, is one way they seek relief. With 100,000 children newly diagnosed with disorders each year in the US, he added, "the first concrete step parents and caregivers could take to reduce the exceptionally high risk of accidental drowning is to enroll these children in swimming classes."


People with autism are seven times more likely to encounter law enforcement; communication difficulties and atypical behavior can result in serious misunderstandings; people with autism are more likely to be victims of crimes; nearly 50 percent of people with autism wander or elope from safety; and accidental drowning accounts for approximately 90% of lethal wandering outcomes. To best address the safety needs of the community, Autism Speaks facilitates a two-pronged approach including Family Safety Fairs and Autism Awareness Training for First Responders.



A recent study showed 49 percent of parents with a child on the autism spectrum had reported that child had wandered away. Of those, 65 percent were in danger of a traffic accident, and 24 percent were in danger of drowning.1

"You can put the security systems, you can put locks on the door - not just where the doorknob is, but also up high and down low. You have security cameras, motion defectors in the middle of the night," Laxton said.

Project LifeSaver

Project LifeSaver

"The national program partners with local first responders to connect caregivers of children and adults with cognitive disorders with wearable trackers.

Each device emits a unique frequency and a tracker can pick up a signal from it one to two miles away, which drastically reduces the time of a more “blind” search.

“For us, as a community, to have something like this, it truly is, has the capability of saving lives and being able to find people before it’s too late,” said assistant chief of police Brian Nugent.

In Hendricks County, the devices, which have a $350 up-front cost, are free for qualifying children and adults who tend to wander.

“Our goal is simply to reach out with these families, let them know this program is available and do everything in our power to facilitate that at absolutely no hassle or cost to them,” said Nugent.

Hendricks County first responders handle battery changes every 60 days and replacing cases and wristbands for free too.

The wearable isn’t just for when the wearer is in Hendricks County. The radio frequency transmitters can be picked up in another county too, as long as a nearby first responder has a tracker.

When families enrolled in the program leave the county for an extended period of time, the Project Lifesaver coordinator, Karen Hendershot, calls ahead to give the visiting county a proactive call with the wearer’s frequency information before they arrive.

No matter where the wearer is, the peace of mind gained by the caregiver relieves some of the burden of caring 24/7 for a person with a cognitive disorder, who tends to wander and is attracted to water.

“You could answer the phone or use the restroom,” said Denoon. “No matter what you try, there’s a possibility they could escape if they really want to. You can’t be with them 24/7 no matter how much you try.”

Other counties also offer the Project Lifesaver program, but many require parents or caregivers to pay at least part.

It’s only available in Hendricks County for free because of grants and donations."


3M™ One-Piece GPS Offender Tracking System integrates tracking, communication and mapping technologies. Operators can efficiently track offenders virtually anywhere, anytime, at varying levels of intensity through a single, compact body-worn unit.

One Piece GPS Tracking System product image
View the Product Brochure 390 KB PDF icon
The system features the ability to define inclusion and exclusion zones, animated and birds-eye-view mapping and the convenience of an offender wearing just one device on the leg. The system communicates certain events to the offender through vibrations and LED lights and can switch monitoring intensity modes remotely through software downloads, or automatically, per program rules definition.

3M™ One-Piece GPS Offender Tracking System features full house arrest supervision and will report technical events or violations of schedule restrictions, enabling agencies to apply home curfew restrictions in line with their program.

Key features:

Four supervision levels: active, alert, passive, and optional RF curfew monitoring
Multiple methods of offender communication: LED lights and vibration
Collects GPS points every 60 seconds (adjustable); once every 15 seconds when in zone violation
User configurable alerts and program rules
Continued tracking and offender alerts independent of communication availability
Multiple tracking technologies, back up location detection using LBS
Reliable data storage
Remote software upgrades and modifications
Functionality status indications
Multiple tamper detections
Securely fits on offender’s ankle using an adjustable, easy to install strap
Compact and lightweight
Hypoallergenic, waterproof and tamper resistant
36+ hour battery power
— 3M: Electronic Monitoring: One Piece GPS Tracking System
House arrest electronic monitoring uses radio frequency (RF) or GPS location technology to monitor the movement of offenders under home confinement. Electronic monitoring helps control costs by automating many routine supervision and recording tasks.
Integrated Monitoring Platform
Our Integrated Platform enables operators to integrate monitoring tools and software modules onto a single platform. The platform solution makes the most of technology benefits, allows tailoring to program needs, and enhances overall value by reducing initial investment, lowering installation and support costs, improving system management and maintenance capabilities, and reducing training, and minimizing inventory requirements.

Home Curfew RF Monitoring System
Our Home Curfew RF (Radio Frequency) Monitoring system monitors if the user is within a pre-set distance range during scheduled times. The system is highly configurable, flexible, tamper-resistant, and easy to use.
— 3M Public Safety - House Arrest Applications

Austria also uses offender tracking systems

Austria also uses offender tracking systems

In early August the Department of Corrections revealed there were 18 people meant to be being tracked by the bracelets at large at once. Two more went on the run this weekend.

Child sex offender Daniel Livingstone is accused of breaking his electronic monitoring bracelet and going on the run.
Child sex offender Daniel Livingstone is accused of breaking his electronic monitoring bracelet and going on the run.

Multinational conglomerate 3M took over the electronic monitoring of offenders here in February in a five-year contract reportedly worth $80 million. Soon afterwards it received a “please explain” letter from Corrections when problems were discovered, documents reveal.

The firm was dumped as the supplier of a different anklet to the state of California in 2012 after flaws allowed paroled rapists and murderers to trick or remove their monitoring bracelets.

In 2013 the Los Angeles Times

reported that batteries in the bracelets used in California failed, GPS signals were vulnerable to illegal jamming devices, the signal could be diverted if the anklet was covered in tin foil, or disappeared if taken into cars or buildings, that cases cracked and GPS locations could be off by as much as almost five kilometres.

The 3M spokeswoman said on Sunday that a different “premium” product was used in New Zealand.

”The 3M GPS bracelet strap is designed to provide the highest level of tamper detection and meet health and safety standards that require these bracelets to be able to be readily removed in case of an emergency.

Around the world, 3M’s devices were used to monitor 200,000 offenders, and the company was confident in the integrity and quality of its products, a spokeswoman said.

Corrections figures show there were more than 15,500 breaches of electronic monitoring conditions between 2008 and August 2015.

Wandering Adults



Today’s wander management technologies are also more affordable—and increasingly discreet.

“Dignity and privacy are major concerns. The system should be designed in line with the high-end designs of assisted living communities, and should support the quiet environment trend,” says Jon Ross, general manager, HomeFree Systems, Milwaukee.

Increasingly, solutions that allow staff to set up “hot zones” are becoming more popular, according to Besecker, because staff can redirect residents who enter a predetermined off-limits zone. Exit alerts and off-campus alerts also can be set on or off for an individual or group of residents.

“The system also can trigger door locks and other mechanisms to reduce the risk of elopement,” Besecker says, adding that silent alerts delivered in real time to staff pagers, smart phones or any other voice or data device already in use in the facility can help ensure immediate action by staff, without the need for disruptive, dignity-robbing alarms.

Preventing dangerous wandering and elopement is indeed critical, but more operators are opting for technology that can offer a second line of defense. Cellular-based tracking solutions, which operate via residents who wear a watch-like device that can be precisely located virtually anywhere within an existing cellular network, is one example of this added layer of protection.

“This cellular-based system can work indoors or outdoors, and can locate people quickly and precisely, even in buildings or places that would typically interfere with GPS locators,” says Jim Nalley, chief executive officer of EmFinders, Frisco, TX. The company’s EmSeeQ technology, developed in collaboration with law enforcement, is activated by a caregiver and utilizes the 9-1-1 emergency system.

Radio frequency identification and global position systems also are gaining momentum in the wander management segment.

“Extending the personal emergency response systems, there are systems on the market that can provide GPS tracking to help find individuals who end up wandering from a facility,” says Brian Jones, director, Aware Home Research Initiative, and senior research engineer for Georgia Tech’s Interactive Media Technology Center in Atlanta. “These technologies are more reliable than those we have seen in the past.”

Resident compliance is another critical factor. As sources explain, residents might try to tamper with or dismantle a wander management system, or they might attempt to remove the wristbands that track their location.

“Being able to know when the device is being worn or not is essential for any resident we want to feel secure,” says Besecker.

Because of the challenges associated with resident compliance, some vendors are now opting for GPS or RFID tags that can be easily and unobtrusively attached to a resident. The GPS or RFID device then alerts and guides the caregiver in the direction of the resident.

“Things like a departure alert placed above a doorway keeps track of [residents] and alerts a caregiver when there is unwanted wandering. Simple systems, such as mats that can be placed at doorways, also monitor resident wandering and prevent elopement,” Bingham says.

Safeguards needed
Even the best wander management solution won’t be worth its salt if caregivers fail to use it properly. For starters, batteries must be charged or replaced regularly to ensure that resident-worn bracelets or pendants are working as intended.

“Batteries are always an issue with any system that is truly wireless, and especially for the wearable components,” confirmed Jones, adding that active location monitoring and GPS tracking will drain a battery much faster than a simple button press that’s activated by the resident on a PERS device.

Vendors are doing their part to keep systems working properly by using extended-use batteries and building in alerts for low battery power. Still, many operators are adding their own safeguards by incorporating battery checks into their monthly safety checklists to prevent any devices from slipping through the cracks.

Today’s wander management solutions also are being designed with expandability in mind. More than ever, vendors are creating systems that support a range of applications, including remote health monitoring and fall prevention and detection.

“By being able to add this capability to their resident monitoring solution, assisted living operators are able to keep residents in their community longer than they did in the past,” reasoned Ross.

Innovations in resident health monitoring solutions, along with passive or “sensor” technologies that can be used in resident rooms to alert staff to potential problems or resident changes, are further allowing facilities to enhance resident safety and response. According to Besecker, these passive monitoring solutions are more effective when used in conjunction with an active solution—with positive identification and authentication of the person wearing the monitor.

“Passive monitors lose their effectiveness when there are multiple people in the environment as assumptions will need to be made about motion, door sensor indications, common activities and so on,” she says. “These types of issues can lead to inaccuracy in reporting status and [potentially inaccurate] conclusions about the data.”

Top 10 Solutions for Adults with Dementia who wander as listed by Alzheimer' here.

1. AngelSense

AngelSense provides caregivers a comprehensive view of their loved one’s activities, comings and goings. The device attaches to a loved one’s clothing and can only be removed by the caregiver. It provides a daily timeline of locations, routes and transit speed and sends an instant alert to caregivers if their loved one is in an unfamiliar place. Caregivers can listen in to hear what is happening around their loved one, can receive an alert if their loved one has not left for an appointment on time, allows caregivers to communicate with their loved one, and sends an alarm to locate your loved one – wherever they are.

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2. GPS Smart Sole

Similar to the GPS Shoe and from the same designers, the GPS Smart Sole fits into most shoes and allows caregivers to track their loved one from any smartphone, tablet or web browser. The shoe insert is enabled with GPS technology and allows real-time syncing, a detailed report of location history, and allows users to set up a safe radius for their loved one.



3. iTraq

iTraq is a tracking device that can be used to track pretty much anything – from loved ones to luggage, this tracker pairs with an app on a smartphone to find anyone and anything. For seniors, the device includes a motion or fall sensor and will send an alert if a fall is detected. It also has a temperature sensor. Their newest device, the iTraq Nano is marketed as the world’s smallest all-in-one tracking device that has global tracking, two months battery life, is water and dust resistant is able to be charged wirelessly. The device also has an SOS button that will send an instant alert to friends and family, notifying them of their loved one’s precise location.

4. MedicAlert Safely Home

This device was originally created to help emergency responders treat patients who could not speak for themselves. Today, the device also helps people with dementia who wander. The device is worn as a bracelet and when a loved one goes missing, caregivers can call the police and have the police call the 24-hour hotline to get the location of the missing person. Caregivers can also call the hotline themselves to get information. In addition to a tracking device, the bracelet has important medical information engraved upon it.



5. Mindme

Mindme offers two lifesaving devices, one is a location device, the other is an alarm. The alarm allows the user to alert a Mindme response center in case of a fall or other emergency. The locator device is specifically designed for people with dementia or other cognitive disabilities. The simple device works as a pendant that can be put in a bag or pocket and allows caregivers to track the user online at any time. Caregivers can also set a radius for the user and will be alerted if the person travels outside that zone.



6. PocketFinder

PocketFinder was founded in 2005 by a single parent who wanted to know the whereabouts of his young son, especially when he wasn’t there. Their slogan, “If you love it, locate it!” sums up their philosophy and service offerings. Tracking everything from luggage to pets to children to seniors, the company offers a wide range of emerging technological products. PocketFinder is designed to be the smallest tracker on the market and the device can fit in the palm of your hand. It has a battery life up to one week and allows caregivers to track wearers through a user-friendly app. The device was updated in January 2017 and now includes three location technologies including GPS, Cell ID and Google Wi-Fi Touch. It also now has an SOS button.



7. Project Lifesaver

The mission of Project Lifesaver is “to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism and other related condition or disorders.” Seniors who are enrolled in Project Lifesaver are given a personal transmitter that they wear around their ankle. If they wander, the caregiver calls a local Project Lifesaver agency and a trained team will respond. Recovery times average 30 minutes and many who wander are found within a few miles of their home. In addition to the location device, Project Lifesaver works with public safety agencies to train them on the risks associated with wandering.

Source:  * 3402 rescued as of 10 April 2018


* 3402 rescued as of 10 April 2018

8. Revolutionary Tracker

Revolutionary Tracker has location-based systems to keep tabs on seniors who may wander. The company strives to “bring an unparalleled level of functionality, capability, ease of use and relevant presentation of information to give people the ability to extend communication, knowledge, protection and care for their loved ones.” Their GPS enabled personal tracker features an SOS button for emergencies and offers real-time tracking. This device allows multiple seniors to be tracked at the same time and syncs directly to a caregiver’s smart phone or computer.



9. Safe Link

Safe Link is another GPS tracking system available for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The product promises to “increase safety for the elderly, promote independent living and ultimately lead to a healthier lifestyle.” Safe Link is a small device carried by the person who may wander. The device periodically sends its geographic coordinates to central servers and family members and caregivers can view the wearer’s location via website. The device needs to be charged and worn at all times. All devices have an SOS button for emergencies.



10. Trax

Trax is touted as the world’s smallest and lightest live GPS tracker. The device sends position, speed, and direction through the cellular network directly to your app on a smartphone. Trax comes with a clip that is easy to attach to a loved one. The app allows caregivers to set “Geofences” and will send an alert if a loved one enters or leaves a predetermined area. Trax Geofences have no size limit, caregivers can create as many fence areas as needed, and can schedule when those virtual fences are in effect.



Alternate Technologies



Photo from Workshop at RFID2018. More here: