By Sam Parker
Technology once used to locate missing children now helps families of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. The GPS Smart Shoe, created and designed by GTX Corp CEO Patrick Bertagna, utilizes Global Positioning System (GPS) software and cellular devices to track the steps and movement history of its wearer.
Bertagna originally formulated the idea during the Elizabeth Smart case in 2002 to help locate missing children, but in the past ten years the uses of the technology have evolved. He chose to design a shoe for dementia patients to avoid triggering the paranoia associated with the Alzheimer’s disease, as individuals often remove unfamiliar articles of clothing.
How Do GPS Smart Shoes Work?
A GPS microchip and cellular device are inserted into the sole of the shoe, storing all navigation patterns of the wearer. Through Internet connections and cellular networks, the data is relayed to authorized parties.
Authorized users range from nurses and caregivers to family members and friends; by simply logging onto the network users can receive pinpoint locations of wearers through tools such as interactive maps. Caregivers determine appropriate safety zones for patients, and if wearers are to wander outside of those preset distances, alerts are sent to caregivers’ smart phones or computers. The alerts contain direct links to Google map technology, allowing authorized users to see patients’ footsteps.
Getting lost outside your own home is a very real threat for Alzheimer’s patients. The progressive disease causes profound complications with memory, thinking, and behavior. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include mild memory loss, but because the disease worsens with time, patients can lose their abilities to hold conversations and form rational thoughts in the disease’s late stages. According to Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University, a majority of Alzheimer’s patients will become “lost” at least once due to wandering.
How Much Will the GPS Shoes and Service Cost?
The GPS equipped shoes are available with a variety of color and design options, however they can run you significantly more than a set of Keds. Aetrex, a primary retailer of GPS shoes, offers both men’s and women’s sneakers on their website for $299.99 a pair.
And that’s just for the shoes. The tracking plans needed to activate the GPS software cost extra, naturally; buyers can select whether they would like to purchase a standard 30 minute tracking plan for $34.99/month, or for an additional $5/month purchasers can select the 10 minute tracking plan. 30 minute tracking plans plot the location points of patients every half hour while ten-minute plans plot location points every – you guessed it – 10 minutes.
Customers can choose between laces or Velcro straps, brown or black colors and running or walking styles. All GPS shoes are built for durability, as the microchip and cellular device are stored in polycarbonate material in the shoe’s sole. And the companies say a pair should last between one and three years.