Proximity Button is a wearable device designed to alert carers when dementia sufferers or autistic children wander off.
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Worldwide, an estimated 44 million people suffer from dementia. Three out of five people with conditions linked to dementia are prone to wandering off; if they aren’t found within 24 hours, up to half suffer serious injury or even death. For those caring for children with autism, about half attempt to escape from a safe environment. In fact, wandering is ranked one of the most stressful ASD behaviors by parents of autistic children. We’ve seen previous attempts to manage wandering by those with dementia including a Chinese project which issued buttons with QR codes to elderly people, meaning that passersby can help them find their way home even where the patient can’t remember their name or address. We’ve also seen trendy GPS shoes that allow parents to locate their children (providing they keep their shoes on) and watch-sized communicators that combine GPS, pre-programmed calling and baby monitor functions to help parents keep tabs on their kids. Providing an affordable solution is Proximity Button, a bluetooth device which sends a warning signal when the wearer steps outside a certain radius.
The button is light and discreet and is designed to be attached to a shirt collar. Once fitted on the patient or child, carers can download the accompanying app and the two connect via Bluetooth. The Proximity app even prompts the user to switch their Bluetooth on when the app is launched. In outdoor open spaces, the button will alert users at about 65 feet; inside, the alarm will go off far sooner at around 32 feet. Crucially, because the device uses a smart sensor and not GPS tracking technology, it is relatively inexpensive. Should the patient or child begin to roam, wandering outside a certain area, the button sends a warning alert to the carer’s smartphone. The device is powered by a coin cell battery which lasts up to 6 months.
Whilst the physical product was designed by Mettle Studios, the idea is the brainchild of Nathalie Price, whose mother cares for sufferers of dementia. How else can technology be used to discreetly support vulnerable members of society – for example by monitoring their nutrition/hydration – and so ease the burden on those caring for them?