2011-10-25

Co.Exist

A GPS-Enabled Shoe To Track Alzheimer's Patients

This simple and dignified way to always know where someone is has applications beyond the elderly, too: small children and runners should get some, too.

There are currently 5.2 million Americans with Alzheimers, but as baby boomers continue to age, that number is expected to balloon, with one out of eight boomers (10 million people) developing the disease. Alzheimers is incurable--though there are plenty of research initiatives trying to change that--but in the meantime, it’s possible to leverage today’s technology to protect seniors from some of the mind-wasting properties of the disease. One deceptively simple solution: the GPS-enabled shoe.

Developed by Aetrex Worldwide and GTX Corp, the GPS Shoe features a location-based tracking service (powered by Omnilink and the MedicAlert Foundation) that alerts caregivers via an app when an Alzheimers patient leaves a designated "geo-fenced" area, such as the boundaries of a housing facility. Caregivers can also remotely monitor the location of patients, who may be given more freedom to roam since they can be watched from afar.

The whole thing is powered by a mini GPS chip embedded in the shoe, which is made of a tough polycarbonate material that lasts as long as a regular, non-tracking shoe. Unfortunately, the shoe is not that attractive--perhaps a minor detail for the product’s target population, but something that should probably be taken into consideration for future models. Because in the future, we imagine that the shoe could be used for everything from tracking children to monitoring the progress of long-distance runners.

The GPS Shoe goes on sale this month for $299--no small expense, but the shoe is still comparable in price to GPS bracelets and other clunkier tracking devices. A shoe, at least, is something that everybody wears--and that restores at least a little bit of dignity to Alzheimer’s patients.

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