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Many people have had the fear of losing their child in a busy place or perhaps having their child kidnapped. What type of technology can I use to locate my child if they get lost or kidnapped? I'm not necessarily looking for a specific product, but rather a summary and comparison of the types of tracking products that can be used.

The factors that I would consider important are safety, cost, practicality for children ranging from infant age until 6-7 years old, and ease of use for the parent.

Update: I took out 'GPS' from the title to make the question more generic.

Update 2: Another factor that is important is concealability. How easy can the device be hidden on the child without others knowing about it (perhaps including the child themselves).

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The only "device" I needed for my daughter at that age was me. She was always around me or someone I trusted to never let her out of reach or a protected zone (like a fenced-in yard). Edit: Just noticed the age of this question... oops! –  Jeremy Miller Apr 25 at 4:30
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No, "we" haven't "all had the fear" -- your kids are considerably more likely to be struck by lightning than they are to be kidnapped by strangers. Worry about a real risk instead, like car accidents or drowning. –  jpatokal Apr 28 at 3:28
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@jpatokal - Maybe where you live, but kidnapping and human trafficking are very serious issues in countries like Mexico, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Venezuela, and Lebanon. And the statistics you read are unreliable because in many of these countries, the large majority of cases go unreported. Regardless, I don't buy in to your zero-probability fallacy. If there is a low-cost, safe, and easy way to track my kids in the case of an emergency, why would I not utilize it? I didn't know if there was such a way, hence the question. –  Javid Jamae May 2 at 16:19
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@jpatokal - The fact that you're trying to personalize it validates that location context matters. I used to live in Houston, but that's besides the point. The point is that the question is very relevant to a large population of the world and this site doesn't cater to a US-only audience. Dying in a motorcycle accident is an "irrelevant risk" for someone who doesn't ride motorcycles. It's very relevant to someone who does. If the question doesn't apply to you, just move on. Many people do care and don't carelessly view discovering better ways of protecting their kids as an "irrelevant risk". –  Javid Jamae May 6 at 21:28
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You should be asking about your problem, not an artificially-enlarged problem that maybe someone else has. Other places might have more child kidnapping, but maybe they also have laws against lojacking your kid. "Focus on questions about an actual problem you have faced. Include details about what you have tried and exactly what you are trying to do." –  mxyzplk May 7 at 22:08

6 Answers 6

  • Someone with malicious intent will remove/destroy/jam the device.
  • Someone with good intent will make sure it is working properly.

Thus, doing something like that gives bad guys the ability to track your child's movements when they are safe, meanwhile you aren't likely to have recourse if they are taken.

It seems like a net loss in security to me.

That said, if you must get such a device, make it a cell phone. GPS tracking, triangulation by tower reception in the absence of a satellite fix, connection (from which to transmit location) anywhere there is a cell tower, and the ability to call out in an emergency.

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@Pearsonartphoto: They're familiar enough with those short-range locators, and the hospital anti-theft devices to remove them... you don't think the same would happen within a short time after a different device became even semi-common? –  HedgeMage Apr 29 '11 at 4:02
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I agree: bad guys will known these devices and disable them. Good guys will more likely not know them, and would simply contact the relevant authorities regardless whether a device is used or not. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 29 '11 at 5:21
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If the device is concealed (a watch, shoes, sub-dermal) and only used by a small portion of the population, I don't think it would be an issue. Issues may arise where "bad guys" become aware of these technologies if the devices become pervasive. –  Javid Jamae Apr 29 '11 at 13:04
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A whistle - keep it simple. –  nGinius Apr 29 '11 at 13:27
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@Javid: sub-dermal -- Please tell me you are kidding? I don't want any tracking device on my child that can't be easily removed. There are too many ways they can be abused. –  HedgeMage Apr 29 '11 at 18:30

I've been thinking about such a device for years now, but there are still many practical problems that prevent me from designing it. It needs to be:

  • small enough to be concealed
  • large enough that it isn't easily lost even when the battery is dead
  • long lasting - at least 16 hours to a single charge, but ideally 72+ hours
  • easy to recharge
  • functional indoors, inside vehicles, basements, parking garages
  • waterproof, washable
  • useful and fun for the child so they don't lose it
  • secure, with encryption so only the parents can track (ideally so not even the company can get the location data, nevermind attackers)
  • inexpensive both in initial cost and recurring cost
  • simple to use

Right now most solutions on the market fail in most of the above ways, but creating a device that meets all these objectives may not be possible. Hopefully this list provides you with some guidance on what to compare across the available devices.

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Such devices already exist, though mainly to locate and recover stolen cars. They're about the size of a cell phone and work by a combination of GPS and cell triangulation.

Look for "carfinder." In Austria, the local automobile club offer these ad rentals if you're driving to Eastern countries:
http://www.oeamtc.at/carfinder/?id=2500%2C1142696%2C%2C
http://www.oeamtc.at/carfinder/?id=2500%2C1114220%2C%2C
(German)

Also, here's an English link to the manufacturer:
http://www.dolphin-technologies.com/&sprache=en

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If I were to get such a device, it would have the following characteristics:

  1. It should be useful for something else.
  2. It should look like another device, maybe a watch, stopwatch, jewelry, etc.
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Please write this as a comment, not an answer. –  Javid Jamae Apr 29 '11 at 12:56
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I think it's a useful answer. –  Lennart Regebro Apr 29 '11 at 13:16

The best possible device that can keep an eye on our kids is us only. We need to be very conscious about where they are moving and what they intend to do since no device in the world can take our position to know the whereabouts of our children.

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As technology improves, so do possible answers to questions like this.

New products are on the market that allow you to have Bluetooth tracking via a sticker.

The first "Bluetooth tracking sticker" that comes up on a Google search at this time is StickNFind.

Pros:

  • It's about the size of a watch battery (which is the kind of battery it uses).
  • The battery lasts up to a year.
  • It has about 100 ft line of sight range.
  • You can use the product's app to track the device when in range, or use the app to get notified when the sticker is out of your desired range.
  • It's currently $50 USD for a 2 pack.

Cons:

  • It only has 100 ft line of sight range, which might reduce it's effectiveness for older children whom are allowed to roam more.
  • It requires a smartphone, or certain tablets.
  • You need to have the app, and Bluetooth, running on your smartphone, reducing your device's battery life.
  • Children lose small things, so you have to find a way to "secure" it to them.

Because the device is so small, it can easily be tucked into a child's pocket or hidden beneath their watch (or some other jewelry with a large face). If desired, it wouldn't be difficult to sew special patches into younger children's clothes to keep the item from falling out. Personally, I'd go for making a pendant they could comfortably wear around their neck and under their shirt, and design it to disguise the device.

I'm a heavy reader of tech-related news, and when I heard about products like this my first thought was to tracking children, not objects. Normally, our son is never far enough away from one of us that we fear for his safety, let alone fear him being abducted. However, if we were to ever take him on a family trip to somewhere crowded (especially if we we going on the trip with others), then something like this could definitely provide peace of mind. It takes half a second for a young one to run off. When you're in a big crowd, and you have other friends and family with you, you're going to get distracted for half a second at some point. While most times your child will be perfectly fine, there's a wide variety of things that can happen between losing and finding a child, not just abduction.

I would add, though, that this suggestion, like the others, is more about easing the parents' worries than increasing the safety of the child.

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