Friday, August 15, 2008

Connection Chips and Missing People


 Last Sunday, I walked the annual City to Surf fun run in Sydney, Australia. The event encourages people to run or walk the 14 kilometre distance from the heart of Sydney to the famous Bondi beach for fun and to raise money for charity. This year, 70,000 people aged from 8 months to 80 years participated with A$1.1 million donations received. 

For the first time this year, the organisers introduced Timing Chip technology. Each entrant had to attach a plastic chip the size of a 25 US cent coin to their shoes - usually through their shoelaces. After stepping on a rubber mat at the start point that activated the chip and at the finish line that deactivated it, each of the 70,000 participants was monitored to more accurately track their individual progress, location and ultimately, time taken to complete the race. 

 The technology is not new as tracking devices have been used on livestock, pets and prisoners for a number of years. But... What got me thinking was that the week prior was coincidentally, National Missing Persons Week. 

The campaign website states that 35,000 people are reported missing each year in Australia. Although 95% are found within a week, research indicates that young people (around 20,000), the aged and those living with a mental illness are particularly at risk of going missing. 

 The Salvation Army cites studies that show that for every missing person, there is an average of 12 people who are affected by the stress of not knowing where they are, with the anxiety experienced by parents who have a missing child being understandably intense. 

 If double the number of missing persons in Australia per year can be tracked via a simple, non-intrusive device in just a few hours for a fun run, then is it worth considering this connection technology to ease/minimise the stress and anxiety of losing track of loved ones, let alone the cost of conducting expensive searches and tracing programs? 

 I understand that some may think that the pandora's box of privacy and 1984-style big brother syndrome immediately opens. But I wonder that in a world where you can find any information online and track a large mass accurately through inexpensive plastic chips, whether it's time to consider implementing such technology for those directly and indirectly at risk.


Denise said...

Yes Iggy this technology is already in use in the aged care sector, particularly useful in a dementia unit or where the elderly are known to wander. Chips have also been embedded into the clothing of all the Casino staff, indicating where they are at any particular time, this is also useful as their uniforms are washed by a central service and ensures that the uniform is returned to the correct staff member. It would be interesting to hear other current methods of use.

Anonymous said...

I think people at risk of getting lost i.e. people with demantia, altzimers, depression, mental illnesses etc will benefit a lot from such chips. Their families should be given an option to get such chip installed in such people's body to help track them in case they are lost.. Good thoughts Iggy- Sunil Jain