By Ellen O’Connor
Ottawa company harnesses power of wireless Internet to develop new personal al arm system for children
Child safety will always be a top priority for any mom and dad.
But try as you may to keep an eye on your children at all times, their keen curiosity and quick little legs means they may wander out of sight for just a moment and make every parent’s worst nightmare come true.
Now, an Ottawa entrepreneur has designed an innovative device, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, to act as full-time eyes and ears to help ensure your children are safe – and give you peace of mind.
SafetyLINK is a new coin-sized device that harnesses the power of wireless Internet, smartphones and crowd sourcing to protect members of the community in a dangerous situation, particularly children.
“I wanted something practical for the mass market so that anybody and everybody can use it, rather than a fancy feature that is expensive and bulky,” said Sanjay Chadha, co-founder and CEO of Safety Labs Inc., who began designing the product in 2012 from his joint offices in India and Ottawa.
Worn as a pendant, keychain or clip, SafetyLINK will send an SOS signal if pressed by the user, or if a child breaks the “wireless leash,” or range previously set by the parent.
Using a wireless connection, a notification is sent to people in the sender’s network who have the SafetyLink software on their smartphones, and are in proximity to the child. It can also notify emergency services.
The devices can also connect to the SafetyLINK Anchor, a new iPhone-sized device also designed by Safety Labs for the protection of children with autism or special needs. Plugged into a power outlet, the anchor self-connects to the local network when turned on at home, as well as to the SafetyLink wristband that’s secured so it can’t be removed by the child.
If they leave home or school without permission and break the wireless leash, the anchor will sound an alarm and send a notification to the parents and school staff.
The anchor was developed with the direction of Lori Rutter, a mother from Buffalo, New York, whose 10-year-old daughter Lauren has high-functioning autism.
“In my research late one night [on Facebook], I saw SafetyLINK on my newsfeed. I looked at it and thought it would really work for autistic and special needs children because they can take off so quickly.”
She remembers the time when Lauren, then three, escaped through an open fence in the yard while being watched by an elderly neighbour. Living a block away from Lake Erie, she bolted straight toward the beach, but fortunately another neighbour saw her and returned her safely.
“Escaping and wandering is an issue,” said Rutter, who has Multiple Sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. “Autistic children, especially my daughter, need a parameter or something that shows her boundaries.”
She is hoping area schools will get on board with using anchor devices to ensure parents are informed immediately if their child is missing instead of relying solely on emergency services. Choosing whether to notify the police will also limit false alarms.
The company has already pre-sold 260 SafetyLINK devices, which will be available for sale in May through Amazon and www.safetylink.org.
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