Cellular monitor tracks wandering patients

In what is said to be the first application of cellular technology other than GPS to locate the wearer of a medical tracking device, a Frisco, Texas-based startup called EmFinders has introduced a wristwatch-like unit to keep tabs on patients with Alzheimer's disease, Down syndrome or other conditions that cause people to wander. "GPS has a hard time operating in urban canyons," EmFinders chief Jim Nalley explains to the New York Times Gadgetwise blog. Plus, the device, called the EmSeeQ, works even when the signal is so weak that the cellular network might drop a voice call.

The EmSeeQ stays silent and has no lights that might otherwise distract the wearer, and generally requires two hands to remove. When the wearer wanders off, a caregiver calls EmFinders, which relays the patient's location to a 911 dispatcher. Nalley says the technology is accurate to within 10 to 20 feet in urban areas and 1,000 feet in sparsely populated locales. The device costs $185 and service runs $25 a month. There is no cost to police or emergency services, which otherwise might have to send out ground and air search teams, canine units and ambulances to hunt for a missing person.

To learn more:
- check out this New York Times blog post