Charlottetown parent Mariève MacGregor worries about her five-year-old son Tristan starting school next year.
Tristan is autistic and a “flight risk”, who is prone to running away whenever he gets a chance.
While he’s currently attending the daycare at Montessori, which is largely enclosed, MacGregor said she’s concerned about him transitioning to Spring Park Elementary next year.
“I’m so worried about sending him to school… As soon as he has the opportunity he’ll take off immediately, it’s very stressful and anxiety inducing,” said MacGregor, who is finding some piece of mind through a new Charlottetown tech start-up.
“It makes us feel more secure because, if something does happen, we’ll be able to locate him a lot faster.”
The company Found Network Inc. is aiming to provide MacGregor and other parents with some greater peace-of-mind.
The company has launched a free pilot in the Charlottetown area in conjunction with the Autism Society of P.E.I., which aims to let parents know their children’s location at any given time.
“I’m so worried about sending him to school… As soon as he has the opportunity he’ll take off immediately, it’s very stressful and anxiety inducing. It makes us feel more secure because, if something does happen, we’ll be able to locate him a lot faster.”
The device uses a small waterproof disc, called a tag that can be put in clothes or a backpack, as well as locators that operate on Wi-Fi.
The tags are discovered by a nearby locator, which covers up to 1,000 feet. No matter where a parent is, he or she can go onto the phone app and pinpoint their child’s location.
Tim MacEachern, one of the founders and CEO of Found Network, said the device and phone app are meant to be somewhat of a “modern day block parent.”
“We’re basically building a new locating network that solves existing challenges in current technologies,” said MacEachern.
He said there are about 60 locators now being used in Charlottetown, with a goal of creating an entire network through the city.
“Because this requires a community to support it to be effective for everybody,” he said.
MacGregor said she knows many other parents of autistic children who share her concerns.
“They worry about it every day,” she said. “This (device) is really important, and we’re happy to be part of its beginning.”
MacGregor said she was comforted to find out that only she can see her son’s location through the app and that the device is more convenient and cost-effective than similar services.
The battery on the tag also lasts a year.
MacEachern said to start one tag and locator will be $5, while additional tags would be a one-time payment of $29. No matter how many tags a parent has, the monthly fee remains $5.
While targeted towards parents, MacEachern said he’s working to make the tags smaller so they can be used for common items that can be lost like house keys or a wallet.
They could also be used for those taking care of individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as well as pets.
“Our primary focus was first allowing parents to know whether their kids made it safely to school,” he said, noting that a portion of the company’s revenue will be going to the Autism Society of P.E.I.
MacEachern said more information on the pilot is available at www.foundpei.ca.