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Last Updated: Monday, 14 April, 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Pocket tracker monitors children
Young girl climbing a tree, BBC
Parents can find out where their kids are playing
Worried parents will soon be able to keep an eye on their children at all times via a wearable tracking device and a website that maps where they go.

The wearable device will have a panic button that, when pressed, instantly alerts parents via phone that something is wrong.

Through the website parents will be able to pinpoint the location of their children in real time as well as replay where they have been over the last few hours.

SOS Response, creators of the service, says testing of the tracking system is due to begin soon.

Safety first

To track people the system uses a radio network operated by QuikTrak that has towers dotted around the greater London area.

The QuikTrak technology is similar to that used by some mobile phone systems but needs one-tenth the number of radio towers to cover the same area.

Signals from the tracking device are picked up by several towers and help QuikTrak triangulate and pinpoint the position of any device.

Information about the movements of devices is logged and can be viewed via a website that plots their whereabouts.

Australian firm QuikTrak operates a similar network in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that is heavily used by delivery companies and taxi firms to monitor movements of their staff and vehicles.

Taxi sign, BBC
Delivery firms are using QuikTrak
However, Michelle Riddy, head of SOS Response, said she believed that many UK parents would welcome the chance to keep an eye on where their children have been.

Many parents of young children and teenagers would like to ease their fears for their offspring by regularly checking where they were and that everything was fine.

"You can now let your children out again because you can find out where they are," she said.

Current versions of the tracking device are about the size of a mobile phone and have a text messaging system built in.

Ms Riddy said SOS Response was working on putting the gadget into watches, calculators and toys and even belts to give children more than one reason to carry it.

The monitoring devices would also be fitted with a panic button that could be pressed if a child or teenager was lost, needed help or, more rarely, had been abducted.

Pressing the button would instantly alert parents via phone that something was wrong.

Croc shock

QuikTrak covers an area centred on London that extends north to Stevenage and south to Crawley, and to Basildon in the east and High Wycombe in the west.

Crocodile, BBC
QuikTrak came out of a crocodile monitoring program
Andy Parritt, business development director of QuikTrak, said the technology had advantages over GPS satellite systems because it worked indoors, in built-up areas and had a return path for the swapping of messages.

Mr Parritt said that in Australia car security firms used the system to track and recover stolen vehicles. Many vehicles fitted with QuikTrak monitors were also fitted with remote control immobilisers that can be turned on when a stolen vehicle is being pursued.

Currently courier and taxi firm Addison Lee is trialling the system to see if it can improve the efficiency with which it hands out jobs to the 700 vehicles in its fleet.

The idea for developing a passive tracking system came about after Dr Michael Yerbury had a close encounter with a crocodile he was studying.

Dr Yerbury then set up Advanced Systems Research to develop the radio technology that could be used to monitor the movements of animals or people wearing discrete tracking devices.

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