Facilitating independence with the use of a tracker


An old person walking with a cane

Wearable GPS trackers can be a practical tool for ensuring the safety of individuals with disabilities such as family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and children with other special needs. It can enable a carer to take care of their loved ones by giving the individual the independence to freely move around while having the reassurance of knowing their whereabouts.  Accurate location is made by using various technologies such as Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, and a mobile phone cellular network.  Trackers can be worn by children or elderly people by attaching to clothes or placing them inside pockets and bags.  Tracking devices can be anything from a mobile phone, GPS tracker, or Bluetooth tracker.

Mobile phone location sharing

One simple option that is built into most mobile phones is “share your location” .  This is available in both Android and Apple iOS.  Here you can share your location with one of your contacts for up to one hour or longer by sending a link to your live location.  The assigned person then can see your live location on a map for a predetermined time.  However, this does have the disadvantage that the user must carry around a charged mobile phone for their location to be shared.  This could be difficult for some individuals.  Also, leaving location sharing switched-on can drain the mobile phone battery.

GPS trackers

There are several products available now that are dedicated trackers.  They don’t have the functionality of a mobile phone but have some unique features that make them ideal for tracking loved ones who may need the support of someone keeping an eye on them.

Some trackers are country-specific and may not work in all countries.

The following two products are examples of GPS trackers that work in Ireland.


The Trackimo 3G Guardian GPS Tracking Device being held in the hand with a map in the background.

The Trackimo 3G Guardian GPS Tracking Device is a small, lightweight device that can be attached to anything you want to keep track of, such as a car, bike, or even a person. It works by using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to calculate its current location. 

A built-in rechargeable battery can last up to 30 days in battery save mode.  After activation, the device can be tracked in real-time using the Trackimo app or website.  It also comes equipped with a geo-fencing feature so that whenever the device crosses the boundary of the geo-fence, you will receive an alert on your phone or email. The device also has a panic button that, when pressed, triggers an alert that broadcasts the exact location of the device. 

The device price is €189 plus a 1-year cellular service subscription at €57.

MiniFinder Pico

The MiniFinder Pico GPS tracker next to a mobile phone showing a map

The MiniFinder Pico is a GPS tracker where you can track a child or person with special needs in real-time.  The device has a battery life of 72 hours in standby mode.  The MiniFinder Pico works through a cellular network.  The product comes with a pre-installed roaming SIM card within the EU which will roam freely between different networks.  MiniFinder Pico is equipped with an alarm function, so you can use the device as a personal alarm.  It also has a call function where the alarm receiver can talk to the user of the MiniFinder Pico.  Other useful features include a fall alert and geo-fencing alerts.

Cost: €235 plus a monthly subscription of 12 €/month (based on a 12-month contract)

Bluetooth trackers

Hand holding two bluetooth trackers the Tile and apple air tag

Bluetooth trackers are small low-cost devices that can be attached to your keys, purse, or other objects you wish to keep track of. They use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with your smartphone.  The Bluetooth tracker can stay in near constant communication with your smartphone when within the Bluetooth area.  When you stray too far from the tracking tag it can anonymously alert you if other users of the same tracking service are near your lost item.  So, this can greatly increase the range of the tracker.  So outside the Bluetooth range of about 250ft, some tracking is possible depending on other devices in the area.  The two main products here are Tile and Apple AirTags.  In general, these devices are not that suitable for tracking people as live tracking is not available outside the Bluetooth range and they lack some of the useful features of GPS trackers.  However, this may change with time as the growth of these networks increases.  Tile has sold more than 35 million devices and Apple Air Tags has a network of 1.8 billion active devices that it could connect with to give location data.  This location accuracy will increase as the network increases.  These devices are just the size of a large coin and have a battery that will last up to 1 year.  The expected growth of the network may make these products a potential option for tracking loved ones within a city or built-up area in the future. 

Ethical concerns

The use of electronic tracking devices is not without ethical concerns.  In care practices, it could, for example, increase social isolation by reducing contact with caregivers or even facilitate unreasonable control of persons with dementia.   It’s crucial to respect the user’s autonomy. No one should be coerced into using tracking technology, and whenever possible, the person with dementia should be involved in the decision-making process, such as the decision of whether, when, and how to use GPS tracking.  The user’s consent should be sought so that their preferences and best interests are central to the decisions required in their care.  


For individuals with disabilities having a level of independence is essential for their quality of life.  Location trackers help to make the independence to move around safe for the individual concerned while giving carers peace of mind.  While Mobile phone location sharing is an option it may not be practical for everyone and may not be suitable for long periods due to the battery constraints of mobile phones.  GPS trackers do provide the most comprehensive features to provide the safe tracking of loved ones, but their subscription cost makes them an expensive option.  In the future, Bluetooth trackers are likely to become an increasingly better option as their accuracy increases with network growth, but only within built-up areas.  Balancing safety concerns with the individual’s autonomy is essential and the user’s consent should be sought.

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