Is this really the best way to keep wanderers safe?
NOW WITH GPS. Three Square Market (32M) is no longer content to simply microchip its employees. The Wisconsin-based company now want to put trackable implants into people with dementia.
32M's CEO Todd Westby announced the plan on CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Wednesday. Westby said the company is working on a voice-activated, body-heat-powered chip that can monitor a person's vital signs and track them via GPS. It plans to beta test the chips in 2019 and will seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for them.
TARGET AUDIENCE. The company's president, Patrick McMullan, added that patients who suffer from dementia would be a primary target for the GPS implant. "Without question it's a worthy cause, and it's a product in demand," he said.
There's definitely a demand. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 47 million people worldwide suffer from dementia; by 2030, they expect that figure to reach 75 million. Six of every 10 of these dementia suffers will wander at some point, traveling from a safe location out into the world where they might get lost.
Clearly, we need a way to quickly track down these wanderers, but is a GPS implant really the best option?
IS IT OVERKILL? We already have bracelets and shoes that dementia patients can wear to ensure they're found quickly if they wander. SafetyNet Tracking Systems' bracelet might actually be even more useful than the implant because it doesn't rely on GPS, which can be spotty in remote areas or inside buildings. Instead, the bracelet emits a radio frequency signal that law enforcement can pick up. Sure, it requires a battery, but that only needs changed every six months.
There's also the issue of personal autonomy — for people in the throes of a disease that makes them lose their memory, can dementia sufferers consent (and really understand) if they give permission to receive a GPS implant? Would we even need their permission if the person is under the guardianship of a family member or doctor?
Ultimately, while a GPS implant might seem like a logical solution to a growing problem, we might want to reserve our implants for the people who know exactly what they’re getting into, like 32M’s employees.
READ MORE: Wisconsin Company Known for Microchipping Employees Plans GPS Tracking Chip for Dementia Patients [CNBC]
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