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Shoe-tag tracking system for dementia sufferers to be tested in Tokyo

The Tokyo cities of Tama and Inagi are poised to test a shoe-tag tracking system for people with dementia to stop them from going missing, which is becoming a social problem across Japan.

    The security company ALSOK has developed this specialized device and system as part of a Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism model project and is cooperating with 10 Japanese cities, including Tama and Inagi, on the project. The plan is to embark on a trial of the tagging system from 2017 for approximately two years. Tama and Inagi will each test the system on 200 people with dementia or with intellectual disabilities.

    Under the system, the location of an elderly person who has the tag attached to their shoe can be tracked by any local resident who has the app installed on their smartphone, and who comes within a 100-meter radius of the individual. The location of the missing person is then automatically transmitted via the app, and is subsequently forwarded to relatives.

    The tag is 3 centimeters long, 6 centimeters wide, and weighs 14 grams. It is approximately the same size as a chopstick rest, and it is placed on the instep of the shoe. The tag makes use of Bluetooth technology and is a miniaturized version of a conventional tag using a GPS.

    According to the two cities, an estimated 5,426 people in Tama and 1,361 people in Inagi are believed to have dementia. Of these, 31 people have previously gone missing in Inagi and it is feared that 55 people are at risk of going missing.

    One of the challenges however is ensuring that enough people will download the app on their smartphones. It is hoped that the 10,000 or so volunteers who took part in a "dementia supporter training course" in the city of Tama, as well as local business people and social workers will cooperate with the project, and that the finer details can be worked out during this fiscal year.

    A representative at Tama City Hall commented, "We want to broaden social understanding and mutual cooperation in order to create a region in which everyone can live safely and with peace of mind." Inagi Mayor Katsuhiro Takahashi added, "As the link between people becomes weaker due to urbanization, watching over people with technology is now a useful tool. I am hoping that this system will spread across the entire city."

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