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(photo credit: Courtesy, Ra'anana Municipality)
Losing a child at an amusement park is a nerve-racking experience, and there is no perfect solution for keeping tabs on them the second they get a whiff of their favorite ride or superhero.
Cell phones emit too much dangerous radiation, and small children can't operate them anyway. Location-pinpointing GPS devices are too fragile for a five-year-old to carry around, eat through batteries quickly and don't work well indoors; most parents wouldn't tether their child to a leash either.
Now, however, according to new Israeli company KeepMClose, a novel tracking device for little ones may be just around the corner. The five-person company from Ramat Gan has developed a low-radiation communication wristband that parents can rent at the amusement park. It could even work at a water park, big box stores, the airport or the shopping mall, they say. And one day it could be keeping tabs on loved ones with Alzheimer's.
Online map to track and trace kids
For now, along with a $20 rental for two kids, comes an adapter (about the size of a key ring) that pairs with the Bluetooth network on cell phones. Through the device, parents are sent a map of the park and the location of their little ones at all times, so that the 27 percent of all parents who'll lose their kids this year at an amusement park will find them quickly, safe and sound.
"Our first market targeted is amusement parks because of the high number of children there," says Aviv Amiri, KeepMClose's CEO and co-founder, who has been working in the high-tech industry for 15 years. "Losing a child is traumatic. It's an issue and has to be treated like a severe incident by park staff. We provide a solution for that, and even more," he says.
The wristband could also work in airports, nuclear reactors, or to track mentally ill or the sick in hospitals. The company, which was founded in May 2007 with Angel Investment, is now waiting for an investor to take it from prototype stage to a commercial product.
Tamper proof for 'little devils'
Water proof, and tamper proof for "little devils" - and for the mentally impaired as well - the ergonomic design of the silicon bracelet allows the wearers to freely enjoy their time at the park, says the company.
While the investment market is cool right now, and KeepMClose needs a cash infusion before launching, investors should take note: the company has lined up a dream strategic partner: Merlin Entertainment Group, which runs 55 parks and is the third-largest amusement park owner in the world, is running field trials with KeepMClose at Legoland near Munich, Germany.
If the feasibility studies and investment goals work out right, KeepMClose will be available at California's Legoland within no time. Possibly as early as this summer.
And the tracking service is just part of KeepMClose's vision: "With our own network in place, we can offer line management. You could virtually order your place in line, like a VIP service, or the fast-path at Disney," says Amiri, whose company aims to make amusement parks safer, more secure and convenient, and therefore more fun for all.
The original version of this article first appeared in ISRAEL21c.