March 31, 2000

Granny Trackers and a Naked Mole-Rat

Here's something we need:

From a news report on

Granny Missing? No Worry With Satellite Tracking TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese companies have solved the problem of straying senior citizens -- track them by satellite.
A device for finding old people unable to take care of themselves uses a satellite-based global positioning system and a cellular phone network.

Local governments in Tokyo and Japan's Kikuchi City plan to test the device, developed by a group led by trading house Mitsui & Co "We are definitely expecting a market to develop for the system," a Mitsui spokesman said.

A transmitter attached to the body or on clothing beams coordinates of the person to a local server. Concerned relatives just need to send a request by portable terminal and up pops the runaway's location on a computerized map.

Systems already exist in Japan for finding lost people but they rely on technology for personal handyphones -- a type of mobile phone -- and do not work well if the escapee jumps on a train or takes to the mountains.

And the idea is not simply pie in the sky given the graying of Japan's population. Already there are an estimated 1.88 million elderly people in Japan suffering various degrees of senility.

The device will be tested later this year with a planned launch in early 2001.

Something like that would certainly help put our minds at ease during the brief times Stepmom is home alone. Her memory has declined so much that last evening she began calling around to find out where Dad was. Hubby reminded her about the hospital but not before she put the rest of the family into a panic by leaving her phone improperly placed so they couldn't reply to her frantic messages.

This situation doesn't look like it's going to ease up any time soon, either. Dad remains weak and the doctors say it's not unusual considering his age and the extent of the surgery. Stepsister and I still believe that depression or other psychological factors are affecting him too. We expressed our concerns to various members of the staff, and the resident physician seemed concerned and offered to have a psychiatrist pay him a visit next week. Dr. Whirlwind, on the other hand, gave us that look that's all too familiar, the look that tells us he cannot relate to what depression feels like or what it can do.

I don't mean that as an aspersion on his medical skills. He's a surgeon, and surgery attracts a certain personality type. Many surgeons are closer to auto mechanics than interpersonal communicators in their outlooks. (No aspersion meant to auto mechanics either.) What I'm trying to say is, they diagnose a physical problem, perform an operation to fix it, and that's it. On to the next case. They expect their patients to cooperate in the same manner, not to complicate their recovery with issues.

Dr. Whirlwind tried to tell us that Daddy isn't depressed because he's still joking around and he's not crying. (Well sure Daddy perks up when that doctor comes in.. his energy level picks up everyone within a cubic kilometer!) I replied, but he's not trying. Stepsis replied, he's not even feeding himself - Stepmom has to do it or he won't eat.

He blew back into Daddy's room, gave him a quick lecture, and left. Of course Daddy's annoyed at us for putting him up to it but I don't care. Right now I'll take anything that works. It takes effort to be annoyed. It's a good sign.

Getting back to the granny-tracker.. I wonder how cumbersome this device is for the person carrying it. I wonder if it could be attached without someone being aware of it. If so, it lends itself to all sorts of uses/abuses. For instance, no more having to track down your wandering child, and no more fuming when said child doesn't answer the cell phone you forced him to carry. Even better, you could fit one on your spouse or other person of romantic interest. Cheaper and more effective than a private detective! Imagine too the legal implications.. would evidence gathered this way be admissable in court?

And come to think of it, hasn't this technology been around for awhile and used for tracking migrating birds and wild bears?

Linque Du Jour: Animal Cams

(In keeping with the theme of wild birds and bears.)

A couple of good collections of animal webcams:

Eyes on the Animals provided by a veterinarian website; and

Animal Cams at the Smithsonian National Zoo which has more exotic creatures including the ever-popular naked mole rat cam.

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