Source: Halloween by UnidColor

How my daughter went missing and how technology could have helped

Posted by Sam Hickmann

Belvedere St.

Halloween 2014. The kids are over excited. We are ready to celebrate. My son (10) is an alien, my daughter (4) is a princess and my wife is a beauty queen.

We are heading to Belvedere St., San Francisco. For those who don’t know, it is The place to be. The street is closed for the occasion, and the whole neighborhood is transformed into a gigantic horror castle. Scary!

Thousand of people are here. Everybody wears a costume, even the dogs. There are kids everywhere, screaming and yelling. Trick-or-treating is the law. You better have multiple bags to carry the harvest of candies and chocolate bars. Some neighbors give representations in their garage, some others sing. Kids have fun and so do we.

Where is Emmie?

One hour into the party, it’s Friday night, our attention vanishes. My wife asks: “Where is Emmie?”. I look around, grab my son and like a tornado, we run from door to door, asking strangers if they have seen a little princess.

There are hundred of little princesses out there. It’s literally impossible to find her.
Hopefully she will show to somebody our phone number we’ve written on her arm. But 20 minutes after, still no phone call.


We decide to call the police. Unfortunately, they can’t do much. At this point, we imagine the worst has happened. In average, in the US, 911 receives one call like this every 40 seconds…

Source: FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

The relief

The world is a small place. Friends of ours recognized Emmie. She was crying. They took care of her, and called me right away on my cell phone. I can’t even describe the joy this phone call brought me. We were relieved. Our nightmare lasted 45 minutes.

How technology could have helped

My daughter was 4 at the time. She was obviously too young to own a smartphone. It’s too big for her little pockets, it’s too complicated to use (except to play games, she got it immediately!) and very easy to loose.

But these days, electronic components are so miniaturized and so powerful that a GPS chip measures only 7 x 7 x 1.1 mm and a 3G chip basically the same! It means that we can build a new family of products directly targeted at young kids.

The last generations of GPS chips are incredibly small and powerful

The primary usage should be the communication and the geolocation of our kids. With these two simple value propositions, the 750,000 calls to the police each year in the US to report missing children would vanish. Hundreds of thousands of stressful hours for parents would be non-existent.

To infinity… and beyond!

Technology can help us to do even better. These new devices can actually help the child development thanks to new types of games and experiences that remain to be invented.

In our previous article, we were discussing how playing in natural environments fulfils basic childhood needs of freedom, adventure and risk-taking.
With new technologies, we can help it.

When I was young, my parents used to send me to buy bread from the closest boulangerie every Saturday morning. I was proud to do it. My mom was keeping an eye on me through the window as long as she can see me, but was worried the minute she couldn’t see me anymore.

Nowadays, specially if you live in big cities, it’s really hard to do the same. Too many risks in the streets. Parents are reluctant to leave their kids go alone, specially if they can’t see them.

Imagine turning the “go-grab-a-baguette-from-the-boulangerie” experience into a game for kids, supervised by the parents.

Mom would select a boulangerie on a map from her smartphone and give only basic directions to her kid. He would then have to use his common sense and the technology at his disposal to accomplish his mission.
At any moment, he could reach out to his mom. At any moment she could geolocate him and take actions.
At every corners, he would grab points. Once the mission is accomplished, he would get a reward.

Gamification of the every day life can help develop autonomy and give self-confidence to kids.
There are hundred of other applications that could, for instance, help solving problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), etc.

A smart, connected, wearable device for kids to communicate, geolocate and play makes sense. It has not been invented yet.


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