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by Ray Carlson

Q. My elderly father takes long walks and sometimes gets lost. I have convinced him to carry a smart phone, but he won't call when he is lost. I hate to be always calling to see if he is ok, but how else can I monitor him?

A. A smart phone usually includes a GPS unit that tracks its own location. Several apps have been developed that will share that location information with others. The two free apps that are most often recommended for your situation are Family Locator by Life 360 and GPS Tracking Pro. They work with Apple or Android phones.

Both apps follow the same format: identify the group to be involved and the program emails them to ask if they will accept being involved. If the person agrees, an icon for that person is added to the map, and, if that person's phone is on, it shows their location. There are buttons to send email to "check in", request help or indicate when the person reaches a designated place. You can create more than one circle, so that only people in each circle will get messages for that group. There can be up to six people in a circle. It is possible to turn off monitoring if a person wants privacy. You can also track your phone if it is stolen or lost, and the thief does not turn this feature off. Accuracy is good but can be a few hundred feet off.

A paid version allows the user to contact a live person for information or to get roadside assistance. The paid version will also work with regular phones and store more history of locations. The cost is $5 per month or $50 per year. There are other versions including one new set of children's phones dedicated to tracking. This last product received an award at the recent Consumer Electronics Conference. The Prescott Computer Society will discuss tracking programs and other award-winning innovations at its meeting on February 15th at the Prescott Library.

Published: Courier 1/19/14 - Page 3C