Washington - News headlines about school shootings, missing person cases and random acts of violence can leave people feeling as though the threat of chaos is ever-present.
That can explain why, for some parents, the temptation to check in on a child is equally persistent.
Patrick McMullen, president of Three Square Market, a Wisconsin-based technology company known for microchipping employees, thinks his firm has developed a solution: a new app called “Mom I Am Ok.”
Designed for family members, the app will launch this month and allow parents to set agreed-upon “check-ins” with their children or loved ones. Those check-ins arrive in the form of push notifications asking whether the phone’s owner is safe.
If the recipient doesn’t respond “yes” to the notification, the app can determine everywhere that person has been and deliver that information to loved ones or law enforcement officials. If people are separated from their phones, however, they can no longer be effectively tracked.
Using geofencing - a virtual boundary created for a real-world area - the app can also alert a parent when their child has left a particular area. That feature could be useful, McMullen said, if a teenage driver left his or her city limits, for example, triggering an alert for unsuspecting parents.
McMullen said his company’s technology is “nearly identical” to a program Three Square Market sells to law enforcement officials that allows them to monitor the movements of parolees without relying on ankle bracelets, which can be expensive and conspicuous. If they can monitor former inmates, McMullen said his team wondered, why not use the same technology to keep people safe?
“I have four daughters,” he said. “I want to know where my daughters are at if something ever happens to them.”
The Mom I Am Ok app is the latest among a growing list of affordable surveillance apps marketed to family members who want to keep tabs on their loved ones. Tens of millions of people use similar apps, many of which promise to help them track their children’s location in real time, as well as their recent movements, sometimes for up to 48 hours.