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Children free to roam watched by eye in the sky

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann is likely to boost sales of a new device designed to reassure anxious parents. The pocket sized gadget may also be a godsend for the carers of elderly people suffering from various of dementia. It enables carers to trace loved ones to within three metres anywhere on this island and will be on sale here in the coming months.

Called 'Buddi' and nicknamed 'Brat Nav' it is the world's first miniaturised GPS personal locator service and is set to revolutionise the personal safety of Irish youngsters.

Using satellite navigation technology to keep track of the wearer, the matchbox-sized device can be attached to a belt, placed in a bag or worn around the neck and offers the wearer round the clock access to an experienced customer response team 365 days a year.

The service will allow parents to contact a call centre, which will give details of their child's exact location and will also enable other wearers to alert family or friends if they need help via an emergency call centre, simply by pressing a button.

The gadget, already available in Britain where it has been met by huge demand, is the brainchild of Sara Murray, an Oxford graduate who came up with the idea after she became separated from her child in a supermarket.

"What really shocked me was that a security guard just appeared in front of me and said "go and stand at the exit of the car park and look in the back of the cars as they leave" and I thought 'there's a process for this which means it happens quite often', which was quite shocking."

Murray says many customers are also purchasing the gadgets to keep track of their elderly relatives.

"Only half of the devices are being sold to parents.

"The other half have gone towards monitoring elderly people. But when it comes to parents, they are mostly being bought for vulnerable children or by parents who are trying to encourage their children to be more independent but who are slightly worried about it and want to give them some sort of safety device just in case they get into a pickle.

Speaking about children's reactions to the new tracking devices, Murray maintains, "The kids have been amazingly positive about it actually ... they're very pleased that they have more freedom to roam around.

"And they know that if they get into a difficult situation they can ask for help.

She continued: "It's a voluntary device and it allows someone to track you so it is essential that the wearer trusts that person.

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"If you carry it, then you're volunteering that somebody you've allowed to, will be able to find you.

The Buddi service can be activated in the UK for a monthly subscription of stg£20 (€28) per month and a one-off fee of stg£299 (€427) for the purchase of the unit.

Prices should be broadly similar here.

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