Bloomberg Anywhere Remote Login Bloomberg Terminal Demo Request


Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world.


Financial Products

Enterprise Products


Customer Support

  • Americas

    +1 212 318 2000

  • Europe, Middle East, & Africa

    +44 20 7330 7500

  • Asia Pacific

    +65 6212 1000


Industry Products

Media Services

Follow Us

Two small U.S. companies recently launched a line of footwear
that uses a GPS device embedded in the heel to track seniors

By Jane Applegate
     May 17 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek) -- Andrew Carle delights in
what he calls “nana-technology,” electronic gizmos designed to
improve the quality of life for the elderly and their caregivers.
For the past eight years, he’s been researching the senior-care
industry at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he
serves as an executive-in-residence to students and faculty in
the College of Health and Human Services. He’s also been advising
companies that include Apple and Nintendo (7974:JP) about their

     So in 2008, when Carle came across a company developing
shoes fitted with GPS devices for tracking children, he sensed
the technology might be useful for a different market: seniors
with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that make them
likely to wander away from home. He cold-called its developer,
GTX, in Los Angeles and suggested it get in touch with Aetrex
Worldwide, a Teaneck (N.J.)-based specialty shoe-and-orthotics
manufacturer he had also found online.
     This December, Aetrex and GTX launched the Aetrex Navistar
GPS Footwear System, a $300 walking shoe with GTX’s GPS
transmitter and receiver embedded in the right heel. Caregivers
go online to create a virtual fence—a zone around the person’s
residence—and pay Aetrex about $39 a month to receive alerts when
the wearer leaves the area. If Grandma does leave, her location
will be visible as long as where she goes has cellular coverage.
“If it hadn’t come up that GTX had developed a technology for
shoes, I would have invented it,” says Carle, who now serves as a
consultant for GTX.
     According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, 60
percent of the 5.4 million Americans dealing with the
debilitating disease tend to run away or wander during its last
stages. The market for technology designed to assist seniors is
expected to reach $20 billion by 2020, according to Laurie Orlov,
founder of research firm Aging in Place Technology Watch. Dozens
of cheaper watches, pendants, and bracelets with alarms and radio
frequency signals are available to keep track of wanderers, but
Carle says many Alzheimer’s patients or people suffering from
dementia are paranoid and try to remove them. They’re less likely
to toss their shoes, he notes.
     “Devices can provide some peace of mind but are not a
replacement for appropriate supervision,” says Beth Kallmyer, who
serves as vice president of constituent services for the
Alzheimer’s Association. It’s going to be different for every
family,” she says. Then she reiterates: “Location devices are not
a substitute for people watching the patient.”
     The GPS shoe line is still new to the market, so the
companies aren’t sure if it will become a significant source of
revenue. Aetrex, which sells the shoes exclusively through its
website, won’t disclose how many pairs it has sold. GTX Chief
Executive Officer Patrick Bertagna says they’re the only ones on
the market. The shoes work in 200 countries. The rechargeable
batteries that power the GPS device last from 40 to 50 hours;
these are water-resistant, but the electronics could sustain
damage if they are soaked, according to Aetrex.
     Aetrex didn’t expect to get into the GPS shoe business. Long
known for designing and manufacturing shoes for problem feet, the
66-year-old business was developing a foot-scanning technology
for retailers when it was first contacted by GTX in 2008. The
205-employee company, which expects 2012 sales to reach $70
million, “realized [GTX’s] technology might be a good fit,” says
CEO Larry Schwartz, who liked the idea of offering a new product
that “gives loved ones one less thing to worry about.”
     GTX, founded by veteran software developer Bertagna in 2002,
has a similar goal in licensing its technology with Aetrex. The
bulk of the 30-employee company’s nearly $700,000 in 2011 revenue
came from sales of tracking apps for smartphones and licensing
fees for a system it designed for a global shipping company to
track the whereabouts of organs destined for transplantation, DNA
cultures, and other delicate scientific materials.
     When it started adapting its technology a decade ago, GTX
had intended to market to parents concerned about their kids’
whereabouts in the wake of the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping. “But I
was overwhelmed by the statistics Andrew Carle shared with me,”
says Bertagna. “I realized this was a real problem and there was
a perfect opportunity to launch into a big market and do
something really good for society.”

Please upgrade your Browser

Your browser is out-of-date. Please download one of these excellent browsers:

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.