For Hawke's Bay families of people at risk of wandering from their homes and potentially getting lost, an idea sparked by the tracking of kiwis in the wild is set to provide assurance they will quickly be found.
It is a device called Wandatrack, and is a collaborative effort by Hawke's Bay Police, the New Zealand Red Cross and the Bay's Alzheimer's societies in addressing what could become an increasing problem.
People identified as being at risk of wandering from their homes will be given a pendant to wear.
It is also a transmitter.
If they were to wander and go missing, the frequency from the pendant would be picked up by the Wandatrack base system which will be housed at the Hastings Police Station.
Hawke's Bay Police Constable Blair Pryce said the system would be a "huge asset" for emergency services who often found themselves called out to look for people who had wandered and could not be located, and then reported as missing.
"This will enable us to pinpoint where the person is if they go wandering. Each transmitter pendant has its own frequency which we can pick up very easily, and we will be able to find them pretty quickly. It will save a lot of worry and concern for families and carers and search teams," Mr Pryce said.
He said the pendants would not be constantly monitored - they would be activated when the wearer was reported as missing.
"These are not designed to keep a 24-hour watch on people. We will still need to rely on family and caregivers to report someone missing."
Twelve transmitter pendants were set to be distributed under certain usage criteria, which included children with conditions such as autism, and the elderly, especially those suffering from Alzheimer's.
The Hastings Alzheimer's Society will administer the distribution.
Society manager Kate Kerr said Alzheimer's sufferers were ideal candidates for the Wandatrack scheme, and the need for such a system was becoming more evident.
"This year there were 1500 people in Hawke's Bay with Alzheimer's and the number of people with the disease is projected to increase markedly," she said.
"By 2026 the number of sufferers is projected to reach 74,821 nationally, which is a huge portion of our community. This is a disease that progresses over time and affects not just memory, but the ability to undertake daily tasks, communications, mood and emotions."
The Wandatrack devices use the same technology as transmitter devices fitted on kiwi in DoC wildlife reserves, which have proven to be very effective.
The New Zealand Red Cross has funded the $8000 set-up cost of the system through local fundraising efforts.