Heightened concern over abductions see firms offering products to track a child's whereabouts Imagine you are walking through the crowded streets of Causeway Bay and something in a store window catches your eye. You let go of your child's hand for just a moment. A few seconds later you realise he has disappeared. You panic. Then what do you do? Child abductions are rare in Hong Kong but the fear for any parent is ever present. The high-profile kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl in Macau last month only heightens the worry. Now, a number of technology companies have stepped in with products they promise will help keep children safe. Children eager to copy their elders are increasingly demanding mobile phones. Parents can take advantage of this by giving their children phones equipped with global positioning system (GPS) technology. This allows parents to track their child's movements anywhere in the world. Last week, US-based Wherify Wireless received the first production run of its Wherifone GPS locator phone - a handset for pre-teens. In addition to having a GPS locator, it can dial just five preset numbers - enough for mum and dad and the grandparents but not classmates. Parents can call a service centre or log on to the company's website to locate their child's phone. The handset, available only in the United States, is expected to retail for US$150 plus a US$20 monthly service fee. Taking the GPS idea one step further, Japanese uniform company Ogo-Sangyo and security company Secom teamed up in April to launch a line of school uniforms with locators sewn into them. Their GPS-enabled school blazers have an emergency panic button that will call school security officers and let them know a child's location. Parents can track their children's movement at any time through the internet. Children may be tempted to 'lose' their blazers if they want to sneak off to play, but at least it will be harder for them to explain afterwards. There are instances where parents do not necessarily need to know their children's whereabouts all the time. It is enough to know that they have arrived safely at certain locations - school, for example. This is why some schools in Hong Kong and the US have reportedly expressed interest in time attendance and access control systems. Some systems used radio frequency identification tags included in a backpack or school ID that children must carry with them at all times. Hong Kong-based Hectrix makes a system that combines smartcard technology and digital cameras to keep track of which children have shown up for class. Hectrix chief executive Thomas Wan Wah-tong said: 'They could put one of these terminals at the school entrance, so if there are students who haven't checked in by the time school starts, the system will automatically send an SMS to their parents.' Some schools and churches are also using technology to make sure the right people pick up children. The James River Assembly of God church in Missouri installed a photo-recognition system at its Sunday school last October. Parents picking up their children check out at a terminal. A photo of the parent and the child is then called up from the database and printed on an ID tag. This is checked by security personnel on the way out. Some companies are providing location-based services similar to GPS tracking that target areas such as theme parks or resorts, where parents will probably be most concerned about losing their children. Aeroscout works with Legoland Denmark to provide, for rent, Wi-fi-trackable wristbands for children to wear. If a child gets lost, the parent can send a text message that will generate an automatic response of where the child is. The system was launched last year and uses Wi-fi-enhanced radio frequency identification tags to track children within Legoland's 21/2-million sqft area. Finding hi-tech ways to ensure child safety is not just confined to the private sector. Some governments are turning to technology to enhance child-safety programmes. As of last month, nine mobile phone carriers in the US began broadcasting alerts about missing children in specific areas via text messages to their customers. The free, opt-in service is part of the US government's Amber Alert system, which disseminates information to help find missing and abducted children. NANNY TECHNOLOGY Sophisticated tracking technologies offer parents a number of ways to monitor their children and keep them safe. GPS UNIFORMS AND SCHOOLBAGS School uniforms and backpacks with GPS devices sewn into them allow parents to keep tabs on their offspring. Children can also press emergency panic buttons if they are in trouble. GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE SECTOR INITIATIVES In the United States, parents can opt to receive 'amber alerts' on their phones. When a child is abducted, text messages advise recipients to be on the look out. MOBILE PHONES Handsets with simple buttons allow children to dial their parents with the press of single button. Also, GPS-equipped phones allow parents to locate their kids. ATTENDANCE Radio identification tags sewn into backpacks help keep track of attendance at Japanese elementary schools. Parents and teachers are alerted when children do not attend class. LOCATION-BASED SERVICES Using Wi-fi networks, parents can find lost children in amusement parks by tracking wristband devices worn by the child.