Like all great ideas, the concept of Find My Child is simple, yet backed by some powerful technology. We use this technology to flash a missing child alert to everyone in the local area in the event that you need to report that one of your children might be missing. For the first time you can alert local people and get them on your side by keeping a watchful eye out for your child. By empowering you to raise the alarm within seconds of realising your child is missing, the chances of finding them quickly are greatly improved.
So … how do we do it?
To be able to alert you to missing children reported in just your area, we need to keep track of roughly where all our users are. We take privacy, and in particular location privacy very seriously and so we never actually store your precise location as determined by your phone.
Instead we use a technique called geohashing that divides the planet up into grid squares which are represented by a character code such as gcpv5g. This allows our system to track roughly where everyone might be at a given time so that when someone reports a missing child, we can alert only the phones that might be in the local area.
This picture explains more about how accurately (or rather, inaccurately) we know where you might be.
As you can see, we only know where each phone is within a grid rectangle that measures approximately 700 metres x 400 metres.
But our commitment to your location privacy doesn’t stop there. Firstly we don’t explicitly track any form of location history for a device. There are times when our database does have a few recent location fixes for the device, however these are purely transient and are frequently purged from the database.
Secondly, and more importantly, we don’t actually have any idea of who you are. We don’t ask you for any personal information to use the application and even when you enter your phone number, we don’t even store that on our servers unless and until you raise the alarm.
We use a special low power and approximate location tracking service to keep our server informed about where all our users might be using the techniques described above so that at any given time, we have a safety net of devices that can be alerted to any incident in the local area. This localisation is important as it means you won’t be alerted to missing children a long way away (which is just annoying) and means that when you do receive an alert, you have a great reason for keeping your eyes open as you are likely to be quite close to where the child went missing.
Registering your children
Once you have a subscription to Find My Child, you can register the details of your children so that should you ever need to raise the alarm, you can do so without having to enter any information in a time of crisis.
All we require to register a child is their name, their date of birth and a photograph. When you raise the alarm, we don’t show the date of birth to other people, but only an approximate age (for example 8 1/2), however we need the date ourselves so we can keep this age calculation up to date.
You can optionally choose to add extra identifying information such as eye and hair colour as well as a free text field where you can enter any other information that you think would help people identify your child should they go missing – for example this might be information about distinguishing marks, the fact that they wear glasses, or anything else you would put on a missing child poster should you be making one. How much extra information you choose to add is entirely up to you.
You can register as many children as are under your care under a single subscription.
Sharing profiles with other family members
If you purchase our family pack option, you can share profiles with other family members, Nannys, Au-pairs or any other person who takes care of your children and has access to a smart phone running Find My Child. This means that for the price of a single subscription and a one off family pack purchase, you can ensure that all your friends and family are able to raise the alarm if required. Remember, this purchase is only required for people needing to raise the alarm.
Raising the alarm
We understand that parents will naturally be very distressed at the point they might have to raise the alarm and so we have taken great care to make this process as simple as possible. We have broken it down into 4 simple steps.
Step 1 – Tell us when they went missing.
Obviously this is most likely to be “NOW” in which case you can just tap through to the next step, but in some cases you might be raising the alarm at some point after you first realised they went missing and so to help people trigger memories of what they might have seen at a point in the past, you can optionally specify a day and time of the loss.
Step 2 – Show us where they went missing from.
We show you a map of where you are now and ask you to drop a pin on the location where they went missing from. You can zoom and reposition the map to anywhere you want but the importance of the location is that we use it to calculate the grid in which we alert nearby users.
Step 3 – Tell us what they were wearing or any other useful information.
Again this is optional, but it will help others quickly recognise your child if you can enter relevant information at this stage.
Step 4 – Review and send the alert.
As a final step, we show you the map and the information you have given us as a last chance to review the alert before you send it. Once you send the alert, our system sends the alert to all the users present in the local area. Although we can’t guarantee how quickly they will receive the alert, our tests show that this can often be within just a few seconds of the alert being sent out.
I might have seen a missing child, what should I do?
Simple, you press the “Report Sighting” button on the alert page, and you can be connected directly to the parent or guardian. Your location and phone details will be recorded for security reasons.
Next you should get to the child and wait with them, if you feel uncomfortable approaching then ask someone else to come with you. If the child is with an adult DO NOT assume that it is the parent and make sure you speak with the person who raised the alert to be sure the child is safe.