With large batteries and complex components, existing GPS trackers are bulky, heavy and indiscreet. They are usually designed for children and alienate other vulnerable adults. An opportunity was seen to improve upon the norm by utilising recent advances in interconnectivity between devices. The ORA system comprises two elements: the ORA device and the ORA companion app. The system provides an unobtrusive way for the wearer’s location to be tracked by a guardian via the app. Furthermore, a distress signal can be sent to both the guardian and any police officers nearby.
In its purest form, ORA is essentially a Bluetooth low-energy beacon (BLE) that periodically broadcasts a unique identifier signal. Through Google’s “Nearby Notifications” API, smartphones in proximity detect the signal, relay it to Google’s servers and display the detection location on the companion app – all as a background task. This system offloads the long-range, high energy transfer of data to more sophisticated devices. This allows the ORA device to remain power-light and relatively passive.
To send a distress signal, the wearer twists the device 180 degrees – a deliberate action that cannot be performed accidentally. This action reveals a bright red segment adorned with an explanation mark. The design language here is important: the use of colour and semiotics visualise and acknowledge the wearer’s own sense of urgency. On a functional level, this action updates the unique identifier signal that is being broadcast, prompting an alert on both the guardian’s and nearby police officers’ companion apps.
The ORA system represents more than just a product opportunity. It serves as a demonstrator, showing just one way in which modern connected devices and shared data can be utilised to improve products, user experiences and ultimately the lives of individuals.