'Jane Doe' experience and sons' haemophilia inspire identity watch
Tracy Austin had two compelling reasons for inventing a watch that reveals vital personal and health details when scanned with a cell phone.
Her sons - Joel, 12, and Levi, 14 - have mild hemophilia and they hated wearing clunky medical alert bracelets because people constantly asked "what's wrong with you?"
But Joel happily wears his dual purpose Mimark recognizer watch. "It's so cool. Now it's like, where did you get one of them?"
It also provides peace of mind for his mother. "When he's got it on I relax that much more because I know if something happens, someone can get his information . . . It takes away the fear of letting your kids go off and explore," she said.
Austin, from Christchurch, could have done with her invention many years ago when she suffered serious injuries in a cycling crash.
Because she was not carrying identification, she was admitted to hospital as a Jane Doe and it was some time before family and friends were made aware of the crash. "I was flatting and my parents and flatmates assumed I was at my boyfriend's [house]."
With a recogniser watch, it would have taken just seconds for paramedics and anyone else on the scene to access her identity, emergency contacts, the name of her doctor, allergies and other health information.
Austin said some elderly folk might not be accustomed to scanning, "but every nana these days can text", so as well as the scannable QR code, personal information is available by texting a number on the wristband.
Children were her target market, but sportspeople into activities such as solo mountain biking were also showing an interest, and extra adhesive QR codes were available to stick on bike helmets or handlebars.
As part of her research, Austin ran focus groups with year seven and eight students at Cathedral Grammar School.
Their feedback persuaded her not to include a tracking device in the watch because they objected to being tracked. "If they didn't want to be tracked they wouldn't wear it," she said.
Talbot Technologies made the watches in Christchurch and they sold for just under $100, plus an annual $20 fee for maintaining online profiles.
Three weeks after they hit the market, online sales of the first 5000 watches were going so well, Austin was considering a second run.