One-touch device aims to save lives

Alicia McElhaney / McClatchy-Tribune News Service /


On Dec. 12, 2007, Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey, were leaving a mall in Boca Raton, Fla., after some holiday shopping when they were abducted in the parking lot. The two were instructed by the armed kidnapper to drive to a local bank and withdraw money. While on the way, Bochicchio tried to dial 911, but her kidnapper threw their phone from the car.

Later that evening, Bochicchio and her daughter were found dead, their car still idling in a parking lot. The case rattled the Boca Raton community, and one woman in particular, Michele McCauley.

“It could have been me,” McCauley, a mother of five who also was at the mall that evening said.

Instead of living her life in fear of abduction, though, McCauley decided to do something about it. She created a small device, called Trax24, which acts as a GPS tracking and alert unit.

In the event of an emergency, a user simply can push the SOS alert button on the unit, which sets in motion a series of events. First, the GPS tracking system monitors a user’s movement with up to the minute location tracking services.

Then, the unit sends out a “buddy network notification” via text or email and lets multiple pre-determined “buddies” know what is going on.

The one-way microphone starts recording the emergency event, which allows the Trax24 team to provide responders with detailed, real-time information.

Finally, the Trax24 team can send personal data of the victim including medical history, emergency contacts, doctors and more to emergency responders to assist them at the scene.

Trax24 is about the size of an iPod nano and can be used as a keychain or stored in a pocket. It works anywhere within AT&T’s scope of service.

The system works far better than a phone or an app because it is discrete, McCauley said. Abductors know that their victims often attempt to use phones to call emergency responders, so they often get rid of these first.

McCauley claims that almost anyone can benefit from Trax24. While perfect for small kids who may be spending a few moments alone, the system is also great for elderly people who may wander off or get injured easily.

When McCauley’s father was killed in a car accident a few years ago, she was one of the first in her family to realize, as he was carrying a Trax24 system.

“I knew exactly what time my dad’s accident happened and where it happened,” she said.

McCauley also is working to grab the attention of college women, suggesting that Trax24 is great backup for a woman who just wants to make sure she is safe.

McCauley is sure to always make her 12-year-old daughter carry the device, despite her daughter’s protests. Because the device’s GPS tracking can be looked at online whenever the user wants, some, especially teenagers, fear it could lead to parental abuse of the system, using it not for safety, but in order to make sure their children are telling the truth.

However, McCauley seems unfazed by this. “I just tell my daughter, ‘society now is becoming so dangerous,’” she said. “I would rather be safe.”