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Tracking device firm snares £4m in its first year

Have you ever lost your child in a shop? Sara Murray did. She invented a Buddi, a GPS tracker, to ensure it never happened again.
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There’s nothing more terrifying for a parent than losing a child in a public place. Having briefly lost her daughter in a supermarket, Murray landed upon an idea to make sure that parents never again need worry over the whereabouts of their children.

“It’s impossible to watch your kids every second of the day,” says Murray. “When I used to go on holiday with my daughter, I took to leaving a scrap of paper in her pocket with my number on, just in case. I knew there must be a safer and better way. I found nothing on the internet so I had to invent it myself.”

Murray set up the company in September last year after spending five years in R&D to get the technology up to scratch. She invested £200,000 of her own cash into the start-up, but it was tough going from the off. “I could have given up a thousand times,” says Murray. “There were so many complexities involved in designing the actual device. Radio is a black art, you can’t theorise a working system. It’s all about trial and error.”

The service currently boasts 4,000 customers. Murray predicts this figure will hit 10,000 by 2009 and pull in a turnover of £4m.

Beyond the original target market of parents, Murray is also tapping into the B2B sector. Demographics include: council workers; prisoners; department stores; the elderly; and other vulnerable people. “Around 90 per cent of social workers have suffered abuse at some time,” she says. “Now they can take a Buddi out on house calls and press an alarm button if they get into trouble.”

The alarm button is a key feature. While the Buddi itself costs £299 to purchase, there is a monthly £20 subscription, which provides 24/7 access to a customer response team. If a Buddi-holder activates the alarm, the team can track them down and alert the relevant parties instantly.

The Buddi incorporates the core components of a mobile phone with a GPS module, which hooks up to a satellite and the Buddi data server.

A household can have multiple Buddis and parents or carers can look up their charges online, pinpointing their location using software similar to GoogleMaps. Or they can choose to receive a text location on their mobile if they’re out and about.

This system does depend on a trusting relationship for the most part: kids can just leave off their Buddis if they don’t want to be tracked. “The Buddi vibrates when its being looked up,” says Murray. “So your children will know if you’re checking up on them. My daughter carries hers. She knows that I’d never spy on her unless I was really worried.”

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