'Big Brother' tracker has children in sight
The German invention, to be launched in Britain by IBE Navigationssysteme next spring, is the size of a cigarette packet and can be put in a school bag, clipped to a belt or sewn into a pocket.
By making use of the same global positioning satellite technology used to track stolen cars, it will automatically give parents an alarm signal within 15 seconds of their children wandering out of locations they have chosen, which are logged on a central server.
"It even gives details of the street and house number of their location," said engineer Ingo Brunn, who runs IBE. "If the tracker is taken outside a certain area, then Kid Track sends an alarm signal to a mobile phone."
Rival German firm Siemens is producing an alternative model which is less Big Bother, more Big Mother. It looks like a simple mobile phone with only two buttons - red for an emergency and green for non-emergency. If the child presses either button he or she will be connected to the central call centre and passed on to his or her parent or guardian.
At the same time worried parents can get an accurate update on their child's location by making a simple phone call or checking on the Internet.
Siemens is testing 50 German families this December and plans to launch its tracker early next year. However, the idea of satellite monitoring has not met with universal approval.
Monika Bruhns, from the Missing Children initiative in Kisdorf in northern Germany, said: "A device cannot give parents security. It will only make them feel they no longer have the responsibility to look out for their kids themselves."
The IBE Kid Tracker can store up to 20 safe areas and can be used anywhere in the world. It will cost pound;15 a month.