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GNSS-based Tracking System for Children with Autism

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The application of GNSS in various sectors

The Malaysia space agency has developed a GNSS-based tracking system tailored to fit the needs of children with autism.

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the name for the group of development disorders and is recognized as the fastest growing type of disorder nowadays. According to Centre for Disease Control in United States, the incidents of autism are at 1 in 68 children. From this fact, approximately about 9,000 children in Malaysia are born with autism every year. This is indeed a huge number.

ASD includes a wide range of symptoms and levels of disability, and needs lifelong necessary support. Children with autism face challenges in terms of communication skill, behavior problem, tendency of wandering and lack of safety awareness. Some of the children are more likely to wander away from safe environment and have gone missing for significant period of time. Children with autism wander from all types of environment, such as residential, school area, outdoor or public places, playground and home including the babysitters’ home. This kind of behavior has given tremendous stress to their family and guardian.

Satellite technology – GNSS

The application of space and geospatial technologies such as Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) has proven its usefulness in improving personal tracking. GNSS is a system that uses constellations of satellites continuously transmitting signals to the earth that enable users to determine the precise location and therefore it supports various of positioning applications.

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Courtesy: www.rewiresecurity.co.uk

In Malaysia, GNSS applications for governmental and industrial are the most common applications. For example, application such as transportation, fleet management, agriculture, disaster monitoring, urban development, surveying and mapping, and military applications. At this moment, there are still lacking of applications for personal and safety applications if compared with countries in Europe and the Americans.

MOSTI track autism system

The National Space Agency (ANGKASA) of Malaysia has developed a prototype tracking system called the MOSTI TRACK AUTISM which uses GNSS-capable devices tailored to fit to the needs of children with autism who have the tendency of wandering. The project is funded by the Social Innovation (MSI) program under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and aims to benefit the community at the grassroots level by exploiting space technology and its applications.

The system not only explores the location, but also covers the time-dimension, which is believed crucial for monitoring these children since their movements are unpredictable. Children with autism will be given a GNSS-capable device which obtained are off-the-shelf. Through the customization of the device, the location information is transmitted to the server every single minute, and the parents or guardians are able to track and monitor their children via the developed apps in smart phones.

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Interface of system development

Meanwhile, the system allows parents to set virtual boundary and time activation to cater the movement of the children according to the schedule every day. An alarm will be sent to the parents’ smart devices immediately if the children cross the virtual boundary during the pre-set time. Meanwhile, the history of the movement automatically will be stored every minute. This application will be able to reduce the risk of unfortunate events to the children as well as to lessen the level of stress and anxiety of the parents.

Permata Kurnia

To make this project relevant to the subject matter, ANGKASA has collaborated with National Autism Centre or Permata Kurnia, a division under Prime Minister’s Department. Basically, the primarily aims of Permata Kurnia is to enhance awareness on autism and provides early intervention to help children with autism develop their fullest potential, and to prepare them for mainstream primary school education. The centre has connected with international autism advocacy organization based in the United States and also receives support and assistance from Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, University Kebangsaan Malaysia as well as the NGOs.

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Signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Cooperation between ANGKASA & Permata Kurnia

Through this collaboration, the centre has selected about 50 children with autism under its care, who have a history of repeatedly wandering. Currently, the system is being tested. Inputs and methods for the system application have been closely supervised together by both technical personnel, including medical doctors and interventionists. The system in ANGKASA and Centre are monitoring all the children simultaneously. The feedback from the parents and the center are really encouraging. Since the system are receiving good feedbacks, the team is planning to do more test and upgrading including indoor positioning capability before ultimately to commercialize the product.

Looking forward

By implementing these GNSS applications, ANGKASA is hoping that the public in Malaysia will be more familiar and aware of the benefits of satellite technology, which can eventually enhance the quality of life.

Ooi Wei Han
Shahrizal Ide Moslin
Dr. Noordin Ahmad
Space Application and Technology Development Division,
National Space Agency (ANGKASA)