2013 was a personal disaster. In the month of May I lost my mom. My father at the age of 71 started living alone at Kolkata. I was concerned about his safety. Obviously I couldn’t force him to stay indoors and curb his daily bicycle rides to shops and bazaars. Cycling around and meeting friends was his favorite activity. I started searching for a solution to ensure his safety.
One solution that I could think of was to know his whereabouts and to ensure that I can make an immediate call in case of an emergency. That would allow me to virtually follow him wherever he went. A smartphone with an app would have been perfect, but my dad couldn’t use one because he found it too complicated. These smartphones are a must-have for most, but they are sometimes too challenging for an elderly person. I had to think of something simpler.
For knowing the whereabouts of my dad, I thought of GPS plus local cell tower locations. And to make emergency calls, a single push button had to be added. But I couldn’t find such a system readily available in India.
Eventually, I thought of building one.
In June 2013, I left my corporate job. Along with two of my old friends, I started developing the necessary software and hardware designs. We wanted to introduce something really simple to use, such that it can reassure anyone whose elderly parents or relatives are living independently. We collocated our own server, developed platform software to run on our application and also came up with database servers. We developed an Android App. We manufactured proprietary data uplink devices that could communicate with our application platform to provide real time locating and communication services. Emergency & Medical Alert service was our first product launched. By end of 2013, GPS21 Net India Services Private Limited was incorporated as a technology company, with me as Co-Founder.
Soon we observed that this is not just about senior citizens. One of the biggest concerns of Indian parents is the safety of their children. We can’t keep children at home or at school all the time, nor can we always accompany them. Children have to be left to themselves beyond a stage; they need their space. That is necessary because it gives them the confidence and courage to face the society and grow up on their own terms. They must see the life around, travel alone at times, and interact with people and nature, and decide their own course of action or interest. But what about their safety and protection?
We thought a lot about this and soon came up with a simple data link device that can help parents to locate their children from remote areas and communicate with them. We built it with complete parental control and launched it with a toy-like appearance. Today, our system is being used by many children including those with special needs.
We fulfilled our initial objective by developing the safety alert systems for elderly and children, rightly optimized for Indian conditions. Though the service development and maintenance is technically complex, for users it’s very simple to use from a computer or their phones.
While working on a service that assured people’s safety, we also understood that majority of the road mishaps happen because of recklessly driven vehicles. Our system, servers and software were already in place and we simply had to expand our services to vehicles too. However, this required some changes in our software and hardware. We went back to the drawing board and came out with solutions. Today our GPS based Remote Locating services and Emergency Communication systems cover for vehicles of any make and any type. We are providing services to private cars, motorcycles, taxis, trucks, buses and ambulances. Our vehicular services incorporate alerts for over speeding, mileage, fuel consumption, driver behavior, anti-theft etc. Apart from the alerts, we profile each vehicle and provide owners a detailed report about its performance for each month.
GPS21 Net India was meant to solve a personal problem but eventually it turned into a start-up venture. Most of our users started with one system, found it useful and subsequently purchased more. Remote locating services is our first initiative but it definitely would not be the only story. This year 2016 we are planning to solve another problem that people find in India. We are working on two projects. One is to provide Solar power charging facilities to mobile and wifi devices. And the second one is to provide hardware for computer based educative gaming. But that would be yet another story.