According to one recent study conducted by Alzheimer’s Disease International, someone in the world develops dementia roughly every three seconds. That means that by the time you finish reading up to this point, another three people will have been affected — contributing to a number that has already grown to about 50 million people around the globe.

Not only is the total economic impact of dementia larger than both heart disease and cancer, but the total population is also so large that about one-quarter of hospital beds are currently occupied by people living with the disease.

Thanks to the personality changes that dementia brings with it, not to mention the frequent mood swings and bouts of confusion, one of the dangers for many people suffering from the disease involves getting lost at the worst possible time. In the early stages, the symptoms begin innocently enough — you walk into a room and forget why you were ever going there in the first place. But by the time things progress, the situation worsens — you could be behind the wheel of a car and totally forget where you’re headed or where you even started, thus creating a dangerous situation for everyone.

It is this type of problem that one technology firm aims to face in the most straightforward way possible. The firm Three Square Market recently announced that they’re working on a voice-activated, body heat-powered GPS tracking chip that is designed specifically for the millions of people with both Alzheimer’s and dementia around the world.

GPS Trackers and Dementia Patients: The Situation at Hand

Three Square Market’s chip is currently still in the development stages, but the practical applications are already astoundingly clear. Not only will the chip be powered totally by the human body, but it will also have GPS tracking capabilities and voice recognition features that will go a long way toward keeping dementia patients as safe as possible at all times.

Additionally, the chip will work on monitoring the patient’s vital signs — something that would clearly be helpful in a number of scenarios. The chip could potentially (and proactively) alert a patient’s doctor when something is wrong, allowing people to take action sooner rather than later.

If the chip ultimately works similarly to a lot of GPS devices on the market currently aimed at children, it would be a welcome relief for both patients and their family members across the globe. At any moment, a family member could use a computer or smartphone to get an immediate update about their family member’s whereabouts. This could allow them to check in on them throughout the day, all without being physically present at all. Should that family member ever become lost or confused, it could also help people find them quickly before they pose a danger to themselves or others.

It’s important to note that Three Square Market is also a company that made headlines about a year ago when it said that it wanted to implant microchips in its own employees to help increase convenience during routine tasks like purchasing snacks or opening doors. Currently, 92 out of the company’s 196 employees have these particular types of chips and only one had ever elected to have it removed.

Officials for Three Square Market say that their dementia GPS tracker chip is still in the development phase, but there are already plans in place to beta test the devices at some point during 2019. Should those trials prove to be successful, they will then submit the device to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. Providing that this entire process goes smoothly, that means that the devices themselves could be ready for purchase by consumers by as soon as 2020 or 2021.

Whether that happens remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure — for a lot of people, this is one advancement in modern technology that literally cannot get here too soon. There are lives right now that are quite simply depending on it.