Tracking wherever they tread

Published February 5, 2007

MIAMI - Isaac Daniel calls the tiny Global Positioning System chip he's embedded into a line of sneakers "peace of mind."

The $325-$350 sneaker hitting shelves in March is the latest in the GPS arsenal that includes everything from cell phones promising to keep kids away from sexual predators to fitness watches that track heart rate and distance.

The shoe promises to locate the wearer anywhere in the world with the press of a button. It works when the wearer presses a button to activate the GPS. The call is fielded by the company's 24-hour monitoring system, for an additional $19.95 a month.

In case of an emergency, where the wearer doesn't press the button, Daniel says a parent, spouse or guardian can call the monitoring system, give their password and operators can activate the GPS. Once the GPS is activated, they have about six hours until the battery runs out.

The shoe is not meant for tracking purposes - to find out if a teen is really at the library or a spouse is really on a business trip - but is strictly for emergency use, Daniel said.

While other GPS products often yield spotty results, Daniel says his company has spent millions of dollars and nearly two years of research to guarantee accuracy. Their 2- by 3-inch chip, tucked into the bottom of the shoe, relies on a patented covert alarm apparatus, which integrates the GPS along with a small computer.

Experts say accuracy often depends on how many satellites the system can tap into. Daniel's shoe and most GPS devices on the market rely on four.

Daniel, who wears the shoes when he runs along Key Biscayne every morning, says he tested the shoes on a recent trip to New Jersey. The computer's color coded path tracked him down the Atlantic Coast to the Miami airport and through the city to a specific building.

The company also put the technology into military boots and is in talks with Colombia and Ecuador, says Daniel, whose first ventured into the footwear business creating a cheerleading shoe after his niece broke her ankle during a stunt.

The GPS sneakers, available in six designs, resemble most running shoes on the market. The two silver buttons - one to activate and one to cancel - are inconspicuous near the shoelaces.

The company is selling 1,000 limited edition shoes online and already has orders for 750, Daniel said.

Although only available in adult men and women's sizes now, the children's line will be out this summer. A shoe that links with PlayStation, Xbox and other video games in hopes of appealing to kids who aren't concerned about safety will also be available this fall, Daniel said.

But retail experts say it might be a tough sell to brand-conscious kids.

"If (parents) can get their kids to wear them, then certainly there is a marketplace. But I think the biggest challenge is overcoming supposedly the cool marketplace," said Lee Diercks, managing director of New Jersey-based Clear Thinking Group.

"The other challenge ... as quickly as kid's feet grow, it would be a pretty pricey replacement problem if the kids are going through that shoe every four to five months."