Amid the horrific Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, Facebook activated its ‘Safety Check’ tool – previously reserved solely for natural disasters – which helped 4.1 million users in France let friends and family know they were safe. As a result, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network will switch on ‘Safety Check’ more often in the event of human disasters.

Facebook’s move goes to show that while many people are certainly wary about feeling watched by technology, consumers are increasingly appreciative of the benefits that can come from using surveillance tools to keep tabs on themselves and those close to them.

As consumers become more comfortable being tracked by technology, brands can put the tracking into consumers’ own hands

As explored in the Mintel Trend Cam Cam, we are being watched, tagged, tracked and identified like never before – and technology that performs such tasks will only integrate itself further into our lives. As consumers become more comfortable with it, brands have an opportunity to provide meaningful approaches that put the tracking into consumers’ own hands in order to afford a sense of safety and security.

We’ve already seen consumers embrace apps, devices and services that facilitate that feeling of comfort by allowing people to keep tabs on themselves and their kids, parents, pets and belongings:

  • Uber-like ride sharing services for children like US-based Shuddle, HopSkipDrive and KidzJet focus on providing safe and reliable transportation. These companies are all completing extensive background checks, tracking rides through GPS, and monitoring drivers’ speed and whether they are using their cell phones.
  • Brazilian footwear and apparel company Klin has launched a GPS chip in Brazil that allows parents to track the movements of their children. The device is designed to be clipped to shoes, and a smartphone app shows the location of the wearer.
  • Luna Lights is a concept system that was designed to help reduce night-time falls for older adults by controlling lighting through movements. The system is a bed pad and light system that turns lights on when a person sits up from bed and turns them off once they lie back down. This solution allows adults to have a light source at their disposal and removes the need to find a light switch in the dark. The system also measures how long the adult has been out of bed and has the functionality to contact a specific caretaker or institution.
  • In Australia, cat food brand Whiskas has developed a collar for cats that contains a camera that automatically takes pictures and uploads them to Instagram. The device – which is called a Catstacam – is first being produced in limited quantities and provided to cat-owning celebrities. The camera is motion-activated and snaps off six shots a minute when the cat moves. Cat owners can also seek help from a ‘cat behavior specialist’ in interpreting the photos and what their cats are getting into.
  • Delta Air Lines is offering a pet-tracking device to make passengers feel more comfortable when separated from their animals. For $50 a flight, the device allows pet owners to monitor their animals in real time when they’re traveling. It informs customers of the pet’s climate conditions and how their pet’s crate is positioned in the aircraft.
  • AwareCar is a device that helps users avoid parking tickets and keep track of their cars. The glove box device sends updates about how far a driver has gone, the location of the car, when the meter will expire, and how long they can expect to walk to add money to the meter. AwareCar acts as a remote Bluetooth device and connects to the user’s car automatically, working through a smartphone and the car’s own electronics.
  • Amsterdam-based start-up Ping Bell has developed a bicycle bell that doubles as a GPS tracker, making it impossible to lose a bike. Users just attach the bell to their bike and pair it with an accompanying app, and then they can track the location of their bike using their smartphone – so if it gets stolen or they forget where they left it, they can easily see where it is.

While these tools allow consumers to feel safer and more secure, it’s important to remember that there is still a certain degree of caution around surveillance technology. As a result, companies should be completely transparent about how such devices and software function and how much of a person’s location and other data the company itself sees. It’s crucial that companies also include an opt-out function; consumers will want to feel like they’re being helped, rather than intruded upon.

The ultimate hope is that there will never again be a need to utilize Facebook’s ‘Safety Check’ tool, but people will look to achieve a sense of comfort and security in their daily lives.

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Stacy Glasgow is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.