Wearables

Scan and Save

In the blink of an eye, he was gone.

A young autistic boy was at a crowded sporting event recently in California and, when his parents’ backs were turned for just a few seconds, he wandered into the throng. Fortunately, he was wearing a QR code patch from If I Need Help that contained contact information. Another attendee noticed him, scanned the code and reunited him with his relieved family.

The idea for If I Need Help stemmed from personal need. CEO Bruce Wilson and his wife, CFO Erin Wilson, were determined to protect their son Jay, who has autism. “His social skills are very poor,” says Erin Wilson. “He wouldn’t be able to tell someone that he’s lost.” As the couple discussed ways to allow their son to communicate despite his disability, “I thought of QR codes,” says Wilson. “If he always had contact information on him, he could be quickly identified.”

The Wilsons had no experience with garment embellishment, though that didn’t deter them. They tried DTG and then a heat press, but weren’t satisfied. When Bruce Wilson called ImprintsUSA (asi/14971), a division of Penn Emblem (asi/77120), looking for sublimation tape, the company had another idea. “I suggested sublimation patches,” says sales representative Lynne Kaplan. “We printed the first few to show them how it would look.” Just when the Wilsons were afraid they would have to scratch the idea, “the whole thing was saved,” says Erin Wilson. “Sublimation doesn’t fade or crinkle, and we now have patches on all of Jay’s T-shirts.”

The Wilsons continue to buy patches and ink from ImprintsUSA, and officially launched If I Need Help in April 2013. It’s free to sign up at www.qrcodeid.org, where users create a profile containing important information that can be edited in real time. “All of it is accessible by scanning the QR code,” says Wilson. “You can also update your current location if you’re actively looking for someone.” As of this writing, they have 450 members.

If I Need Help is currently in the process of becoming a nonprofit, and has additional coded products (including ID cards, keychains and military-style dog tags) in the works. “We plan to hire disabled adults to do the sublimation,” says Wilson. “It’s near and dear to our hearts.”