Butler County nurse invents iPhone app to prevent hot car deaths

Local emergency room nurse Maria Striemer witnessed a child nearly die in her care after being left in a hot car. Jolted by the experience, she set out to find a way to make sure routine car trips don’t end at the ER.

Working with her husband Grant, Striemer invented and patented the result: The Backseet Buddy.

MORE: Hot car deaths: Warning systems could soon be required by law

“I’m the nursing side of it and he’s the engineer,” said Maria Striemer, of Fairfield Twp. “We worked on it for about two and a half years and got the patent back in February.”

The couple now wants to license their product to an investor or company able to manufacture the Backseet Buddy, so named in hopes that parents “see” children in the car.

Thirty-nine children died of heat stroke, and one died of hypothermia, in cars in the U.S. last year, according to KidsAndCars.org, a group that tracks such deaths.

The urgency in bringing the product to market increased, Striemer said, after a Procter & Gamble employee in Mason told authorities she fatally, accidentally left her child in the car.

MORE: ‘She was adorable’: Neighbor recalls Mason baby left in mom’s hot car

Karen Osorio-Martinez called 911 last month to report her 15-month-old daughter Sofia Averio dead in a car that had been in the P&G parking lot all day. The rear-facing car seat was located in the back of the vehicle behind the driver’s seat, according to the court records.

Recently, Striemer said she read a Journal-News article detailing how rear occupant alert systems may soon become standard by car manufacturers under a proposed federal law. But should the bill, the SELF-DRIVE Act, become law, it would still be several years before all cars have the alert systems.

“A lot of people have reached out to us and asked when it comes out,” Striemer said of the Backseet Buddy. “People said they needed it out yesterday.”

The Backseet Buddy uses a Bluetooth Low Energy technology called Apple iBeacon to detect when a person’s iPhone has moved too far from the device without removing the child.

A Backseet Buddy device paired with a parent’s iPhone is placed on the child’s car seat. When the child is placed on the seat, a push notification appears on the iPhone screen.

MORE: Mason mother was running late in child’s hot car death

If the phone leaves a 50-110 yard range from the car without removing the child from the car seat, the user will receive a push notification in about one minute. The push notifications will continue every minute until the notification is cleared from the phone.

The device can be placed under the padding of the car seat. If licensed to a car seat manufacturer, the device could also be embedded in the seat. The gadget is powered by a battery that reserves battery life when not in use.

“There was a lot of technology out there, but it required almost as much effort to remember the technology as it was to remember that your kid was in the car seat,” Grant Striemer said. “So we needed something that was really passive and relied on the habits you already had.”

The Striemers’ approach to solving the hot car dilemma is slightly different from those of car manufacturers and car seat manufacturers.

MORE: Bill aims to stop hot car deaths

Miamisburg-based Evenflo has created a car seat with an alert system that uses a sensor in the car seat buckle and chimes to remind drivers there is a child in the car seat.

General Motors introduced a “Rear Seat Reminder” as a standard feature in the 2017 GMC Acadia, and has since expanded it to select Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC models.

GM’s system does not detect the presence of rear-seat passengers. Rather, it is activated when either rear door is opened and closed up to 10 minutes before the vehicle is started or while the vehicle is running, according to GM. The activated system then rings five chimes and displays a message in the driver’s electronic dashboard when the car is next turned off.

Nissan North America introduced a similar system this month in the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder SUV and will roll out the technology in other cars in coming years, according to the automaker.

Staff Writer Lauren Clark contributed reporting.

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