Jun 15, 2015

What Wearables Can Do for Child Safety

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: You turn around for one minute in the grocery store or airport and when you look back your child is no longer in sight. Adrenaline makes your heart race as your mind fills with fearful thoughts for your child’s safety.

How big of a problem is child safety in the U.S.? Consider the fact that, last year, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center logged 466,949 cases of missing children under the age of 18.

Fortunately, a solution that can greatly reduce the number of missing children is at hand. Recent advances in the wearable technology industry are now making it easier than ever for parents to gain real-time location information about their kids through the use of GPS and radio-based tracking systems.

A variety of mobile solutions—made possible through the Internet of Things—can be easily used with any age group, from youngsters playing in the yard to on-the-go teenagers.

For young children: Since smartphone usage is not widely prevalent among young children (those under the age of 10), parents should look into wristwatch-style or clip-on tracking devices that can support a combination of two-way communication and location awareness features. The LG-enabled KizON device, for example, actually lets parents listen to their children from a distance over a 3G network. What’s great about this device is that it looks like a typical child’s bracelet and comes in popular Hello Kitty and Tobot styles, which means it can integrate seamlessly with a child’s wardrobe. This makes the child less likely to remove the device and could also prevent a kidnapper from noticing and disarming it.

Track Your Child is another solution; it uses an advanced feature called “geo-fencing” to establish digital boundaries for children. By establishing a GPS-enabled geo-fence using the device’s mobile application, parents can be alerted if a child strays from the allotted area, such as the backyard or immediate neighborhood. This device also comes with a panic feature that a child can use if he or she is in distress.

For older children: Many parents are more concerned about their kids’ teen years than their younger days, as fears of wandering off on foot give way to fears of wandering off in cars. While most teenagers would scoff at the idea of wearing a GPS tracking device on their clothing, a variety of handy applications are available that can be used to track everything from a phone’s location to a car’s speed.

Life 360, available for both Android and iOS, is one application that lets parents see exactly where family members are on a smartphone map. Using Life 360, teens and others can communicate via in-app messaging; they can virtually “check in” to places when they arrive and also have access to a panic button if they feel endangered.

Another application worth noting is Trax, which also offers geo-fencing technology. (This is great for ensuring that your children undergoing disciplinary “grounding” to the house are where they’re supposed to be.) It also offers auto speed tracking and other useful features.

As a dad of two active teenagers, I’m personally very excited to see wearable technology merging with child safety. It’s a scary world out there but, with the help of IP connectivity, parents can now have a much easier time keeping their children safe.