There are a number of gadgets, both new and old, that allow parents to geo-locate their children – or let puppy parents track down a wandering Fido – but many of these either fall short of the task at hand by relying on Bluetooth alone, or require a monthly fee, like the FiLIP smartwatch for kids or the Amber Alert GPS, for instance. A new gadget now in the works called Findster differentiates itself through the use of proprietary RF technology, which allows for a longer range than Bluetooth, as well as no monthly fees.
The Findster team, based in Portugal, includes founders Virgílio Bento, David Barroso, Paulo Fonseca, André Ferreira, Márcio Colunas and David Dieteren, whose background includes a mix of experience in hardware, software, and design.
Bento, a university professor with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, also has previous experience with hardware, having developed a medical device aimed at improving rehabilitation in stroke patients in the past.
Not a parent himself, Bento admits that the idea for Findster came to him after he went looking for an affordable GPS tracker for his dog, who would sometimes become lost. But he was disappointed that most of the better GPS trackers required a monthly fee – which was hard to swallow given that the gadget wasn’t something he would need, except on a handful of occasions.
After deciding to tackle the problem himself along with the Findster team, Bento realized that there was a bigger need than just hunting down missing pets.
“People with kids told us, that is perfect for my kids. And we thought, okay, maybe we have a different segment here that’s important to acknowledge,” he says of the device’s transition in the far more crowded, and potentially more profitable, “kid tracker” space.
The founders began work on the device last year, and raised $67,000 during a prior crowdfunding campaign whose goal was $50,000. They’ve now just opened up an extension to that campaign to allow additional backers to get in. With still nearly a month left to go, Findster has raised over $11,000 so far on the new campaign.
How It Works
Findster is a bit different from other gadgets in this space because of the way it has incorporated the technology used to identify the child (or pet’s) GPS coordinates. Instead of leaning on cellular providers’ services or limited Bluetooth technology, it enables long-range bi-directional communication between two modules, one held by the parents, the other attached to the child or pet.
“We’re filing our patent now, but [the long-range communication is] below 1 GHz…and we’re using a frequency band that’s available to everyone. What makes us different are the details of the communication – how we encrypt the data, and how we design our antennas to be more sensitive,” says Bento.
Meanwhile, the child module passes information to an iPhone via Bluetooth. Between the two, the range is 1 Km. However, through an optional base station, the range can extend to 2 Km. These base stations, designed for use in the home or even at schools, are part of the company’s larger vision for setting up a mesh network for its trackers – similar to how the lost item finder Tile is working to create the same via its users’ smartphones.
In addition, the devices and accompanying software will allow for things like geo-fences, push notifications, group monitoring, emergency alerts, fall detection (via an accelerometer), a locate mode that offers proximity and direction, an activity tracker for pets (for super obsessive dog parents, we suppose), remote monitoring via the base station, and integration with the IFTTT alerts service.
Bento claims they have a working prototype, which will begin shipping in April worldwide on a first come, first serve basis. Early crowdfunders paid $99 for the two modules and a charger (retail to be $129), while the full system including a base station will eventually retail for $250.
The company is fairly certain they can hit their ship date, having already done a lot of the legwork of finding and partnering with manufacturers when working on the above-referenced earlier medical device.
Though in bootstrapping mode for now, Bento says that they’re now in talks with the medical device’s angel investors for additional seed funding.