Wearables continue to be an area of focus for device makers, large and small. Here’s another would-be entrant to the space: Tinitell is a wearable phone and GPS tracker for kids, with electronics small enough for the whole device to be strapped to a toddler’s wrist.
It’s the work of a Swedish startup, founded last year, which has taken to Kickstarter to raise $100,000 to turn its prototype into a shipping commercial product by April next year. At the time of writing they are just shy of $30,000 pledged, with 29 days left of the campaign to run.
As well as being small, Tinitell is designed for basic operation. This connected wearable doesn’t have a screen on the device itself, with just a hardware button to activate the interface, and voice recognition to summon a particular contact.
Say ‘Mum’ and it will call the assigned number based on that pre-recorded voice label. There is also a way to cycle through contacts manually, using physical volume keys, and wait until the device has spoken the name of the contact you want to call.
The voice interface is based on matching what’s being said to pre-recorded name labels, rather than being fully fledged voice recognition software — which helps keep the processing power requirements down.
Contacts are added to the device via Tinitell’s website or via an app. This also allows for parents to manage who can contact their child’s device, and also locate it on a map should they need to.
Tinitell takes a 2G GSM SIM for connectivity, to power the voice calls and GPS tracking. It’s battery powered, and apparently good for an hour’s talk time on a single charge or seven days on standby. It’s also water resistant and sandbox proof, to ensure it’s robust enough for outdoor child’s play.
“I came up with the idea for Tinitell when I was hanging out with a friend who is also a father,” says founder Mats Horn. “His son wanted to go outside and play, but he didn’t have a cell phone. He had lost a cell phone once before, and we didn’t feel like lending out our smartphones. Worst of all, we couldn’t join him outside because we were busy cooking dinner. His son ended up playing in his room with his iPad, and I thought that was sad.
“I loved being outside when I was a kid… This led me to think there should be a simple mobile phone for kids, nothing advanced, just a nicely designed speaker and microphone to handle quick ‘hellos’ and ‘come heres’.”
Horn argues that market for a simple mobile for kids is “largely untapped” — although it must be said that there are a lot of kids phones already out there. But the wearable aspect of Tinitell gives it the advantage of being harder for the child to lose than a phone. It’s also arguably less obtrusive than other GPS tracker systems for parents to keep tabs on kids, such as Locca. Whether those are big enough advantages to get parents flocking to buy Tinitell remains to be seen.
Wearable devices are certainly going through a sort of Cambrian Explosion of incarnations at present, as companies try to figure out the use cases and form factors that stick. (On the not-going-to-stick front, I’m pretty sure you can write off the ridiculously unwieldy Rufus Cuff, for one.)
Tinitell’s bet is there is space for dedicated connected kids’ wearables. And they are not the only startup to think so — the Moff Bluetooth bangle is a wearable toy that augments the gestures of play with sound effects. There’s also the Guardian Bluetooth Low Energy-powered tracker wristband, also designed specifically for parents to keep tabs on kids.
Cost is likely to be a key factor in whether these kids’ wearables flourish or perish. Tinitell is being offered to early Kickstarter backers starting from $99 — rising to $149 once early pledge levels are claimed. So it’s not exactly cheap.
Tinitell’s Horn says he’s been funding development on the device through private stipends and loans, thus far. The startup also won Sweden’s largest entrepreneurship competition in 2013.