Meet Miiya: a kids wearable that’s being designed to nudge kids to be more active, while also offering security features for parents to help alert them if their child has wandered too far away. It’s aimed at children aged from four- to 10-years-old, and is currently in development, as its French makers seek to raise $50,000 via the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform to get the device to market this year.
Encouraging kids to share more about what they did that day with their parents is the third gentle nudge being planned for Miiya. If it makes it to the market the wearable will include a feature where kids can choose to tag a particular location to send it to their parents — viewable via a timeline on the Miiya companion smartphone app — to help them remember to tell mum or dad about whatever cool thing they did in the park/school/their buddy’s house today.
Point being that the child gets to choose when to tag and share something, rather than being perma-tracked wherever they go.
That said, Miiya’s makers’ plan is also to deliver a daily activity report to mum or dad, based on tracking how active their wearable-wearing offspring has been. Which does sound a tad Big Brotherish, from the kid’s point of view. And therein lies the rub. Kids wearables aren’t without controversy. Concerns focus on the potential intrusion into privacy via techno-enabled, heavy-handed parental surveillance.
GPS tracking of dependents who don’t have a say in the matter is a clear avenue for concern — and one Miiya’s makers are evidently trying to steer away from, although the device does include a GPS and does also include a Bluetooth-powered geo-fencing security feature that can alert parents when kids move too far away from them.
But its makers argue this feature is light-touch child safety rather than heavy-handed parental surveillance, since it is only ever tracking the wearable relative to the parent’s smartphone — rather than constantly tracking the child’s location.
“With [the] Dynamic Safety [feature], parents can leave a lot of freedom to their children. It’s designed in a different way compared to existing GPS tracking systems,” say brothers Frederic and Nicolas Bruneau, the two co-founders of Miiya. “In fact, we are not providing a solution to know if their children are at home or at school but we offer the ability to locate children relatively to them. With such a solution, finding a lost child in a crowded place (indoor and outdoor) is extremely simple.
“Just determine a safety zone on the smartphone app, you will be warned if your child goes too far away. Don’t worry if you forget to change the limits. Dynamic Safety is able to adapt to changing conditions in any environment. Dynamic Safety is based on an exclusive Enerban’s technology mixing Bluetooth Low-Energy and our knowledge of 9-axis tracker.”
The most visible feature of Miiya is its core gamified activity nudge tech, which uses sensors in the wearable and an avatar displayed on the screen to illustrate the wearer’s cumulative daily activity level — and thus to encourage them to be active enough to turn what starts the day as a sleepy avatar into a cloak-wearing superhero. The child is also able to gain in-app gold stars for activity achievements, shared with their parents via the app.
Wearables continue to crop up in all sorts of permutations, giving a variety of forms to a hyped but still emergent space.
How much mass market appetite there is for these devices remains in question. Is there a killer app for wearables? Fitness is the function being flogged hardest at present but there are only so many adults who feel the need to attach a plastic band to their person to quantify how many steps they have taken today.
A class of more pro wearables (and/or devices which clip to sports gear) is emerging to target specific sports or activities in the hopes of gaining traction with particular interest groups by promising to quantify a specialist skill in granular detail — and then building businesses focused on serving the needs of those communities. But those devices are necessarily niche.
Connected wearables designed for kids are arguably a category with a lot more mass market potential and appeal — if their functions and functionality prove compelling enough for parents and kids alike. It’s this sort of child friendly sweet spot that Miiya’s makers are aiming for.
We’ve seen a few other kids wearables already, including the Tinitell wrist-phone and GPS tracker; LeapFrog’s gamified fitness tracker; and the pure play focused Moff’s gesture-based smart toy. Miiya comes off as relatively sensitively designed vs the competition. But has quite a high price-tag for a kids’ category wearable. Early Indiegogo backers can pledge $75 to secure one Miiya, after which the price will step up to $99 apiece.
The team also still needs to raise a bunch of money to get this wearable to market. At the time of writing they’ve raised just over $15,000 of their $50,000 goal, although the campaign is a flexible funding one — which means any money pledged will go to Miiya’s makers regardless of whether they hit their full target.
How far along are they in development terms? The brothers tell TechCrunch their hardware prototypes are “functional” at this point. Battery life is slated to last five to six days on average, depending on use of the Bluetooth and GPS tagging features.
“We are now finishing the integration of all electronics parts in the mechanical casing. The software and app are functional but we still have much to do with building up all the features we want to include in Miiya app,” they note, adding: “We are working with industrial partners to turn it into a shipping product.
“We are building out the tooling, and are making industrial tests. Next step is the certification process. In March, we will start the manufacturing process, and first deliveries are scheduled in May.”