If you’re a parent who’d like to do a better job keeping in touch with your kids when you’re not a home, then a forthcoming product called Ily might be the answer.
Ilan Abehassera, founder and CEO of Ily-maker Insensi, has talked about his vision before, but today he’s demonstrating Ily onstage at TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield at the Consumer Electronics Show. And the product should be hitting the market in the next few months, with a Kickstarter campaign “soon” and a planned ship date in the second quarter of this year.
Abehassera is a father himself, with 3-, 6- and 8-year-old kids. When he travels for work, he said he’s frustrated by the challenge of connecting with his kids. He doesn’t have a landline at home, his wife works as well and his kids are too young to have phones of their own. (The average child in the US gets their first cell phone at 12, he said.) And the scheduling gets even tougher when you think about relatives in other geographies and countries.
Enter Ily, which is designed specifically for family communication. The device includes an 8-inch touchscreen, camera, speakers and a wireless handset. Basically, you can make voice and video calls with it — but only within the family. So parents can call home to check on their kids, or kids can call their grandparents and other relatives without any help.
Those other relatives can buy their own Ily devices if they want, but adults can also connect via Ily’s iPhone, iPad and Android apps. The conversations are saved so you can relive them later, and in addition to voice and video calls, you can use Ily to send text messages, photos and drawings. There’s even an area where you can share pictures with everyone in the family.
“In a nutshell, we are building the family communications platform,” Abehassera said.
So why build hardware at all — why not just offer an app? Abehassera acknowledged that the biggest alternative is probably FaceTiming via iPad, but even then, most iPads are shared between families, and parents probably don’t want their kids to use them unsupervised. For him, at least, that means his parents only end up FaceTiming with their grandchildren once a month on average. Ily, on the other hand, is a device you can feel comfortable giving your kids access to at any time.
The device will retail for $149. The company plans to offer most of its features for no additional cost, but there will also be a $9 per month premium plan with things like controls for specific time windows when kids can call different family members. And while it’s not required, the company will charge $15 per month if you want to use its VoIP capabilities.
As for the size of the market, Abehassera said that in the US alone, there are 24 million families with children under 10. The startup isn’t just selling directly to consumers, either. It’s also planning to work with carriers, retailers and other partners.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where the name comes from, I-L-Y is part of the word “family” and also stands for “I Love You.” Awww.