Like all parents with children of any age, I am constantly concerned about the whereabouts of them. Whether it means keeping an eye on my 8-year-old son out of the bedroom window while he plays lamppost to the lamppost on the street or my 14-year-old son who roams all over town. There have been more than a few stories of attempted child abductions in our area, which is terrifying as a parent, not to mention children that go missing for a few days, sometimes longer!
I've never really thought about doing anything about it, until the recent tragedy in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert. Having got the news over social media just before bed that night, I couldn't sleep. I remember staying up most of the night with the news on listening to how devastating the attack had been, and how so many children were still unaccounted for. Parents were desperately trying to find children. Some children had been taken in by hotels where they waited for people to get in touch. Messages were going out all over social media pleading with parents or family members of the event-goers to get in touch with the relevant hotels to see if their children were there.
And I remember sitting there, amongst the chaos on the news and thinking to myself, in this day-of-age how is it we don't have something in place to track where our children are at all times! We have devices that tell us how far we've jogged, how many calories we've burnt, how fast our heart is beating, but not something that simply says, your child is currently here! If children had had something like that on their wrist during this event then parents would have instantly known where they were and been able to track them immediately. Likewise, if someone's child was unfortunate enough to be abducted, then parents and the police would instantly be able to track the criminal down, saving valuable time.
Having had the idea, I thought to myself there must already be something like that out there. What I found were three general types of alternatives, none of which really did the job I was looking for.
Mobile Phones: The first and most obvious alternative is a mobile phone, something most teenagers of our age carry about now anyway. And yes, there are indeed a lot of apps that offer GPS tracking. However, I see three issues with mobile phones. The first is the price, phones are expensive, not all parents have the kind of money spare to buy their children phones with GPS technology built in.
The second is the child's age, whilst teenagers having a mobile phone is quite common, younger children having phones is not. Most parents wouldn't trust their children with an expensive phone as they would be likely to lose it or break it. Frighteningly, it could actually make your child a target for vandals who may perceive taking a phone from a young child as easy pickings.
The third issue is if a child is abducted then it is highly probable that the first thing the abductor would do is dispose of the phone, aware of its ability to track as well as its obvious ability to contact parents and the police. If that happened then the phone would be of no use when it came to tracking the child.
GPS Watches: There is a variety of GPS watches out there, usually costing around £100-£200, so they're still quite expensive. However, the issue with these is their very bulky and not too comfortable, I almost imagine a big bulky colourful watch would be a "cool" teenagers worst nightmare.
Bluetooth Wristbands: These are the budget friendly option, available for anywhere between £5-£20. They're also probably considered to be far more fashionable than the watches. The problem with these is also the reason they're so cheap, the tracker works by Bluetooth rather than GPS. This greatly reduces the distance you can be away from the wristband and still successfully track it. The greatest distance I've seen on a Bluetooth wristband is around 100 meters, which would be great if your child walked off during a fayre or a shopping centre, however, if your child was out of town and became in trouble, or if your child was abducted then it is highly likely they would be out of distance of the tracker.
I want to create a product very similar to the Bluetooth Wristbands, except it would need to run off of GPS. This would undoubtedly put up the price slightly, my aim would be to make it available for £19.99 at the most. This would be the perfect product for a number of reasons:
Look: The plastic wristband would be fashionable for kids of all ages, similar to the plastic wristband craze that went round some years ago. Furthermore, if the child was abducted, then a plastic wristband is unlikely to raise suspicion like a phone or watch would, allowing police and parents to track the location of the child.
Cost: As stated above, the RRP is unknown until creation and manufacturing are taken into account. The price would be kept as low as possible, however, and our aim to have it selling for £19.99 at the most. This would allow far more parents to invest in one than a costly phone would. I would rather have the watch manufactured in the UK so that the money raised here goes back into the country, however, depending on the difference in cost, the device could be created in China, which may cut costs and enable us to keep out RRP low.
GPS v Bluetooth: The device would have to be GPS. This means the band could be tracked all over the country, indeed all over the world, this is far better than the Bluetooth alternative which can only track locally. GPS would make the band perfect for kids going to concerts, going on holiday or going out of town. GPS also means that if a child was abducted or lost then police and parents could instantly track the band, no matter where the abductor took the child. To have the band trackable by GPS will be more expensive than Bluetooth, however, GPS is effectively fee, so the cost will lie in putting the technology into the band, which we hope to keep below £20.
Battery life: The battery life would have to be substantial, with a minimum of at least 24 hours battery life, though a few days would be more suitable. A minimum of 24 hours means that the band could be charged every night.
Though there are a variety of other options that could be considered for this device such as a digital interface, a clock, a warning siren, a digital perimeter option, etc. These are all costly add-ons that would no doubt raise the price of the RRP which is something we want to avoid.
A couple of add-ons we will consider though is a Q-code on the band with the child's details embedded within the code so that if any strangers familiar with a Q-code come across the child, they can scan the code and find out their details such as telephone number, address, etc. Another option is an SOS option if the child is in trouble they can hold a button into the band which will alert the parents. Once again though these are both options that will negate the simplicity of the wristband. The ultimate aim is to create a wristband which doesn't draw attention to itself but does allow parents to track their child's in case of an emergency.
Any money raised for this great cause will initially go towards the design and the production of the wristbands. Marketing will initially take place over social media for free, using a network of supportive parents to share the word of the product. Any money left over from the design and the production will go into paid advertising.