Track your family with a new app

An app from SecuraTrac allows parents to monitor their children's whereabouts and set up virtual zones that they have to stay in.

If you're a parent with some overly active children, you may want to consider the SecuraFone application.

SecuraFone

SecuraTrac, a company more used to creating small personal emergency alarms for senior citizens and patients, is trying its hand at a mobile application called SecuraFone. It plans to launch the app--which will be available for the iPhone, as well as on Android, and eventually on BlackBerry and Windows Phone smartphones--later this month. The service will cost $8.95 a month.

SecuraFone doesn't break new ground with its features, but it does bundle them together in a tidy package. The application uses the phone's GPS capabilities to create a log of where the phone has been for the past 90 days. It also allows parents to create "geo-fences," or virtual zones around safe locations such as home or school, and receive alerts when their children enter and exit one. The app also temporarily disables many of the smartphone's functions when it's in a moving car to reduce the risk of distracted driving.

"The dynamic of the SecuraTrac program is the heart and meat behind SecuraFone," said Robert Tomlinson, who runs sales and marketing for the company.

In case of emergencies, SecuraFone will also send first responders and family members directions to the location of the phone.

Tomlinson was quick to dismiss the notion that the app could be used to invade people's privacy, noting that the owner of the phone (presumably a child) has to install the app and give permission to other people (a parent or guardian) before their location can be tracked. The user can also adjust how the alerts are sent, either through a text message or e-mail.

Parents don't have to constantly monitor their kids' location either. They can set up geo-fences around locations that they tend to go to, whether that's home, school, a library or after-school sports facility. Whenever a child enters or exits a geo-fence, the parent gets an alert. Since the daily schedule is fairly rigid, a parent can look at their phone or e-mail to see if there are any missing alerts, which would correlate to a student ditching class or skipping out of basketball practice.

"For younger people in their tweens, it shows a pattern of travel," Tomlinson said.

If parents see a blip on the schedule, they can go back to the travel log to see where their kid was in between hitting geo-fences. Parents can also set a geo-fence around the city or set location so they get alerts if their kid goes too far away.

SecuraFone is also one of many apps that are looking to prevent distracted driving by locking out a phone's functions when the user is going above a certain speed limit. It's similar to Sprint Nextel's own Drive First app , which kicks in when a user goes over 10 miles per hour.

For passengers, SecuraFone lets you override the lockout, although an alert is sent to the parent or guardian. "The distracted driver element is a great piece and well-received in different communities," Tomlinson said.

He added that a number of car insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who install these kinds of apps.

Parents can also set a speed alert, shooting them an e-mail every time their child drives above a predetermined speed limit.

"It opens up a dialogue with the kids," he said. "It gives the child a feeling not so much of big brother, but provides them with a level of family concern."

The speed element can also work with employers who are looking to monitor a fleet of drivers. SecureFone also has an emergency-only option that would send alerts to the employer only in certain instances or when triggered, so employees don't feel like their bosses are constantly watching them, Tomlinson said.

While many of these features are found in other apps, Tomlinson said that SecuraFone is unique because of its ability to always stay on for both Android and iPhone devices. It is constantly running in the background. For better or worse, it's the first screen that pops up when you unlock your device.

At $8.95 a month, SecuraFone is less expensive than other monitoring apps, Tomlinson said. He believes the company will begin to generate more revenue from its app business than its current hardware business, which has largely been for the medically ill or the elderly.

"This is a huge driver for the company," he said.

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Mobile
About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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