Let's be honest: Kids can be a little too easy to lose. Some parents cave and use a safety harness, but who likes to walk their toddlers on a leash? Others buy GPS tracking wearables that clip onto your child's clothing or wrist and send you notifications if they've wandered off. But these gadgets can be expensive and inconsistent.
One developer has upped the ante with a device called Jiobit, which will be available for pre-order this spring. The small, clip-on device combines Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and cellular triangulation in a sort of hybrid system of location tracking that we haven't seen from other kid-tracking products. Jiobit's creators said it will have a 2-month battery life, accurate tracking indoors and outdoors along with machine learning to map the typical patterns of the child over time to notify parents of deviations.
The pricing for the device isn't available yet, but it will require a monthly fee that, according to Jiobit's founder, will "definitely be less than Netflix." (Subscriptions to the streaming service range from $8 to $12 a month in the US.) GPS wearables for children range from $40 to $500 in the US, but Jiobit's representatives said the pricing will probably stay comparable to adult wearables like Fitbit (that's about $130, roughly £100 in the UK and AU$170 in Australia). Add that to a monthly subscription fee, and the price will start to look a little high for many parents.
In addition to pricing, another mystery looms over the Jiobit: Will it work? Location tracking is not easy -- especially in less populous areas. At this point, Jiobit isn't available to test -- but the concept its eponymous company presents is compelling. Its hybrid tracking system, for instance, uses a variety of methods for accurate location tracking, but also to keep battery usage as low as possible. So if the cell signal is low, the Jiobit wearable can ping approved Bluetooth-compatible devices or Wi-Fi networks instead.
Jiobit users can also strengthen this network approach. The Jiobit app will allow parents to invite friends, family members, teachers and others to connect to the network. This will transform their phones into Bluetooth beacons that the wearable can ping for even greater location precision.
Jiobit's other cool feature is machine learning. Over time, the wearable will learn the routes and routines of children who wear it, and alert parents to deviations. That means you'll get an alert if your kid gets off the bus at the wrong stop or leaves school before the day is over.
You can also turn on a "Follow me" mode that helps keep track of your child in places like parks, grocery stores or malls -- where it's easy for a toddler to wander off into the crowd before you can stop them.
I like the idea of Jiobit -- its personalized network, its long battery life and its algorithmic learning. All of these could amount to a device that keeps your kiddo safe without adding to parental anxieties, as some other wearables do. And investors seem to see the same potential; Jiobit just successfully raised $3 million in private investments for its launch this year.