IoT Blog

IoT Technology Gives Parents a Kid-Friendly Tracking and Communication Solution

Benoit Tournier

Benoit Tournier

Director of Marketing, Transportation & IoT Solutions

What’s the best way to keep track of your child that will give you peace of mind and help them learn independence? Many parents don’t have an easy solution to this challenge. Cell phones are essential communication tools for adults, but in the hands of children, they may prove to be an expensive distraction. Plus, some communication tools come with potential security threats that parents want to avoid. IoT technology offers a simple solution to this dilemma: child tracking systems that are designed with communication and safety in mind. By developing this technology to meet a child’s unique needs, we can ensure that our children stay safe throughout the day, without interrupting their valuable playtime. 

Smartphones Are Not Efficient For Keeping Track of Kids 

Cost is a significant consideration for communication systems. Adding forty dollars per child to your monthly cellphone bill and equipping them with a $700 device that often ends up lost on the bus isn’t an attractive investment. Especially when you consider that much of this cost covers functions like Internet access or comprehensive data plans, features that many parents don’t want their children to have access to.

Children can be easily distracted by a smartphone at school or on the playground. One study found that school test scores improved by 6.4 percent when administrators banned smartphones. Meanwhile, test scores for underachieving students rose by an even greater degree — 14 percent. Additional studies have also found that young children tend to experience sleep disruption and injuries related to texting when they use cell phones to communicate. For instance, a distracted child could increase their risk of being injured by a car while texting on a busy street. Similarly, a child walking on an uneven sidewalk could trip and fall because they were focused on their mobile device.

When children own smartphones, they can become distracted by the multitude of apps and features, including texting, phone calls, internet browsing, games and beyond. By designing a communication and child tracking system with fewer available features, you limit these distractions and promote more efficient communication. 

Child Tracking Systems Improve Communication 

This is exactly what Okio accomplished with its Okie-talkie child tracking system. Founders Pia Lozano and Javier Cardona started their company after noticing how few communication tools were available to parents of young children. As parents themselves, they wanted to create a product that would be as unobtrusive as possible, while still offering instant communication with their children. The Okie-talkie uses its own cost-effective data plan to exchange voice chats between parents and children instantly and from any cell phone carrier. 

The device is a discreet clip that attaches to a child’s backpack or clothing. The secret lies within the clip, which features a Sierra Wireless Cat-1 cellular module and Smart SIM. The HL7618 module is part of Sierra’s Modules HL Series, which provides an interchangeable form factor between 2G, 3G, 4G and LPWA technologies. The Okie-talkie is only capable of sending voice messages or texts to an authorized user’s phone, so children can’t be distracted by games or other added features. 

Ready to learn more about IoT-enabled tracking? 

To use the child tracking system, parents sign up for a message plan directly through Okio. The child simply carries the Okie-talkie device on their backpack, pant loop or wrist, and when parents need to get in touch, they can text or voice chat with their child from the Okie smartphone app, which sends their message directly to the Okie-talkie device. The app also converts the child’s voice messages to text, making it easier for parents to read messages from their children while they’re at work. This is a great solution for young children who are still learning how to spell; they simply speak into the Okie-talkie, and parents receive their message via text. 

Addressing Security Needs with New Technology

Child tracking systems and communication tools need to be completely secure from end-to-end, leaving parents with full control over who communicates with their children. Many existing smartphone apps cannot retain this level of security, in part, due to the many endpoint vulnerabilities that exist in a smartphone. If someone wanted to communicate with a child, they could text, call or send a message via a downloaded phone app that uses Wi-Fi internet connectivity in place of a traditional data plan.

In this sense, a child tracking system like Okie-talkie is far more secure than a smartphone. There’s only one available line of communication between the parent and the child, and the parent decides who has access to this line via an opt-in process. The only way for someone to communicate with a child on the Okie app is if the parent gives that user authorization to contact the child. This means that parents, grandparents and babysitters can all have access to the app without worrying about strangers or friends using the device to contact the child. The system also runs on a private device-to-cloud network, making it far more secure than other, more open, forms of communication. 

Portable, Durable Kid-Friendly Devices 

While ease of communication and security are essential features in a child tracking system, these devices must also be sufficiently durable to keep up with a young child’s lifestyle. Kids run, jump and climb playground equipment all day, and they don’t want to become overburdened by bulky hardware. You can’t use a child tracking system that’s too small and delicate either, as children could lose the device or break it. Devices like Okie-talkie are designed specifically for a child’s lifestyle, featuring portable, rugged modules that don’t break easily. The Okie-talkie’s rugged design is such that it won’t add lots of weight to the device. The device also comes with a durable loop that you can tie to a child’s backpack or clothes, making sure that they won’t easily lose it. 

The technology used to connect to the network is also designed for daily use. The Sierra Wireless Smart SIM constantly scans the area for the strongest available signal, ensuring that you’ll receive messages from your child as quickly as possible. Additionally, the efficient network connection and simple design mean that the device requires very little power to run – the battery lasts as long as a week without needing to be recharged. This is an essential feature if you want to stay in constant communication with your child or if you need to give them an important piece of information. 

Looking Ahead to Low-Power Wide-Area Technology

Carriers around the world started to roll out a new standard cellular technology in 2017 called Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA), which will be a perfect fit for applications like tracking that have low data rates and only need to transmit small amounts of data. LPWA is specifically designed to meet core IoT application needs, or the three C’s: Cost (devices and services costs), Current (battery life) and Coverage (reach).

LPWA technologies provide cost savings compared to traditional cellular, as they require much less processing power and less memory. Reduced processing and more opportunities to enter deep sleep result in lower current and longer battery life. Finally, LPWA offers wider coverage by slowing the data rate, so you’ll never lose track of your asset, even when it’s underground or in an area with poor network coverage. LPWA embedded modules are available to start designing with today.

Start with Sierra to find out how you can build your own tracking system from scratch. We offer industry-leading hardware that’s perfectly integrated with our cloud and connectivity platform, allowing you to keep your network secure while offering the most reliable product for your customers to use on a daily basis.

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