Kids and complex electronic devices aren’t exactly known for playing nicely together. However, any tech-forward parent will tell you smart devices are actually really helpful. Want to keep your rugrat quiet during a long car ride? Load a few games and cartoons on your tablet. Want to send him out of the house during those long summer days without worrying where he is the entire time? Apps like GPS Tracking Pro are designed for safety and peace of mind—assuming the kid can hold onto a phone.
To that end, this dawning age of wearables represents the best and worst of the child-gadget relationship. The good news? Manufacturers are already wising up. Kids represent an untapped market, and their parents are the gatekeepers—get on both groups’ good side and great things are bound to happen. Here are four devices that have us excited for the future of wearable tech.
Some smart devices exist as a sort of blank slate—a collection of tools developers can take advantage of to make all kinds of fun stuff. Others, like LG’s KizON (due for stateside launch later this year), come with very specific goals in mind, and a very thorough approach to achieving them.
The chunky, wrist-mounted gadget takes remote supervision to its next logical step by using a built-in microphone to let parents listen in on the world around their child with little more than the press of a button. Monitoring your child’s conversations may or may not be your idea of effective parenting, but getting a spin-free, objective look at the various situations that affect children’s lives (bullying, for instance, or the ever-unpopular mean teacher) would be absolutely huge in terms of peace of mind and building parent-child trust.
It isn’t all about the mic, however. When it comes to tracking, LG has also upped their game considerably by offering parents a location-based reminder service called—wait for it—Location Reminder. With it, moms and pops the world over can set their kids’ daily schedules, giving them the freedom to actively monitor movement without actively staring at their phone screens. As the old saying goes, no news is good news: If Location Reminder doesn’t ping, it means the device (and presumably the kid attached to it) is exactly where it’s supposed to be.
Communication is another key KizON feature. While it feels like most kids can fully operate a smart device by the time they enter preschool, LG’s so-called One Step Direct Call feature works right through the watch—perfect for kids who don’t have phones or attend schools that have banned them. The KizOn also offers a quick, easy way to get in touch with a preset phone number. For parents, the fact that it automatically connects calls if the child doesn’t answer within 10 seconds effectively means the death of the dreaded Reject Call button, because nothing hurts more than having your call screened by your offspring.
Like many parents, my household has a love-hate relationship with LeapFrog. Though their products are pretty cool (and very popular with our young’un), their reliance on expensive accessories and battery-chewing hardware can leave dents in our pocketbooks that go far beyond the initial purchase.
That all said, the company’s LeapBand looks to have a solid chance of combating an all-too-common childhood problem—obesity. Childhood obesity is an issue both here and abroad. A kid-friendly fitness tracker makes perfect sense from a societal and financial perspective. Using a combination of proven concepts (virtual pets, unlock systems, daily challenges, etc.), the device doles out plenty of advice, inspiration, and fun, tapping into a market dominated by adult-oriented devices like the ever-present Fitbit.
However, fun is only one part of the value LeapBand offers kids and parents. Its school mode tracks movement and other fitness activity while acting like a watch, ensuring it doesn’t become a distraction while scholastic tasks are at hand. It’s also durable, with the same chunky plastic aesthetic as the KizON and a drop-resistant design, according to the wristband’s Amazon product description.
Customization is a huge part of smart device ownership, and LeapFrog—who offers downloadable content on many of their gadgets through their LeapFrog Connect service—has certainly paid that aspect its fair share of attention. While this parent isn’t the first to admit he’s been nickel-and-dimed by Scout and company in the past, this PCAdvisor review claims all downloadable challenges/exercises offered through Connect are free.
By offering a child-exclusive fitness device, LeapFrog has shown wearables for kids can pack a serious purpose and that they, as a business, are ready to “move up” to a new tier of products, so to speak. If the trend continues into future releases, expect the company to get at least a little respect as a mobile manufacturer.
Another fitness tracker for kids, the NZN Lit, has a whole different purpose than LeapBand’s. Kids of all ages like action sports, and they certainly don’t need to wait until adulthood to get impressively good at them; combined with the competitive nature of children and the undying human need to quantify all sorts of stats, you have a near-perfect product for skaters and bikers and surfers in all developmental stages.
Unlike traditional athletics, there’s no real way for your neighborhood skate rats to subjectively rate their performance. Lit fixes that by taking the standard pedometer to the extreme. As the gadget’s Indiegogo campaign (which barely eked by its $50k funding goal last year) explains, it was “designed to [account for] unique action sports like surf, skate, snow, moto, MTB, and BMX.” A list on the same page identifies several of these so-called “session” metrics. Skaters, for instance, can track air time and total jumps, while young BMXers can track stuff like G-force and speed.
A gadget like this is obviously useful for anyone on the action sports scene. Even then, the constant, massive popularity of action sports among kids make the Lit a perfect addition to what’s already an excellent childhood hobby. Instead of firing up the latest Tony Hawk game on the old Xbox, kids can create their own, real life competitions; moreover, built-in social media connectivity makes it easy for characteristically large youth social groups to motivate each other.
I’m far from a game-hater, but anything that promotes physical activity by focusing on activities kids already like is a brilliant idea in my book. Don’t kick those street rats off your lawn next time. Tell them to go bug their parents about the Lit instead.
When does a gadget you carry become a wearable? When it’s something younger children are pretty much guaranteed to carry at all times, for starters. Say hello to Teddy the Guardian, a high-tech plush companion aiming to be the coolest techno-bear since a little fella named Teddy Ruxpin.
The focus, as with many wearables for children, comes down to safety and health. Touching the bear’s paw causes it to record a number of vital statistics (oxygen saturation levels, heart rate, and temperature) and send them to the child’s parents and pediatrician via a connected app. The bear can also take and transmit photos of the child, giving guardians and caretakers a visual avenue of inspection.
Though it’s technically useful for any parent or young child, we see kids with ongoing medical problems as the real use cases here. Medical visits of all types can be scary for kids, and even minor tasks like temperature-taking can be invasive and uncomfortable for younger ones. Because of that, automating the process as much as possible and giving the child an ongoing source of comfort isn’t just smart, it’s heart-warming in a very practical way. As we covered in our Wearables for Parents article, novel ways of recording stats (and especially little ones’ stats) are becoming a larger focus in the medical community – here’s hoping this teddy gets the market support it needs to keep kids cozy for a long time.
Though there is some overlap between adult and kid uses in the wearables landscape, there’s also an obvious market for devices built with children in mind. We can only expect the number of devices and uses will continue to grow as the idea of wearables matures. Whatever the future holds, seeing gadget-makers learn from past mistakes (an early lack of child-focused smartphones/tablets, for instance) is a great sign for everyone, and proof that the wearable revolution is well underway. Happy shopping.
Learn more about the future of wearables by reading our Helpful Wearables Trend Report.