Feature Story

The Market for Children's Wearables Heats Up

by Anne Field

More startups are targeting the market for children's wearable technology.

Undoubtedly, you've heard about the booming market for wearable tech. These devices, often worn on the wrist, can tell you anything from your heart rate to whether your dog is resting. (Your pooch would probably be sporting the gadget on its collar).

Recently, however, there's been more activity in a sub-category within the market: children's wearables.  It makes sense. While consumers have expressed some  skepticism about the continued appeal of devices that , say, report  on how well you've slept, it's a no brainer to see the attraction for parents who might want to know their baby is safely snoozing upstairs.

Here's a look at three such products:

Keep Your Family Close

For many a pre-schooler, the open floor of a big store packed with irresistible clumps of clothing hung on racks is nothing less than an invitation to run as far away as possible and hide. If you've ever been in charge of such a child, then you know the excruciating panic that ensues when you look up, only to find that your toddler has disappeared.

That's the problem the makers of the Kiband, seek to address. A device for children age 18 months to 7 years, it was designed by Spencer Behrend, a computer tinkerer and the father of five in Provos, Utah, after a fateful Fourth of July parade when his two-year-old disappeared into the crowd for several terrifying minutes. "I decided there had to be a better way," he says.

See Also: Wearables and the Next-Gen Wardrobe

After experimenting with a variety of approaches, Behrend decided the most efficient was to focus on maintaining parents' line of sight. You put the device on a child's wrist—it can only be removed by an authorized person—and set the parameters for how far your little one can wander, up to 200 feet. If the child veers too far off course, the device vibrates and sends off an alarm. You also can see on your computer or smart phone screen in real time how far a child, represented by a tiny icon, has moved in relation to where you are.

With $35,000 raised through business plan competitions and a crowdfunding campaign, Behrend and three fellow co-founders plan to ramp up production soon, so the $120 product can go on sale this summer.

 Head Saver                                                                                  

Concussions or lesser head injuries are pretty common among child athletes. And often, kids are hurt more seriously than first meets the eye. Enter the Jolt, a sensor in the form of a small wearable clip that attaches to helmets, baseball caps, headbands or other gear and tracks head motion in real time. (The inner layer is made of a highly impact-resistant modified polycarbonate and a cushioned, rubberized outer layer). The device can sense anything from a head snapping when a child is hit in the chest to the impact of a baseball speeding at full throttle and landing at the back of that athlete's head. When there's a lower level of impact, it vibrates, helping kids learn to be more aware of how they're playing. For a more significant hit or a number of smaller impacts in a short period of time, the sensors react more forcefully, letting players know they should go to the sidelines and alerting coaches and parents what just happened.  

See Also: Focus-Connected Consumer

Benjamin Harvatine started working on the device while still a junior at MIT studying mechanical engineering and architecture, following a bad concussion he experienced during a wrestling meet that landed him in the hospital. In 2013, a year after graduating, he quit his job to work on Jolt full-time. He and his co-founder, a fellow MIT graduate who studied electrical engineering and computer science, won a $50,000 Arch Grant in St. Louis last year and moved operations there. They expect to start shipping the product by the end of the year.

The one stumbling block, according to Harvatine, is soccer and basketball, especially for boys, since there's no required head gear. Still, he says, "If Lebron James can play with a headband, so can they."

 A Child's-Eye View 

The idea behind Bibayo, is to let parents see the world from their toddler's point of view—literally. Based on devices for extreme sports enthusiasts, it's a waterproof clip-on device with an accelerometer, video and camera lens, and microphone that records and takes pictures of whatever the child is looking at. Then the material can be sent via wi–fi to a computer and turned into a keepsake for parents. It also creates a graph that charts, for example, how far the child has traveled. "You can share their activities from an angle we don't typically see," says founder Sean McCostlin.

The company is based in Bath in the U.K., where McCostlin, a former Californian, lives. He plans to market the product in the U.K. before entering the states. He's creating a prototype now for the gadget, which will sell for around $100.                       



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