Wearables: A “Smart” Alternative for Young Kids


Wearables: A “Smart” Alternative for Young Kids

December 1, 2020

Fifty years ago, parents were comfortable with sending kids outside to play unsupervised. They had the run of the neighborhood – sometimes the entire town – and the only rule was to be home by dinner. The world has changed, and parents have adapted to meet the complexities of the new millennium. They keep a closer eye on little ones when at home, while doing errands, and at large events.

Of course, it isn’t practical or possible to keep children an arm’s length away all the time. That’s especially true as they get older and need more independence to learn and grow. Advances in children’s wearable devices have made it possible to achieve the best of both worlds. Parents have the peace of mind that comes with knowing where their kids are at any given moment, while children have a bit more room to explore the world on their own terms. 

Next-generation kids’ wearables solve the problems that earlier versions presented. Young children don’t need to operate smartphones for the technology to work, and location tracking is more accurate across a larger geography than it has ever been before. 

The Expanding Market for Kids’ Wearables 

The United States is currently the primary market for smartphone-based family locator services. While Americans are as concerned about privacy as their peers in Canada and Europe, they tend to have worries about safety that outweigh their discomfort with family location tracking. Those safety worries are strong enough to overcome objections to pricing, and US consumers are far more likely to enroll in subscription-based services to monitor their children’s movements. 

According to the Swedish M2M/IoT market research firm Berg Insight, there are currently about one million active monthly users in the United States participating in family monitoring programs that charge a monthly fee. These services are typically offered through wireless carriers, though there are a variety of apps available as well. 

The problem with smartphone-based services and related apps is very basic. It’s not practical to expect small children to carry and operate smartphones. The average age at which children own their own smartphone is around 10-years-old. That ignores the safety needs of younger children, who in many regards are more vulnerable. 

That’s where kids’ wearables come in. They monitor children’s locations without the need for youngsters to carry smartphones on their person. Considering there are approximately 50 million children between the ages of 3 and 7 in North America and Europe, the addressable market for kids’ wearables is massive. 

Wearables: The Smart Alternative to Smartphones

Kids’ wearables solve the most basic issue that comes with relying on smartphones for tracking. They can be attached to children and left to do their work without any further intervention. Early versions failed to pique consumer interest, because the positioning technology wasn’t as accurate as expected, and parents were tasked with managing batteries that needed frequent recharging. 

Newer versions have solved for the accuracy issue, and they have made power management much more convenient. They are small enough for even the smallest children to wear comfortably, and they are designed with kid-friendly user interfaces. They come in colors and shapes that are appealing to children of all ages, which increases the likelihood that kids will cooperate with requests to keep the devices on and active. 

Many current models are offered in the form of a wristwatch, though there is a selection of kids’ wearables that attach in other ways. Most give parents the option of automatic updates when the child enters or exits a pre-programmed location or at pre-set times that are meaningful to individual families. 

Children’s Wearable Devices: All of the Benefits, None of the Risk 

Some of the kids’ wearable devices on the market today offer functionality beyond basic tracking. For example, they permit two-way calls and messages between parent and child. A limited number even have video chat capability. This feature ensures the most important smartphone benefit is available to families – communication – without risking children’s exposure to the wider internet as a smartphone would. 

Further, a subset of children’s wearable devices goes beyond location services. These products add fitness tracking and task completion features that make other types of fitness trackers and smart devices redundant. This group of products promises to become most popular in families with tweens – children between 9 and 12 – who are on the cusp of being old enough for a smartphone but not quite there.  

Generally speaking, expanded features are found in various versions of a kids’ smartwatch. It isn’t practical to add this technology to box-type trackers. That tends to be a benefit in terms of appealing to children, as they are delighted to have technology that looks and functions in a manner similar to their parents’ and older siblings’ devices. 

The Future of Kids’ Wearables

Concern for children’s safety might be the primary driver of the kids’ wearables trend, but it isn’t the only factor behind increasing demand. Families are accustomed to always-on communication, and they expect the ability to make instant connections with everyone in their circle anytime, anywhere. 

It’s unnerving to have that constant communication interrupted with anyone close, but it is especially disconcerting for parents when they can’t reach the smallest members of their families. Children’s wearable devices give parents visibility into their children’s movements, and some add the option of on-demand communication through text, phone, and video. Overall, that’s a win for families everywhere, and it is likely to be the biggest force behind growing the market for children’s wearables. 

With SafePath IoT, Smith Micro provides wireless carriers with a proven, white-label solution that simplifies the complexities inherent to launching consumer IoT devices, such as wearables for children. Learn why several carriers have adopted SafePath IoT  as the foundation of their IoT strategy >> smithmicro.com/safepath/iot/