In 1970s Birmingham, geo-locating your child required a chance sighting by Jim, the builder. Getting a message home meant cycling home to say it. And wrists were unencumbered, free to be Chinese burned by your sister or pencilled in as prime real estate for a 1980s calculator with very small buttons.
Thankfully those miserable days are over. Actually they’re still here if you bought a Samsung Galaxy Gear, but for our young digital savages – or is that natives? – the wrist phone is here. Nearly.
A fully funded project on Kickstarter, Tinitell, is set to put a kids’ wrist phone into production. A Swedish project, these cunning plastic beasties incorporate GPS so you can pinpoint your child’s location, and are fully managed from the web or an app so that calls in and out can be locked down to specific numbers. They’ll last a week on standby and feature voice recognition. In short they’re very, very smart, and you can get one by pledging just ¢99 (about £60), plus the cost of a cheapo Pay as You Go SIM. Here’s the promo video:
Awesome monsters, eh? And groovy Swedes, too, making me feel all depressed and miserable about my sad (sub)urban lifestyle.
And therein lies the problem, for me at least (beyond the fact they look a bit like a Peckham Rolex). If I lived in the country and my kids roamed the fields until it was time to call them in for home-baked goods and a glass of milk from Daisy – and how I wish that were so – then this could work. As soon as Vodafone improves its reception in the Lake District.
But that’s not life as I know it, or for many I know. I’m no helicopter dad, but by the time my daughters are old enough to be out and about in the neighbourhood they’ll be way too old to be wearing something that looks like this. There’s no actual watch included in the design yet – you’ll have to call them up to tell ’em what time it is. Doubtless an analogue clockface would actually boost the ridicule factor even higher, but even without it I reckon they’d get laughed out of the bus shelter.
To be more specific, I’d guess Tinitell are pitching this at 6-10 year olds, approximately. Not many kids of that age are allowed to roam beyond their parents’ sight round here. And at the upper end, 10-year-olds can be pretty harsh on their peers if the brand or look isn’t right (read: isn’t worn by their TV role models). And at a time when most children are wanting to snip the apron strings, a prominent reminder that mum and dad are monitoring your every move might not do you any favours in class 6G.
I’d really like to like Tinitell. It’s innovative and affordable, and I hope it succeeds. With an open SDK, it’s likely that developers will find ways to use it that might just bring it into play. But for now it’s just not for me or my family. Oh, and you can’t write 8OO813S on it either.