A joyful link between parents and kids
Designing wearable tech for kids is a challenge. The product has to be durable enough for the playground, and designers have to navigate the thorny privacy issues that come up when collecting data from children. But the biggest challenge may be the changeable nature of kids themselves.
“Kids of different ages are not the same,” says Jeanne Chaumais, founder of C-way. A three-year-old and a ten-year-old have very different needs and interests, and parents are understandably reluctant to invest in technology that a child might outgrow faster than last year’s shoes. That’s why C-way’s first product, a kids’ GPS locator, is designed around swappable modules that can meet the changing needs of its growing users.
The heart of each C-way device is a colorful wristband that houses a GPS unit, rechargeable battery, and cellular radio module. The face of the band is studded with Lego-compatible plastic bumps, which younger kids can use to attach their favorite minifigs or latest creations. Older kids can also attach modules that customize the look of the device, add games like high-tech hide-and-seek, or turn C-way into a basic smartwatch that displays the time, schedule reminders, and text messages from parents.
Chaumais says that kids’ sensibilities drove the design process, even though the core inspiration was to give parents peace of mind. After briefly losing track of one of her own children at an amusement park, she tried out some of the GPS locators that were on the market. But her kids wanted a device they could play with and kept pressing the “panic” buttons included on many wearable locators, which Chaumais says was “more stressful than useful”.
“The notion of an SOS button is very difficult for children,” Chaumais explains. That’s why C-way doesn’t have one — in fact, it doesn’t have any buttons at all. Even the smartwatch-style module has only a basic LCD screen, with no touch controls. “I wanted something very simple,” Chaumais says.
“Our ambition with C-way today is not only to have a product, but to connect kids and parents together,” Chaumais says, and that means balancing a parent’s need for reassurance with a child’s right to privacy. She describes this as part of the deal her company strikes with the children that use the product: Kids want to feel that they can be independent, and Chaumais doesn’t want to enable parents to “police” their children.
However, parents can get alerts if the wristband is removed or if a child moves out of geofenced “safe zones”, and the company does keep the last 24 hours of location data on file (a requirement in France, where C-way is based, to support law enforcement in an emergency).
C-way has been supported so far by angel investors, and is raising additional funds on Kickstarter through October 19. But the company is not depending solely on crowdfunding: “We are going to mass production,” Chaumais declares. She also plans to debut new products at CES Las Vegas in January, which will extend the functionality of C-way to other devices — starting with something that may resemble a bedside alarm clock.
Check out the video below to learn more about C-way.