Startup of the Week / HereO: The GPS Watch That Tracks Children

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You know that terrifying, stomach-dropping instant when you look at the spot where your child was standing just a moment before, only to see glaringly empty space? Worry no more: HereO is swooping in to the rescue.

The solution offered by the Israeli company, founded by CEO Gill Mendelson, COO Allon Gladstone and president Daniel Ivesha, is a personal location device for children: a colorful, flexible GPS-enabled wristwatch worn by children that broadcasts their location to the parents.

The information appears on HereO's Family application, which shows the parent the child’s exact location and sends out a warning if the child is not where he or she is supposed to be.

HereO, which builds on a concept similar to vehicle-tracking devices like LoJack or Israel's Ituran, traces its origins to Ivesha's niece getting temporarily lost in a crowded place four years ago.

Ivesha's family is hardly the only one to undergo that unsettling experience. Every year, 950,000 missing-children reports are filed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Ninety-five percent of the children are found.

In Israel, 88 percent of parents said their major fear when they go out in public with their children, especially those aged 6-9, is that the children would get lost, according to a survey conducted by HereO. Forty-five percent of respondents said a child of theirs had gotten lost at least once.

Ivesha, Mendelson and Gladstone had been living abroad, but moved back to Israel to establish HereO, which has eight employees and has raised $900,000 from friends and family so far.

HereO is considered wearable technology, a hot field that is set to take over our technological lives over the next few years. Wearable tech includes products such as smart watches, fitness bracelets and smart glasses like Google Glass. Within the field of personal location devices, HereO is competing with Filip, an American company that raised $20 million and started selling its first product, a wearable watch-phone for kids, six months ago.

So how does the GPS watch work? It broadcasts the child’s whereabouts, accurate to within 50 meters, every few minutes. The watch, which weighs 300 grams and looks like an ordinary digital children’s watch, displays the time and is suitable for children aged 4 to 12. Hidden inside it are an antenna, a battery and a SIM card for cellular communication that can be used in 140 countries.

The major development challenge was miniaturizing the components so that they could be placed inside a watch suitable for a small child, the company's founders say. The watch is waterproof, and the battery has enough power to last between 24 and 72 hours (depending on whether the child leaves his or her usual whereabouts).

The application identifies the areas where the child spends most of his or her time, like home, school and after-school activities. When the child is in these places, the application stops transmitting information, which saves energy. Parents can program the application to notify them every time a child moves from one place to another. The watch can also be used as a distress signal that the child activates by pressing a button, and it notifies the parents when the child takes it off.

The watch is being tested by several dozen families in Israel, Europe and the United States. At the same time, it is hoping to raise $100,000 from the general public in an Indiegogo campaign. The campaign’s goal is to bring the product into mass production. As part of the campaign, the watch can be ordered in advance for $99. After the watch goes on the market in September, it will be available for $150. There will also be a cost of $4-$5 for the communications package.

In addition to producing the GPS watch, HereO seeks to become the location manager for all members of the family with its Family app. Older children who have smartphones can download the application, which provides information on their whereabouts. Also, the application allows all hooked-up family members to see each other's location figure out transportation logistics (like picking up family members).

Don't you want to know where the BatKid is flying off to?Credit: Yoni Reif
HereO GPS-enabled watches to keep track of the kids.Credit: Yoni Reif
HereO founders, from left: Allon Gladstone, Daniel Ivesha and Gil MendelsonCredit: Yoni Reif