Trax: The Smart Way to Monitor Kids and Pets

Trax

Thanks to smartphones equipped with GPS we’re constantly reporting our position to social media, employers or anyone else who’s interested. Being tracked is simply a part of everyday existence for most of us. But what about the precious things in your life that you want to track, your pets or your children perhaps? Buying the cat an iPhone is a bit over the top – quite aside from the fact that they’re hard to use with paws.

The answer may lie in the Trax. Claimed to be the world’s smallest and smartest GPS tracker it allows you to monitor its location via a smartphone app. It’s waterproof and comes with a clip that can be attached to a pet’s collar, a child’s coat or whatever you want. In addition to location tracking it has a sensor that monitors speed and direction which means it can alert you if it’s dropped or if it exceeds a certain speed – so you’ll know if the dog has secretly got itself a motorbike.

The Trax app is available for Android and iOS. If you’re worried about the kids straying too far from home, it lets you draw virtual geo-fences on a map and can tell you when the Trax unit strays over the boundary.

Whilst its aimed at parents and pet owners, and could see an end to those photocopied pictures of missing moggies taped to lampposts, we can think of a few other uses too. Leave Trax in your car and you’ll always know where you parked it. Attach it to your partner and you’ll know if he’s really working late at the office or if he’s just sneaked off to the pub.

The Trax is due to be launched in September at a price of €185 which includes two years of data and roaming across the EU, US, Canada and Australia. If you think your dog is headed for South America, therefore, you’ll lose touch with him once he’s across the border.

You can find out more and register your interest at http://trax4you.com/

C5 Childs Tracker Watch: Forget big brother, big mother is watching you

Tracker-Watch

When children are little, it’s reasonably easy to keep your eye on them – you can attach them to a strap on both your wrists, strap them in a buggy, or hold on to their reins. Once they’re bigger, Take2Teq is offering a new solution in the form of the C5 Childs GSM GPS Tracker Positioning Watch Phone.

When your kids are older, how do you know where they are? Sure, you might keep an eye on them, but if you take them to festivals (a more and more popular pastime in the summer for families), or for days out, what happens if you get separated? And if they are at secondary school and have a journey to make, and after school clubs to go to, how can you keep track of where they are?

That’s where the GPS GSM Tracker Phone Watch comes in. The phone allows parents to keep track of their child using a smartphone. The makers say that the watch not only offers the child a discrete way to send an instant alert should they be in trouble but also to make and receive calls to up to four set numbers.

This makes it a good in-between product for anyone who doesn’t want their child to have a mobile phone – for whatever reason –while offering them a communication device to use in event of problems.

The phone watch has a SIM card and parents can locate their child using the ‘On Demand GPS location’ function. This will send the GP co-ordinates of the child to the pre-set mobile phone numbers – you might choose parents, childminder and best friend’s parent, for instance.

A total of six waypoints can be inputted, showing entry and exit time from the waypoints, which are sent to the guardian numbers.

There is also an intelligence voice monitoring function, which lets parents covertly dial into the watch and listen in, although this sounds a bit too big brother for my liking.

If you’re out shopping, or at a theme park, for instance, there is a bluetooth tethering function, which sends an alert message if the pairing or connection drops out, which happens when the phone and watch are more than 10m apart.

The watch also acts as an MP3 player and comes in a number of colours. It costs £74.40 from www.take2teq.com.

1stFone Mobile for 4-9 Year Olds

1stfone

Gadgets don’t tend to cause a lot of controversy. Their uses and applications may be called into question sometimes, but an actually device is usually free from any condemnation or disapproval. However you get the feeling that a mobile phone aimed at four-to-nine-year-olds would cause quite a stir…and it has.

Called the 1stFone, this back to basics cellular device is designed to connect a child with their parents or guardian in times of despair. It’s compact, screen-free design features no text or Internet capabilities but can store up to twelve contacts for every eventuality.

“In a world dominated by smart phones, parents face a difficult choice when it comes to finding a first phone for their child,” said Tom Sunderland, founder of 1stFone creator OwnFone. “We wanted to design a fun product that appeals to children but puts parents in complete control and minimises usage while still providing a vital connection between parent and child.”

According to the company, 1stFone aims to reduce the risks of text bullying or being exposed to harmful material online. It will also provide children with a vital contact to loved ones while playing outside, walking to school or at a friend’s house.

In terms of the actual device, it is actually quite a clever and well thought out design, obviously created for ease-of-use. 1stFone is also delivered pre-programmed with a parent’s desired names and numbers ready to go straight out of the box.

Needless to say, 1stFone has sparked anger and fury among parent groups and campaigners. Critics believe that OwnFone is simply trying to commercialise children and make money out of paranoid parents. Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums.com commented: “Marketing mobiles to pre-school children is wrong. No four-year-old needs their own phone as they should never be left alone or in a situation where they need to ring an adult.”

It’s somewhat difficult to take a definite stance on the subject. One certainly hopes that OwnFone’s main intention is to protect children from harm and provide essential assistance in a difficult situation rather than benefit from the commercial potential of worried parents. Regardless of personal opinion, it seems like even the youngest of children will be exposed to technology sooner rather than later.

Carrot Car Insurance: Driving Costs Down for Kids

Carrot-Car-Insurance

First timer drivers face a Herculean task when it comes to getting insured on their first car. At the moment the Bank of Mum and Dad is the easiest way to get a son or daughter insured on a reasonable car without paying a fortune on insurance premiums – but this also means Mum and Dad’s well earned no claims can also be on the line.

But there is another way: Carrot Insurance; and the clue is in the name. Carrot Insurance utilises a unique carrot-and-stick model whereby young drivers are rewarded by safe driving with monthly cash rewards reducing the overall cost of insurance depending on how safe their driving has been every 3 months.

Using a telematics unit – the i-box – Carrot has created a bespoke driver feedback platform that offers total transparency and a genuine opportunity for the customers to feel fully engaged in the process of driving safety.

The i-box is supplied and fitted to your car at no additional cost by a member of Carrot’s expert mobile installations team, making sure the box is installed within two weeks of your policy start date. And as soon as it’s done and the i-box is activated, the Carrot send customers an exclusive Carrot Card prepaid MasterCard, which is loaded with a £20 welcome bonus – and the card is then used by Carrot to pay cash rewards to drivers depending on your quarterly driver score.

Carrot-Insurance-Laptop

Drivers using the system have access to their Driving Style score via an online dashboard, meaning you can see the impact on every journey has on the overall scoring and value of cash rewards you can earn. Carrot has also implemented a social media focus, meaning users can post their Driving Style scores across on Facebook and see how they compare with their friends and family.

The way the score is a worked out is by monitoring driving style such as acceleration, braking, swerving, and the number, and length of journeys, made. This information is then compiled into three categories – speed, smoothness and usage – those are then combined to an overall Driving Style score, from which quarterly rewards are calculated, with customers being able to earn up to a maximum of 15% off their annual premium via cash rewards.

“We’re finding that the combination of lower premiums, generous Driving Style cash rewards, refer-a-friend rewards and further cashback from our retail partners offers something really refreshing and genuinely appealing to young drivers.”

Ed Rochfort, Carrot Insurance

At the outset, policyholders choose their annual mileage – between 3,000 and 7,000 to start with – but can buy Top-Up miles should they need more. This enables them to pay only for the miles they need, helping them get on to the road much more affordably in the first place.

A £20 welcome bonus is paid to every customer that receives a Carrot Card at the inception of his or her policy and is paid subsequently as a reward for having their i-box installed and activated. If the policyholder improves on their Driving Style starting score, cash rewards are paid on to a Carrot prepaid MasterCard card at the end of each quarter.

The Carrot Card enables the holder to earn cashback when used at a network of high street retailers, including Topshop, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Halfords and Zizzi – making their cash rewards go even further.

A £40 cash reward is also paid to the customer for each friend that goes on to buy a policy as a result of Carrot’s unique Facebook App

Parentsaround: Keep an eye on your kids online

One of the big worries for parents is what their children are doing online – what they’re viewing, who they’re talking to and so on.

Once your kids hit a certain age, even with the best will in the world it’s hard to watch them every second, which is why a new multi-device parental control system has been introduced.

Parentaround

Parentsaround lets parents supervise their children’s use of smartphones, PCs and Android tablets remotely via their own computer or smartphone.

The system, which is being shown at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month works with Windows and Android. Monitoring is carried out using parentsaround.com’s administration console. Parenst are able to track each child’s connection, filter internet use, control what time of day their children use devices and – the ultimate veto – disconnect the device from the internet!

The parental-control solution features Rapid Host Validation, an technology developed by Parentsaround that allows efficient internet filtering by analysing both words and images, as well as categorising websites.

The makers, French company Parentsaround, say that Parentsaround.com is quick to download and easy to install, as it only takes 10 seconds. The software is available from the company’s secure  internet portal and from the Google Play Store.

There is also a support forum for parents on the website www.parentsaround.com. Users can use the service free for a month, and then a subscription applies. A single licence equips 10 PC and Android devices, which can be located at different addresses. The ZEN subscription costs €2.99 a month and can be cancelled at any time using the admin control, and the ECO subscription is €29 a year and is payable in full when the order is placed.

Parentsaround is also being sold as a control solution to mobile-telecoms operators who would like to offer this service to their customers.

Last-minute kids’ Christmas gadgets

Is Santa still looking for a few treats for the children/teens in your family?

Here are a few neat ideas that should put you in the favourite uncle/auntie category well into the New Year (which means you get first dibs on their Christmas sweet stash!)

ruckjack

If you’re buying for children aged around five to seven, and they have access to a computer, it’s very likely they will be Moshi Monster fans. In which case, this Ruckjack could be right up their street. Is it a rucksack, is it a jacket? It’s both – and they can even go online and create their own design, choosing colours and finishes. You don’t have to have the Moshi Monster lining of course, but what little Monster fan would deny themselves?  And if you have a child who hates wearing a coat, they can slip it off, turn it into a rucksack, and pop it onto their back while they scoot/cycle home.

The Ruckjack comes in sizes 3-12, costs £29.99 and can be ordered from www.miioon.com

Blue-Bird-Mini

Angry Birds fans can bring their favourite furious feathered friends from the screen to real life with one of these Angry Birds Speakers from Gear4.

The ever-raging Red Bird Space, Blue Bird, Black Bomber Bird, Red Bird and explosive Lazer Bird all work with any smartphone, music player, or tablet and have a 3.5mm headphone jack. The speakers feature expandable bass twist function for stronger audio quality and are able to link with multiple speakers, so you could have a string of your favourite birds blasting out your top tunes.

The lithium battery can be charged for two hours to give eight hours of playback.

Priced between £29.99 and £34.99 from www.gear4.com

Penguin-Speaker

More avian-themed speakers are available from Kitsound – this time in the shape of a less angry-looking penguin or cute owl speaker. These speakers will plug into a smartphone, MP3 player or tablet and come in a bundle of three products – headphone, phone sock and speaker for £14.95 from www.phones4u.co.uk

Need to make that homework more appealing? How about treating them to a fun coloured wireless mouse – just for them? Might be just the incentive they need to get down to work. The Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 comes in red, pink or blue as well as glossy black or white and the makers claim it will work on any surface – so the bedroom carpet should be fine! It is designed to be used by left- and right-handers and has rubber side grips for better handling. The mouse costs £29.99, for more details log on to www.microsoft.com/hardware.

Finally, we all know dogs are not just for Christmas, but here’s one pet that won’t need walking, feeding or taking to the vets.

Tech-Pet-Kids

Just put your iPhone or iPod touch into the TechPet body and watch it transform into a friendly pet dog robot! It will move just by hearing your voice or seeing your hand waving, you can play games and music on it and it will even play with other TechPets.

In sitting mode, the TechPet can be used as a music player; put it in trick mode to teach it new tricks, and you can even customize its face – use your own pictures as TechPet’s face via ‘Face Morph’ if you want!

The TechPet is £59.99 from Toys R Us, John Lewis, Argos, Amazon, and The Entertainer. For more details head to www.facebook.com/BandaiUK

Xmas gadgets you can play with when the kids have gone to bed

Hands up anyone who’s bought their one-year-old son a Scalextric for Christmas – just so you can play with it yourself – yes, we know who you are. And you’re not alone, so we’ve put together a few other treats that the kids will love finding in their stocking in Christmas morning, and which you can play with once they’re tucked up fast asleep on Christmas night.

kurio-10

Let the kids loose with their own tablet. The Kurio is a safe and versatile Android tablet for families. In seven- and 10-inch models it will keep kids and adults entertained with a range of preloaded games such as Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Fruit Ninja, plus it can be used to watch movies, read books and listen to music. The special bumper ensures it can withstand the odd knock too. The tablet features the KurioGenius Advanced safe web filtering, time control lock and the easy-to-use Parental Area, which can be set for up to eight different profiles ensuring content is appropriate for the whole family.

It appears in the Top Ten Christmas Toys by John Lewis, was voted Best Of Show at this year’s Toy Fair on the recommendation of The Gadget Show, given a 5-star rating by Android magazine and Best Overall Toy by Right Start magazine

The 7in Kurio retails at £149.99 and the 10in Kurio at £199.99.

attacknid

Battling Robots! Okay they’ve moved on a bit since the Raving Bonkers boxing robots from the 70s.  Attacknids are battling robots that can move 360 degrees and are remote controlled. The legs have been designed to move quickly and spring-loaded battle armour can be attached easily but only falls off when hit by an opponent. A 2GHx chip means you can connect up to 40 Attacknids for multiplayer awesomeness. They’ve already won awards and been named in the Toys R Us Top Twenty Terrific products for 2012. They cost £69.99 from Toys R Us and other retailers. More at www.combatcreatures.com

Space-Tablet

Find out about space with the National Geographic Space Tablet, a sleek and high tech looking device which offers young explorers an introduction to other worlds. Touch the icons to find fascinating facts, then test your knowledge in the quiz. For ages 4+, the tablet costs £19.99 from John Lewis and Shop Direct.

Razor-E90

Scooters have gone electric this year – if you want to pop out to the corner shop early on Boxing Day hop on the kids’ Razor 90. For ages eight and above, this electric scooter has a push button start and foot brake if they need to slow down. £149.99 from Toys R Us.

lego-technic

Get your haul on with the Lego Technic Logging Truck (£99.99). Use the Power Functions control box for some serious lifting action. This massive model also has functioning steering, doors and hood that open, plus a detailed engine bay with working piston engine. Should you want to demolish hours of building joy within seconds, the 1,308 pieces can be rebuilt into a container truck with snow-plough! More at Technic.LEGO.co.uk

drone

If you’ve got teenagers, how about the v929 Turbo Drone RC Quadrocopter from Paramount Zone? This remote control copter is suitable for ages 15+, and has LED lights and boasts the latest in Quad-Rotor technology. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use it’s pretty speedy and with a little practice it’s even possible to completely flip the ‘copter 360 degrees midflight! £49.99 in delivery from ParamountZone.com

Dandy Digital: Downloadable Desperate Dan

There once was an ordinary young boy called Eric but when Eric bit into a banana, an amazing transformation occurred. Eric is Bananaman!

Old dogs may not be able to learn new tricks but 75 year old comics are certainly capable of moving with the times. After being a printed publication since 1937, the Dandy, Britain’s longest running comic is going digital.

Dandy-Digital

If you want to introduce your children and grandchildren to Desperate Dan and Keyhole Kate – or if you’ve never really stopped being a fan – you will now be able to grab new copies of the Dandy from www.dandy.com.

“We all know how popular digital devices have become with children so we’re drawing on our traditional heritage and updating our product to make it relevant for today’s children.

Craig Ferguson, Editor of the new Dandy

Digital comics are hard to get right and the Dandy have taken an interesting tack. Each original comic strip allows readers to click through at their own pace, with a panel-by-panel format to retain the comic book feel. In addition, each week there will also be interactive games embedded within the stories. The launch issue includes a Bananaman game and Dandy Dollop – a digital pet that you can feed, dance and play with. On top of all that there will be a joke shop, and a Dandy TV Show with game reviews, celebrity interviews and a ‘News at Dan’ round-up presented by television presenter and comedian Chris Cohen.

“The ‘Digital Dandy’ will pave the way in a new era for comic books in the UK, utilising the latest technological advancements and bringing the much-loved comic to a new generation of fans with technology that will work across different platforms.”

David Bain, Head of Digital Development

Issue zero of the digital Dandy launches as the last printed edition hits the newsstands, and will be available online, initially just for PC and Mac although a tablet and smartphones version is in the works. The print edition is going out with a bang however and will star Sir Paul McCartney. Apparently in 1963, McCartney (then aged 21) was asked by music magazine NME to name his personal ambition. The response, of course, was to appear in The Dandy and 50 years later he’s finally made it. I’d like to be in the Beano. See you in 2062.