In this, the first part of our feature on kid’s wearable tech (part two is our round up of the top kid’s wearable tech), we look at the key feature checklist any contender needs to consider for success in this highly competitive, emerging market.
Wearable technology targeted at children has perhaps been overshadowed by the launch of devices like the Apple Watch. But in a world where the health, safety and wellbeing of kids is an ever growing concern, there are a remarkable number of devices racing to launch and dominate a hefty chunk of the $12bn forecast value of the wearable tech market.
Although most devices share a common technology features set, there’s a clear divide in strategy. Many are positioned as child safety devices, while only a few are looking at the potentially high growth area of games and gamification – of particular interest to us – to improve health and physical activity.
In our first of two articles on kids’ wearable technology, we look at what makes a great wearable device for kids. We’ve put together five vital design elements that any device hitting the kids’ wearables market today needs to get right in order to succeed.
1: Dual Design Appeal
The child’s got to want to wear it, but the parent has to want to buy it. This is a challenge we know well – when we design games for kids we also design for their parents. For wearables, the aesthetics of the device have that same dual appeal challenge. Kids and parents both expect devices to look fun, but their definition of fun is not the same. Parents are interested in durability and length of appeal, whereas kids are after relevance and (especially older children) peer approval. Does it even need to look like a watch?
Devices like the FiLIP follow the convention of adult wearable tech, whereas something like Herokins is a wearable device concept firmly presenting itself as a toy. Two very different designs for two very different purposes.
Herokins: wearable tech designed as a toy
2: More Personalisation
We all know playground trends evolve quickly. A lot of devices are expensive and without personalisation they’re going to fall by the wayside quickly. Or worse still, become something that parents impose on their kids.
A lot of devices look like brightly coloured adult wearables. With a few exceptions (check out Paxie) there’s little attempt to allow swappable straps or customisable displays. What about disposable straps that kids can draw on or have their friends augment?
3: Robustness and comfort
We want to see waterproof (most current devices are just splash-proof), shock resistant designs and buttons that won’t get knocked off when the device gets brushed against a playground slide. We also want to see straps that prevent accidental losses but don’t look like restraining devices.
Tinitell: some trackers look like colourful restraining devices
Kid’s activity tracking devices mostly do just that, track their activity. OK, it’s early days, but there’s so much more potential here. There are devices that overtly use games to encourage activity (notably the LeapBand), but there’s so much more that gamified activities can offer by tapping into the competitiveness and love for stats that kids naturally express.
LeapBand: takes a gamified approach to kid’s activity and health
How far can you take gamification of kids’ wearables? New arrivals Powaband think pretty far. They’re planning integration with big name games and even their own closed market place.
5: Tracking technology
Whether it’s for safety or health, tracking technology is at the heart of most of kid’s wearable technology. What’s behind that functionality comes with caveats. Most devices that use the accuracy of GPS require a sim (and a subscription fee) to report their location. Bluetooth is cheaper and easier to implement, but with the remarkable exception of Lineable – which aims to use crowdsourced bluetooth to triangulate positions – it is limited in range and can only show your distance from the device, not direction.
Lineable: uses crowdsourced location technology
We’re keeping a very close eye on kids’ wearable tech, with a view to integrating games and helping our clients use their properties and brands to positively engage with kids and encourage healthy, active lifestyles. There’s no doubt that the technology, design and application of kid’s wearables has some way to go, but holds much potential.
In our next technology article we’ll round up the top kid’s wearable devices, ones to watch – notable for their design, function and ambition.