IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Sierra Wireless IoT Technology Powers Distraction-Free Solution for Communicating with Kids

Katie wakes up and yawns. Time to get the kids ready for school.  The dog is barking. Now the phone’s ringing. And is that the school bus? “Kids! It’s time to go!” Olivia doesn’t have her hat—Eric’s shirt is backwards—no time! “Just get on the bus!” 

It isn’t until the kids are at school sitting at their desks that Katie opens the fridge and finds Olivia’s lunch. That’s fine. Katie unlocks her phone and records a voice message: “Your lunch is waiting at the office.” Olivia’s Okio flashes on her backpack, and at recess she checks the message. Katie takes a short drive, and lunch is delivered. Katie receives a confirmation that her message was read.

In the afternoon, the PA crackles to life for announcements, and Eric remembers he forgot to ask Mom about staying for basketball after school. That’s fine. He grabs his Okio and sends a voice message asking if she can pick him up at 3:30 instead. Katie responds instantly: “OK! Love you!” and Eric gets a confirmation back that Mom has read the message. And at 3:30 on the dot, she's in the parking lot to pick up her smiling, sweaty ten year old, with Olivia, well-fed and happy, sitting in the backseat. 

If either of these scenarios happened when the engineers at Okio were children, they might have just gone hungry or missed basketball practice. So Okio came up with a simple and affordable device that would give kids a direct communication link with their parents. But every connected product or service requires the right technology—and this means that tech startups like Okio, and any other business, must be strategic about the partnerships they form.

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Parents: An Under-Served Market
Most children in the U.S. receive their first cell phone around the age of 10. While cell phones help solve the need for communication with your children, that same ability to connect with literally anyone stirs anxiety for many parents. Then, too, there’s the issue of younger children, who might need a way to communicate but often aren’t ready for the responsibility that a cell phone brings. 

Adding forty dollars per kid to your monthly phone bill and equipping them with $700 devices that often end up lost on the bus isn’t an attractive investment, either. Especially when you consider that much of this cost covers functions like Internet access or comprehensive data plans, features many parents don’t want their children to have access to.

Into this gap comes the tech startup Okio. The company has developed connected devices that provide a direct line to kids without the intrusion of mobile phones and the Internet. Childhood is precious. Okio helps keep it that way. The day will come when they’ll be old enough for a smartphone but, until then, Okio helps them hold onto their childhood, while staying connected. 

Okio Clip is a distraction-free way for kids and parents to communicate through voice messages. It alerts kids to a new message that they can respond to when the time is right. Parents send and receive messages through an intuitive app on their smartphones. Okio doesn’t need a cell phone plan, just a message plan that you buy through the app. Okio also makes life easier for parents: one battery charge lasts at least one week! 

Integrating Sierra Wireless Solutions
Okio chose to partner with an experienced IoT solutions company, using Sierra Wireless solutions to provide the necessary range and power. Sierra Wireless also allows the devices to be considerably less expensive than even the most basic smartphone because it provides a low-data-usage plan.

The Okio device itself is a discreet clip that can attach to a child’s backpack or clothing. The secret lies within the clip, which features a Sierra Wireless Cat-1 cellular module and Smart Connectivity. The HL7618 module is part of Sierra’s AirPrime® HL Series, which provides an interchangeable form factor between 2G, 3G 4G and LPWA technologies. The compact Cat-1 module is a lower-cost, lower-bandwidth 4G LTE technology that will support a lengthy life cycle for the Okio device. In practical terms, this means the Okio would be small enough to fit on a child’s clothing or backpack and have the battery life to operate through a full week of school and extracurricular activities.

The Sierra IoT Solution delivers multi-operator coverage and superior data service, and automatically connects to the best available network, not just the mobile network operator’s (MNO) preferred partner. In the case of a local carrier outage, parents can still use the Okio to communicate with their kids.

Using the Okio is extremely simple. Parents pair an iOS smartphone application to send messages to the child, which causes the Okio device to flash. When the message is read by the child, a notification is sent back to the parent. The child can also send a voice or voice-to-text message, which is instantly routed through the cell network, to the Sierra Wireless Air Vantage platform, and then on to the parent’s iOS device. 

The Okio is also able to relay voice chats with outstanding clarity. The device essentially functions as a modern-day pager, relaying all voice messages through the Sierra Wireless platform. It links parents with their kids, without all the smartphone features that younger kids don’t need.

The technology provides unparalleled performance at half of the cost of any competitive products, allowing Okio to meet niche needs in a new way. A prototype of the Okio is hitting U.S. markets in early 2017 and a full launch is planned for later in the year. The devices will be available on Okio’s website.
Powering the IoT Future
From connecting families to monitoring the maintenance schedules of construction equipment or reducing waste through smart sprinklers, IoT-enabled devices are transforming our daily lives.

We helped Okio power an exceedingly easy-to-use device that will give parents peace of mind. Maybe your goals are different. Start with Sierra to learn how our platforms, services, and products can be adapted for your IoT applications.