This article was originally published on TechCrunch here, and written by Lora Kolodny.
Chicago startup Jiobit wants to use wireless technology to bring parents peace of mind whenever and wherever their kids may roam. Its flagship product is a location tracker that can stand up to the rough and tumble activities of a toddler or a tween, with a long battery life, and mobile app that sends alerts to parents when a kid has gone outside an expected range.
Jiobit CEO and founder John Renaldi, formerly a VP at Motorola Mobility, said he knows GPS kid trackers are nothing new. But most don’t work precisely enough, and aren’t effective both indoors and outside, he realized, after a scare when his own kid wandered away at Chicago’s famous Millennium Park and they were separated for 20 stress-inducing minutes. When you think about all the sprawling indoor venues where families may take their kids¬–museums, grocery stores, hotels and hospitals for example– that’s a serious product limitation.
The tracker is a small white square with corners rounded off that clips to a kid’s belt loop, jacket or backpack quite easily. It is made from a soft silicone material that doesn’t irritate kids’ sensitive skin. It weighs about the same as a AA battery and depending on active use, only needs to be charged once every couple of weeks, on average.
The Jiobit mobile app lets parents or authorized guardians get notifications when their kids aren’t where they are expected to be. It employs machine learning to understand a kid’s normal daily routes and routines, so users don’t have to set up “rules” and maps to get started. (Although they still can manually do that.) It also gives parents summaries about the child’s daily activities. Because kids’ privacy is of special concern, the company’s app and device encrypt all data in transmission. (The device and app are COPPA compliant, the startup says.)
Jiobit has just closed $3 million in seed funding from investors who know a little something about location-based services. They include Lior Ron, the cofounder of Otto (now owned by Uber) which is developing autonomous trucks, Chicago-based MATH Venture Partners and Inflection Equity.
Lior Ron told TechCrunch he invested in Jiobit in part because he knows Renalidi’s talents well. The two worked together at Motorola where Ron led the creation of the Moto 360 and other wearable and mobile devices. But he also believes a durable, well-designed and accurate kid tracker can change the world by keeping kids safer, and parents calmer.
He said, “There’s so much opportunity to create smart everyday objects that help us live better, or artificial intelligence that helps us to be smarter. The next wave of innovation, whether it’s in transportation, health or at home, will come from great teams at the intersection of both. Those are the handful of teams I invest in nowadays. I’m pretty selective because I’m heads down with Otto and Uber’s self-driving efforts.”
Renaldi said Jiobit plans to use the funding for hiring as-needed, and to get the device and app ready for its market debut. The company plans to make the Jiobit available via a pre-sales campaign this year, but declined to give a specific date.