Technology for freedom, independence and safety

“You don’t remember the times your dad held your handle bars. You remember the day he let go.”
Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry.

There really is nothing better as a kid, than the feeling of  independence. For many of us,  that first taste happened one day when we were zooming down the streets on our bikes, with the wind buffeting our faces and a grin plastered on it to match the speed we were riding at.  Neuroscientists claim children need to take risks and experience freedom to develop analytical skills*. As parents and care-givers we want our children to have the same roaming, play-filled lifestyle that we enjoyed. We want them to know they are trusted and to empower them as young people to be responsible.

However, it is all a little more complicated now. Fear, it seems, is sinking it’s insidious claws in everywhere. There are increased safety concerns on a number of levels and not just for our kids but, for all our family members. These range from “stranger danger”, to drugs, to climatic and terrorist events. Then, we weave in our own availability with long and demanding work hours and the changing roles within family units. New responsibilities are added and health concerns are a big part of that.

This is where Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are coming into their own. Wearables and apps that traditionally use a tracking device to send an emergency request for assistance, are soon to find much greater application then anticipated.

Research conducted by Parkes Associates and others suggests the following sectors are going to provide considerable growth in the market:

  • Students at home alone.

Many parents are working longer hours.  Over 15 millions students in the US are by themselves between 3pm and 6pm*. This includes 3.7 million 11 to 13 year olds.   When you combine this with  smartphone penetration amongst students at 60% of tweens and 84% of 15-18 year olds* it’s evident there is strong market potential for parents to have peace of mind and kids to enjoy that period of week day freedom. There are already many apps and devices targeting university students living on campus in the United States where penetration is expected to increase significantly.

  • Women present a large opportunity for this sector, particularly women in the 18-25 age bracket*.

One in ten women have experienced violence in Australia in the last 12 months according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In India panic buttons and GPS tracking has been legislated as mandatory from 2017 in response to increased crime against women.  

  • Ageing Population

As our population ages, the need for devices that provide features such as fall sensors, GPS tracking and alerts for medical assistance will increase. This means that this portion of the population can still enjoy their freedom, whilst they and their loved ones know that help is at hand if necessary. 

  • People working in high risk vocations

Apps and devices for corporates, charities and government employees. Increasing the safety for social workers, mental health practitioners, emergency department staff, shift workers and other related high risk vocations. 

PERS are not just mobile apps and panic devices on mobile phones, but also wearables. Indeed, the wearables market is a very viable one, as those that may not carry their smart phones with them all the time, can utilise discreet wearable devices. Devices that either connect with their smart phone or utilise their own embedded cellular activity*.

According to Parkes Research more than 3.1 million homes in the United States will have a PERS service by 2019.

This presents a huge opportunity moving forward. One such mobile app that is already making it’s mark in this sector is Amego. Developed by Appfactory in association with the Daniel Morecombe Foundation the iOS app is designed to give kids their independence and parents peace of mind.  It allows you to create regular trips for family members and set play zones. It will only alert you if there is something out of the ordinary.

Opportunities abound in this sector. I think it’s important that we focus our industry on empowerment rather than fear. Fear creates problems and doesn’t help improve quality of life which should be the main goal of technology developers . There is no doubt that this market has huge potential and we will very shortly see our kids on bikes again, our teenagers feeling safe on a night out and our elderly enjoying a walk with certainty that help is not far away. What part will you play?

*Psychology Today. Risky Business:Why Teens need risk to thrive. 

*The United States National Association of State Boards of Education.

*C&R Research.

*Parkes and associates Market Research