There was a story in yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times about the US electronics retailer Best Buy's decision to start selling the InsigniaLittle Buddy Child Tracker which, the article says, "... combines global satellite positioning and cellular technology to signal the child's whereabouts to a computer or smartphone."
The ad at the Best Buy site goes on to say, "Customizable safety checks allow you to establish specific times and locations where your child is supposed to be - for example, in school - causing the device to alert you with a text message if your child leaves the designated area during that time. Additional real-time alerts let you know when the device's battery is running low so you can take steps to ensure your monitoring isn't interrupted."
Parents, the ad says, can fit the device "easily into a backpack, lunchbox or other receptacle."
Hmm, a digital handcuff without the messiness of a handcuff.
The price is $99.99 and comes in blue or green. This report says that the Little Buddy has drawn so much interest it is on backorder already.
The pictures accompanying the ad also seems to show that the location is mapped to a satellite photo and provides a distance accuracy measurement (e.g., 378 yards). You can also see how one can set up a safety zone which will trigger an alert if the child wanders out of it at a specified time. It might get interesting if the zone is drawn too small for the accuracy of the device.
I can see this not only being attractive to helicopter parents, but other adults who will likely be buying these things to spy on, err, keep track of their spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends as well. Maybe employers will buy them too?
Would you buy one to keep track of your children, grandchildren, or significant other?
At the very least, Best Buy is starting a price war in low cost personal tracking devices, which typically run two to three times its $99.99 offering.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.