A new tracking device will let parents know when their kids run away from a caregiver at the playground, where they’ve been during the day, whether they’ve been getting enough sleep or activity at daycare, or if they’re running a temperature, among other useful information.
How will they know? Littlebird will tell them.
That’s the clever inspiration for the name of a new Seattle-based startup founded by Monica Plath, a University of Washington alum whose own experiences as a mom of two toddlers inspired her to search for a device for her kids to wear, putting her mind at ease when she left them with a sitter.
She didn’t find one that fit her needs, so she started a company to make one.
“I was just trying to feel that my children were safe,” Plath explained. “I wanted to know that they were happy. Just the really primal needs that any parent has when you’re trying to juggle two lives. You want to be a really good mother. You need to provide for your family, and to feel good about the care choices that you’re making.”
The result is the Littlebird Toddler CareTracker wristband for kids, with an accompanying app for caregivers and parents. Pre-orders start Tuesday. The list price is $300, which includes a year of free cellular connectivity, with a fee of $15/month after that. Those who pre-order are slated to receive the device in the fall.
A children’s book author and former commercial real estate agent, Plath grew up in Snoqualmie Valley and lives in Yakima, Wash. This is her first technology startup. She brought together a team of hardware, software and technology industry veterans to help bring Littlebird to life.
The company’s CTO is Gadi Amit of New Deal Design, an industrial designer and former Frog Design vice president who brings wide-ranging experience in wearables and other hardware products. Littlebird works with a distributed team of engineers in San Francisco and Ukraine.
Littlebird’s advisors, assisting the company in their personal capacities, are Sarah Gavin, Expedia Group senior vice president of global communications; Brian Hall, Google Cloud vice president of product and industry marketing; and Braxton Carter, former T-Mobile chief financial officer.
The company has raised $2 million so far from friends and family, and angel investors.
Plath heard the common advice against pursuing a hardware project: prototyping and iterating is hard; Seattle isn’t a hardware town, etc. But after trying to hack and customize existing devices to suit her needs as a parent, she realized that building a device was going to be the best path.
Littlebird’s Toddler CareTracker wristband is designed to be worn passively by kids, with no lights or other features that would distract them. It comes with a removable strap with adjustable sizing, designed for kids 1 to 5 years old.
The band tracks the toddler’s location, activity level, sleep, heart rate and temperature. The accompanying app prompts caregivers to update a timeline with photos, quick status reports and an assessment of the child’s mood, choosing from preset options in the app.
Parents can quickly acknowledge a message from a caregiver with an emoji in the style of a typical social media interaction, although everything is private inside the Littlebird app.
Littlebird uses Bluetooth to establish a connection with the caregiver’s device, which creates additional capabilities. If a toddler strays too far from a nanny or daycare worker at the playground, for example, the device will alert the parent so he or she can check in to make sure everything is alright.
Bluetooth functionality also enables handoffs between approved caregivers, so that parents know who’s in charge of a child at any given point. Individual caregivers can be connected to up to seven children at a time through the app, creating the possibility of using the device with multiple kids at a daycare, for example.
This multi-kid tracking capability was one of the features that Plath wasn’t able to find in off-the-shelf tracking devices and wearables made for adults, inspiring her to create Littlebird.
As a mom, she said, “I couldn’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem for me.”