Invention An Innovative Way To Keep Watch Over Wandering Kids

03/11/2015 10:20 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

Some of the best business ideas can be borne not from lofty goals of riches and fame, but from a desire to help those closest to you.

For UK fashion entrepreneurs Adrian Lisle and Ryan O’Neill, that's exactly where the concept for their latest venture came from.

From the time O'Neill's Gold Coast-based niece could walk, she started playing a dangerous game -- running away from her mum, Tammy Barrett, whenever they were out in public.

Watching the stress and worry Barrett went through whenever Tallulah went missing, O'Neill decided to do something about it.

With business partner Lisle and his sister Barrett, the team got to work on a proactive solution to Tallulah's worrisome habit.

“Not knowing the possible dangers, Tallulah saw this as an exciting game that gave her 100 percent of her mother’s attention,” Lisle told The Huffington Post Australia.

“Ryan saw the antics, and (we) all slowly came up with what we thought was a technological solution for the genuine concerns that Tallulah’s behaviour gave Tammy as a mother.”

That solution is called Moochies -- a two-way communication device for children aged 3-12 who may be too young for their own mobile phone.

Moochies are worn as a watch and can call two pre-set phone numbers, and receive phone calls from approved contacts.

The watch also has an SOS button and is GPS enabled through Google maps so parents can locate their child -- worldwide -- if need be, through an app installed on their mobile phone.

Parents can also use their app to set boundaries for their child and check on their whereabouts.

The phone can only make and receive calls from authorised phone numbers, so there is no threat of contact from strangers or social media being used unsafely, which is an ever-growing risk for pre-teens with mobile phones.

Lisle and O’Neill were fortunate in that they could throw all of their resources into making Moochies a success -- they had already founded a successful small business in 2007 -- handbag and fashion accessories brand, Lettuce.

The brand has grown from $200,000 in sales in 2008 to more than $3 million by 2014, enabling the team to self-fund Moochies.

Lisle said the Moochies design went through a few incarnations.

“When the idea initially came up in 2013, the focus was on creating a mobile phone for kids which would have limited functionality, incorporating just 2 buttons for ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’,” he said.

“We worked on simple hardware and a number of character-based moulds. The problem with this was that it was likely a child would lose a mobile device, so we were attracted to the idea of a wearable device in 2014, which was stimulated by the Apple watch.

“We worked with a number of mobile technology experts and mobile app designers, and came up with the Moochies.

“The hardware for the watch was relatively simple, however there was a significant amount of work involved in designing the app, to ensure the UI was user friendly and worked seamlessly with the watch.”

adrian lisle

With his business partner Ryan O'Neill and O'Neill's sister Tammy Barrett, Adrian Lisle invented Moochies.

The watches went on sale in Australia last month and have already attracted a lot of interest from parents with pre-teen children on the brink of independence -- but Lisle says the watches shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for a parent’s vigilance.

“We see Moochies as a tool that allows parents and children to communicate at any time a child is not with their parent,” he said.

“It allows parents to give slowly increasing levels of freedom to their young children, secure in the knowledge that they can contact them if there is ever a problem, and reassure themselves of the whereabouts of their child.

“It is the antidote to modern fears over child safety, which gives children the freedom to be safe.”

Lisle says the top three functions of Moochies are:

  • Its use as a mobile phone, a way for a child to call their parents and vice-versa;
  • SOS alerts allow the child to send an emergency alarm to their parents by the press of a button. This records 15 seconds of sound around the child and transmits this to the parents. This can help if the child needs to relay a message to the parent without calling, or if they are in a difficult situation.
  • GPS tracking allows the parent to check the whereabouts of the child. This is particularly helpful in instances where a child might be away, such as on a school trip, or away with friends. It just gives added peace of mind to the parent.

The team are continuing to create functional and wearable technology, including thermometer straps for babies and GPS enabled shoe-accessories for people with dementia.

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