Before the age of smartphones and Virtual Reality and even before there was PlayStation and Xbox, there was only the great outdoors. Children would run wild in the parks and play with their playmates. They would breathe the playground’s fresh air as they ran after each other in a game of tag, or explore different places to sneak into as they play hide and seek. Older kids would go to the local court and have a friendly game of street ball, and more daring kids would dash throughout the neighborhood in their skateboards.
While these may sound nostalgic especially for 90’s kids (and older), many children nowadays prefer to play on tablets, smartphones or gaming consoles rather than play in the outdoors. Some parents choose to let them do so because of the possible dangers of playing outside.
That’s why Tinitell, a new startup tech company, has created a wearable mobile phone and GPS tracker for kids, a piece of technology that encourages children to play outside more, since it makes it significantly easier for parents to stay in touch with them.
GineersNow conducted an exclusive interview with Mats Horn, the CEO and founder of Tinitell.
Tinitell AB is a technology company based in Stockholm, Sweden, set to create a new future for simple and smart communication devices. After a successful Kickstarter campaign two years ago and substantial funding in research & development, Tinitell as a kids’ phone is our first product on the market.
Extremely simple, fun and durable, Tinitell is a wearable mobile phone and GPS tracker for kids, a piece of technology that actually enables children to play outside more, as it makes it significantly easier for parents to stay in touch with them.
Our main office in Stockholm, Sweden hosts the Operational and Software Development teams, currently counting more than 25 full time employees. The RnD team and the production facilities are located in China, Shenzhen. We have logistic partners in New York, USA, handling the North American operations, while the European ones are handled from Sweden.
Describe your mission, vision and values.
The Tinitell team is passionate about technology and design. Our mission is to redefine the communication experience in simple and creative ways. However, at the end of the day, our core philosophy is to encourage more kids to just go outside and play. We want more adults to appreciate the outdoors, without digital screens and technology in the way.
While designing Tinitell as a mobile phone for kids our motto became: “We don’t want to keep children online with a great new app. We want to keep children offline with a great new device.”
Where is this company headed? What are your future expansion plans?
We are focused on perfecting a series of products that stem from our current design.
In the long run, we are looking for solutions to simplify communication in everyday life, keep us connected to reality while making the most of the technological advancements. Voice recognition, voice interaction and AI are high on our consideration list, not only for the current product but also for future Tinitell IoT devices.
The idea originated three years ago, when Mats, the CEO and founder spent an evening at a friend’s house. His friend didn’t feel comfortable letting his child go out to play unaccompanied, but also had to cook dinner. The immediate (and unsatisfactory) solution was for everyone to stay inside. Mats decided then and there to create a better option for parents looking to stay connected without hindering their children’s freedom.
Mats then moved back to Sweden and assembled an accomplished team of technology and design experts. The solution is an affordable, durable, and elegant GPS-enabled wearable phone, paired with a mobile app for parents.
Which group is your target market and why?
Tinitell is the ideal first mobile phone for kids, from preschoolers to the age when they get their first smartphone – 5 to 12-year-old. It’s natural for parents and children to stay connected and Tinitell encourages this connection while offering kids more freedom to play and discover the outdoors.
What are the future innovations that you or your company are pursuing?
As mentioned earlier, voice recognition, voice interaction and AI are high on our list, not only for the current product but also for future Tinitell IoT devices. We are looking with interest at the evolution of Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and similar products that encourage an easy voice-driven interaction with technology.
Do you think your product has made an impact on your costumers and in your industry?
Definitely. We are among the first in Europe and we are opening a completely new market, of wearable mobile phones for kids. We have no industry benchmarks, no clear industry standards, we are actually setting them up.
Where do you see your products heading 10 years from now?
We see how Tinitell can become a type of simple communication platform. We think of the development of voice recognition services, not as services, but as operating systems, like Windows or iOS. Those future operating systems, voice systems that are still just figuring out what they are, belong in hardware (HW) interfaces as simple as Tinitell, where the use of a screen is secondary at most. That’s Tinitell’s position in 10 years, where consumer voices meet the power of cloud.
What makes your gadget different from your competitors?
The screen-free, wonderful simplicity of the device and the appealing Swedish design.
And more than that the fact that we are highly focused on quality and performance. There are other trackers and “economical” competitors, but none of them have invested as much as us in RnD and in perfecting the software and the hardware functions.
THE CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS
What challenges did your companies face while developing your product?
The largest challenge is what everyone says, “It’s called hardware because it’s hard”. We’ve experienced it all first hand, and have had to change supplier 4 times in 2 years. Finding the right partner with the right knowledge and production capacity is like finding needles in a haystack, in a tumbler!
How did your company overcome these challenges?
The 1 thing that has been the most helpful for us is our primary company value, “keep it simple”. It’s not a special phrase, but for us it makes a world of difference. Instead of developing many features for our device and smartphone app, we’ve developed a few simple functions, instead of developing different products for different 3G or 4G networks, we’ve developed just one device that works globally, instead of making a UI for a screen, we got rid of the screen. Small companies have to focus, and that’s what we’ve done.
ADVICE TO THE YOUNG ENGINEERS
Please give advice and words of wisdom to millennial engineers who want to start their own companies and develop their own products as well. Any inspiring words that you can share?
The one thing that millions of people still don’t understand is that you have to go all in. Imagine if you told your day-job boss, “hey, I have this biz idea, but I’m not really sure if I’m ready for it…” (sounds like a convincing biz idea?) or if you told your partner, “hey, I think I like this other person, but I’m not really sure what to think…”. Doubt is extremely destructive, so don’t let it touch any world- improvement ideas that come to you. It’s disrespectful to your idea, to the people you discuss it with, and most importantly, to the world.