Dublin firm Kidspotter will launch a new child monitoring product for large venues in the Spring.

The Never Lost wristwatch will allow larger venues, such as shopping centres and fairgrounds, to provide visiting parents with an lectronic SMS monitoring service to keep track of children.

In The Beginning

Established in 2006 by Liam Darling and Andrew Dunne, Kidspotter is a specialist provider of location-based child monitoring technology. German software house 1eEurope owns a third of the Dublin-based firm, providing access to a team of 15 software developers.

Kidspotter's biggest customer is Merlin Entertainment, the second-largest owner of theme parks in the world after Disney. The firm's child-tagging solution is deployed in two of Merlin's British theme parks -- Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventure and Zoo.

In Kidspotter's other target market, shopping centres, the company's technology is used in Westfield Shopping Centre in London.

Kidspotter co-founder Liam Darling said the company's two-pronged strategy gave rise to some challenges, as it meant tailoring its product to the needs of two very different sectors.

"There is a different approach required. One of the things we learned is no technology is perfect for different environments. Alton Towers has 500 acres of outdoor space where GPS works fine. Westfield in London has two million square feet of indoor space where GPS isn't always reliable and we've used other connections. You need to have a robust access solution," said Darling.

Kidspotter is developing a third hybrid solution with multiple technologies that work indoors and out. The technology will be available in the Never Lost wristwatch due to launch in Spring.

According to Darling, nailing the technology behind a unique new product does not guarantee success in business.

Deploying The Product

"What's crucial about our business is that, while the technology is great, unless you understand the processes and security procedures of the likes of Merlin and Westfield, it is not going to work. You need to be able to dovetail the technology with their working practices," he said.

By licensing its technology to these customers, Kidspotter has enabled different methods of deployment.

Westfield Shopping Centre gives the tags out free of charge as part of its customer service strategy. The Merlin-owned theme parks, meanwhile, charge for the service.

"Although it's the same solution in the different venues, there are different drivers that come from it. Merlin was initially looking at it as a revenue-generator, but the focus has changed slightly from a hard sell into a customer service solution. It gives these venues an advantage over the theme park down the road or the shopping mall around the corner," said Darling.

Kidspotter will deploy its technology in a theme park on the east coast of America in April. The company is also planning a consumer version of the hybrid Never Lost wristwatch.

It has three full-time employees and plans to increase staff numbers to 10 within three years. In a more competitive market, Kidspotter's policy has been to add value rather than lower its price.

"There are things we can do with the software that can give our clients data analysis and intelligence. We will give that to people rather than reduce our licensing fee," said Darling.

Securing Funding

To date self-funded, Kidspotter has just secured approval for Enterprise Ireland funding. It is seeking E400,000 in further investment to bring it to the next stage of development.

"Towards the end of last year, there was a lot more confidence in the market from our point of view, particularly in the US. People who had been sitting on their money are beginning to look at start-ups. With the next-generation Kidspotter watch about to be launched, people are hungrier to deal with us," said Darling.

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