Parents naturally worry about their children being safe. This also applies if their children are at schools, tuition classes, or any time they’re out of sight. It’s the nagging thought that simply can’t be shaken off. But a new startup we met wants to change this. They want to bring comfort to parents. How exactly are they planning to do this? With a tracker called TrackieX.
The origins of an entrepreneur
Fresh out of university, Sritharan Nadeshkumar jumped into the world of startups. Having graduated with a degree in Computer Science, he joined IronOne Technologies. Today the company is known for developing products & apps for both Android and iOS. It does so with its talented team that includes 80 engineers. However, back in 2006 when Sritharan joined, it was still a fledgling startup with him being the third person joining the team.
Having joined the company as an associate software engineer, Nadesh would rise through the ranks. As he did, he’d tackle projects in various industries across continents. These experiences taught him that when building apps, the most important factor was the user experience. If this ingredient wasn’t right, then nothing else was.
But as time passed, Nadesh settled down. He got married, had children, and wanted to spend time with them. Thus, after spending 12+ years at IronOne technologies, Nadesh made the hard choice to leave the company to take a break. But while he spent the first six months with his family, he didn’t want to be idle. While pursuing his Masters and a few stints as a mentor at the Yarl Geek Challenge, he was inspired to build his own startup.
The eureka moment
Many experienced entrepreneurs and investors say that for a startup to succeed, it must identify and solve a problem. For Nadesh, that problem was found one afternoon after school at Royal College. He had gone to pick up his son from school.
But amidst the sea of people, he couldn’t find his son in Grade 01 and panicked. Luckily, the story had a happy ending when he found his son shortly afterward. Yet, the fear he experienced would be imprinted into his mind vividly. Thus, he began to consider solutions to help parents know where their kids were.
He spoke with other parents of children that were the same age as his son. Nadesh learned that he wasn’t alone. Other parents were also worried about where their children were while balancing their responsibilities. Thus, he began exploring options to track the location of his kids. Yet, at this time he still had no plans to build a startup.
Rather, he explored existing solutions on the market. But none of them worked. The existing tracking solutions he found were originally designed for fleet management. This meant compact devices. But the software was bloated with too many options with 50 odd configuration tables for each setting.
Necessity is the mother of invention
Nadesh knew that this wouldn’t work. He knew how all too well how important it was to have a good user experience after spending 12 years in the tech industry. So he decided to take matters into his own hands. After all, he had wanting to build a startup for a while. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.
So Nadesh pitched the idea to a few of his friends who decided to give him a loan. Later, he sold his vehicle and had enough money to get started. He began by looking for the right device. After a few hits and misses, he found one from a manufacturer in China that was compact and allowed a simple app to be built.
However, getting the devices was the easy part. As per Sri Lankan law, anyone seeking to use tracking devices needs to obtain approval from the TRCSL and Ministry of Defence. Nadesh shared that most existing business in tracking obtains approval to track vehicles. The license that allows them to do so covers all forms of tracking.
However, TrackieX was only interested in tracking people. As such the procedures were different. Yet, Nadesh was able to navigate through the bureaucracy and finally get the approval he needed. After getting the devices, he began ripping it apart. Once he understood how it worked inside and out, Nadesh began building the app. With the support of six of his friends being freelance developers, TrackieX was born.
How TrackieX works
Currently, the TrackieX devices are available for pre-orders at Rs. 11,990 and will be Rs. 14,890 after it ships in late December 2018. The device itself is a small black tag that can be attached to a school bag or kept inside a pocket. Additionally, it comes with an Airtel SIM that’s preloaded with 1 year of data.
Nadesh shared with us that TrackieX formed a partnership with Airtel for two reasons. The first was because they offered cheap data rates and flexible plans. The second reason was that Airtel’s 2G network offered wider coverage. In other words, there was a wider area, which parents could monitor where their kids were through the app.
The app for TrackieX is currently available for both Android and iOS. Nadesh shared with us that they’re also working on a web app. Once a parent has purchased the device, they’d have to enter its unique code and PIN into the app. Afterward, they’ll be able to get its exact location in real time.
This also includes speed alerts. Nadesh explained this information was provided because of children traveling in school vans for added safety. Furthermore, the app provides a location history of 60 days. Additionally, a parent can mark a location, such as a school or tuition class through the app.
If their child, while carrying the TrackieX tag enters or exits these marked locations, the app can inform the parents via a notification. It should be noted that each TrackieX tag can only be registered with a single user. This means you can purchase a TrackieX tag for your son.
Once registered, the location of this tag can only be seen by the app under your account. You can also buy a second TrackieX tag for your daughter. Once registered, the location of that tag will also only be visible on your account. This means no other member of the family can see the locations of these tags unless you share it with them.
But if you buy multiple TrackieX tags, the app allows you to switch between them. Last but not least, the device itself has a red SOS button on the side. When this is pressed, a text message would be sent to you and a notification would pop up on your app to warn you.
The challenges of modern IoT devices
But with IoT devices such as TrackieX, there is ongoing concern about the security of such devices. In fact, IoT devices, in general, are known to be woefully insecure. We’ve seen how much damage can be inflicted with such devices with the Mirai botnet. As such, we asked Nadesh about what security measures TrackieX had implemented.
He admitted that he was well aware that no technology is perfect and of the security issues plaguing IoT devices. As such, he shared that TrackieX has adopted a series of security measures. Along with the SOS button, each tag has a unique code & PIN that needs to be entered into the app to get the location.
Once entered, no other app can get the location of the tag. The only exception is if the parents choose to share it. Behind the scenes, all communication is encrypted where possible and the data is stored on Microsoft Azure. Nadesh went onto say that TrackieX wasn’t meant to be the perfect guardian.
He explained this saying, “I believe children are the most precious gift a parent can have. So, it is their utmost responsibility to ensure the safety of their little one. TrackieX cannot replace parent’s supervision by any means but it serves as a partner by allowing them to keep track of their children by giving the peace of mind to parents.”
So what’s next for TrackieX?
Currently, the company is yet to generate any revenue until the devices are shipped. Furthermore, the 15 parents Nadesh initially spoke with have all pre-ordered the TrackieX tag. Additionally, for every purchase, the startup has decided to donate Rs. 100 to SOS Children’s Village, Sri Lanka.
He explained this decision saying, “Unfortunately, not every child has parents to care for them. We believe it’s our duty to help those children live the best life they can.” Nadesh added that the company expects to break even after 6 months. And later TrackieX hopes to explore NB-IoT and 5G technologies to increase the battery life from 2 days to 2 months.
Additionally, TrackieX also has the ambitious goal of setting up its own R&D unit. This unit would design everything from the nut & bolt level. However, manufacturing will likely happen elsewhere. Needless to say, the company has ambitious goals for the future. How soon it can achieve them comes down to one question, “How far will parents go to protect their children?”