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January 27, 2008

IonKids Child Monitoring System Review

Verdict: Perfect for tracking things you don't care about.

ionKids Retail Box

Ion Kids (as in, keep an "eye on" the kids) is a portable system that lets you keep track of up to four children, seniors, pets, or anything else that moves. Designed to help parents keep tabs on wandering children, ion Kids Starter Kit comes with a handheld base unit and one water-resistant wristag, and retails for $239.95.

The system uses RF instead of GPS and lets you specify how far the child (or children) are allowed to wander from the handheld base unit before sounding an alert on both the bracelet and the handheld unit. The handheld unit can then be used to locate the child, using a radar-like display that points the way to the AWOL child. Sounds great for busy parents at the mall, grocery store, or in crowded public places.

Does ion Kids deliver the peace of mind parents are looking for? Read on.

Table of Contents

  1. Features
  2. What's in the Box?
  3. Taking a Closer Look at Ion Kids
  4. Using the Ion Kids Child Tracking System
  5. Configuring Options
  6. Pros
  7. Cons
  8. Conclusion

1. Features

Base Unit

  • About the size of a TV remote (1 1/2" x 6")
  • Allows parents to monitor up to 4 bracelets simultaneously (1 Bracelet included, additional bracelets sold separately.)
  • "Return to Base" paging of all monitored bracelets
  • Ability to disable an individual bracelet from the Base Unit
  • Bracelet (Wristag) Tamper or Removal Alarm
  • Low Battery Indicator
  • Rechargeable batteries (2 hour charge should power the unit for a full day of normal usage)

Bracelet

  • Tamper-resistant 5.5 inch band fits children 2-10 years old
  • Alarm sounds if Bracelet is removed from child
  • Range: Up to 350 Feet Outdoors, 200 Feet Indoors
  • Locking mechanism that cannot be easily opened without a key, included with Base Unit
  • Rechargeable battery

2. What's in the Box

ion Kids Retail Box, Opened
Figure 1: ion Kids Retail Box, Opened

The ion Kids Starter Kit includes everything you need to keep track of one child:

  • 1 x Handheld base unit
  • 1 x Wristag
  • AC Charger
  • Spare Wristag clip and tamper-clasp release tool
  • Owners manual and warranty card

3. Taking A Closer Look at Ion Kids

ion Kids Wristag
Figure 2: Ion Kids Wristag

ion Kids calls its watch-like tracker a Wristag. The Starter Kit includes one Wristag, and up to four Wristags can be managed from a single handheld base unit. Ion Kids sells additional kid-friendly faceplates designed to make the Wristag more appealing to kids.

Ion Kids Wristag, Back
Figure 3: Ion Kids Wristag, Back

Each Wristag is equipped with a tamper detection feature. Notice the two silver contacts on the back of the Wristag; these metal probes detect the presence of skin, and the Wristag can be configured to sound an audible and visual alert if the device is removed from the skin while active.

Opening the Wristag Band
Figure 4: Unlocking the Wristag Band

Ion Kids Wristags are also equipped with tamper-resistant clasps that require a special tool (which is stowed in the base of the handheld unit) to be opened. Inserting the tool into the armband releases the clasp so it can be flipped open, and the band pulled out.


Figure 5: Wristag's Tamper-Resistant Clasp

To put the Wristag on, thread the band through the clasp and close the flap to lock the band in place. Once closed, you'll have to use the included tool to unlock the Wristag.

Wearing the Wristag - Easier Said Than Done
Figure 6: Wearing the Wristag - Easier Said Than Done

Trying to wear the wristag had me wondering who exactly the company had in mind when they design the device. The band is far too short to be worn by an adult, and too large and cumbersome to be worn by a toddler or young child. The wristband seems long enough for a 6-10 year old, perhaps, but even then the faceplate of the watch-like device is too large for most kids' small wrists.

In my testing I also had problems getting the wrist tamper sensors to work properly; given the relatively large size of the Wristag, and the small diameter of a child's wrist, the sensors had a hard time maintaining contact with the skin unless I tightened the wristband to the point that the children complained. I ended up disabling the tamper sensor (thankfully Ion Kids provides an option for disabling the tamper alarm via the handheld base unit).