Jan 302010

All those years writing parenting articles and raising four, count-em (hang on, where’s the little one?!), four children have taught me an important lesson: there are just two kinds of kids, clingers and bolters.

I had four bolters. At one stage there, I had three children under the age of three who would each attempt a nine-minute mile towards three different compass points whenever I looked like I was thinking of standing still for a second.

If you’ve got one of those clingy kids, a permanent whining attachment to one or both of your legs – you can stop whining yourself, you really don’t know how lucky you are!

For the rest of us, for any parent who has run panic-stricken towards every unfenced water feature in a large park when their toddler has disappeared, for all those parents who were on first-name terms with the local police from when their kid could stagger – have I got a gadget for you!

It’s overpriced, it’s over there (the USA, where else!), it’s over-the-top – but as a bolter-parent, I have a sneaking fondness for it.

The Amber Alert GPS 2G is a small (child tracking device that allows you to keep track of your child via GPS. It’s quite small – less than 5 x 5 x 2cm.

It’s got fancy-schmancy website access with voice monitoring, info on the speed of travel, and instant location feedback with street address, latitude and longitude.

You can program ‘safe zone’ boundaries (like child’s room, or every room but his brother’s room, or the house and yard – you get the picture) and then, parents get an alert (email, SMS, whatever) when the device leaves the boundaries.

And herein lies a problem – unless your child remains attached to the device, all you’ll get is info about the device remaining stuffed in the bottom of the sock drawer for many hours.  The makers suggest attaching to a wrist, ankle or boot. I suggest superglue to shin.

The device is US-focused but claims to work in any of 120 countries, provided there is a GPS signal and cell phone reception.

Bottom line: A leash is cheaper …
How much : US $ 379 plus US $10 per month subscription

Jan 162010

There’s so much pressure these days to update, renew, improve. The concept of built -in obsolescence may have originated in whitegoods – but it’s gadgets that have the shortest life-cycle of any consumer item these days.

Well-heeled teens replace their ‘old’ 3G mobile smartphones with a brand-new model every year because phone fashions move so fast.

Even the landline (should you be low-tech enough to own one still) is victim to fashion, with the latest offerings pumping out enough hertz between station and cordless handset that you can take the thing to the shops and still receive calls – who needs a mobile?

So here I am, the jaded reviewer, hunting down the latest and greatest in cellphones and thinking if these phones get any thinner they’ll need vitamin supplements when – lo and behold – a low-tech and yet awfully yummy phone fashion solution rears its yellow head.

The folk at Cellfoam have come up with the Banana Phone. It’s not a phone – it’s a phone holder. But, as many have discovered, this is a phone holder with loads of appeal.

Yes, it is yellow and shaped like a banana. Any flip phone or candy-bar style phone that is no more than 12.7cm long and 4.5 cm wide can be stuffed into this phone holder, though sadly the wider iPhones and Blackberries aren’t a good fit.

With the Banana Phone song by Egyptian Canadian children’s entertainer Raffi now an all-time sensation on YouTube, the Banana Phone Cover is the perfect foil for those wielding a less-than-trendy so-last-year mobile phone.

And should you purchase a banana phone holder, there’s no prizes for guessing the appropriate accompanying ringtone.

Bottom line: Day-Oh! Daybreak comes and I wanna phone home
How much : US $ 10

Jan 102010

Only in America. You’ve got your spouse a new iPhone, the kids all have a mobile phone, including the toddler’s specially designed emergency phone for the under-fives, your parents each have one – you’ve got everyone covered except the family dog.

Until now. (I’m sure I am not the only gadget reviewer who predicted this would happen.)

A company called Petsmobility, based in Scottsdale Arizona, has come up with a device called the PetsCELL – the first-ever voice-enabled, waterproof (read dog-slobber-proof), GPS-enabled mobile phone, specially developed for animals. (Mostly dogs, but hey, if you want to put one on your lizard, whose gonna stop you?)

Rover gets his own number, and the dorky-looking mobile phone is attached to his collar. Owners can program a special ‘restricted zone’ into the company’s website; satellite tracking will then text you whenever Rover leaves the zone, and you can dial him up and say ‘Bad dog!’ without leaving the comfort of your desk.

Does your Red Setter run off whenever his leash is removed? No problem, you’ll be able to track him down once you’ve programmed his details into your own GPS phone.

Since dogs are not all that great at dialling, the phone is voice-activated and operates more like a two-way radio.  Though unless you speak fluent Dog, I suspect there’s not a lot the two-way technology can do to make it less of a one-way conversation.

Future models may well come up with a revolutionary translation program that will convert Woofs into English. (Or not.)

Till then, if you’re that much of a dog-person that you want to call him when you’re not there – well, we (almost) have the technology. (I can hear Alexander Graham Bell rolling in his grave from here!)

Though the device was slated for release in 2008, it’s not yet available – but you can put your name on the list to be advised when it’s ready to buy.

Bottom line: Now you can get on the dog-and-bone to man’s best friend
Where:  www.petsmobility.com/products
How much : Unknown