A few years ago, I was sitting at a local play place (rhymes with ShplayPlate PleeDeeEx) and watched from a distance as a little boy made a mad dash out the front door. A woman, who I assume was his mom, bolted after him. Moments later, another kid was hauled out, kicking and hollering hoisted on a man’s shoulder, likely upset with his dad about the fact they had to leave.
In the kerfuffle, I lost sight of my own two kids, who were undoubtedly frolicking in the play structure, happily losing their minds. I went back to my work-from-cafe mode and figured my boys would visibly pop up soon enough.
But then a thought hit me: “What if that kid running out the door had been mine?” I would have totally missed it while my face was buried in my computer. Then a second thought crept in, “What if that man had scooped up one of my kids, and flopped my son over his shoulder? Would anyone have stopped him?” I had just assumed the kid was upset, not that he was being kidnapped.
At that point, crazy mom-brain took over and I hurriedly jumped up to locate my littles, 5 and 7 at the time. I spotted one, and – a very long minute later – found the other. Honestly, I sat back down a little rattled, and could only half-focus on my work afterward.
Lost in Play
Surely I am not the only parent who has panicked at a play place? As my occasional work-away-from-home solution, I need my kids to be safe, but also need to focus on my tasks. I started concocting ways one could leverage technology to put my mind at ease; my rendition involved laser sensors and trip wires and plenty of archaic ways to fence my children in.
Turns out, someone way smarter than me had already had a similar experience, around the same time, and he has been taking this question head-on ever since. Jon Marson, a physicist, father-of-four, and inventor, lost his son Andrew for an unbearable 20 minutes inside a now-defunct play place (rhymes with Mafari Flam’s). The experience was traumatizing enough to get the wheels turning in Jon’s mind. Fortunately, Andrew was found safe and sound inside the play structure (he had just gotten stuck, poor fella), but Jon learned his harrowing experience was actually pretty common.
That’s when he developed Pigeon. The idea is simple: a business, club, or camp sets up tiny receivers in their space. Kids get to wear cool Pigeon Bands – which are essentially fitness trackers with awesome bonus features – most notably an app that shows parents their kiddo’s whereabouts. If the kid leaves the network perimeter, Mom or Dad gets a ping on their phone. Can’t find the kiddo inside the network? Pull out the app for instant location.
When Jon first told me about his experience that led to Pigeon, I was instantly reminded of that heart-stopping moment a few years ago. Like a newsreel, similar situations flashed before my eyes – at the zoo, in the mall, at a Timbers game – where I lost track of one of my littles for a brief moment of panic. What if we could make our fitness trackers also track our kids for safety? GENIUS.
Where Fitness Tracker Meets Kid Tracking
When we met, Jon gave me a handful of Pigeon bands to try out with my family. They’re lightweight, stylish, and breathable. The silver nylon band is even dare I say classy; it looks more like a piece of jewelry than a fitness tracker.
But the cool thing is that it DOES serve as a fitness tracker, and even more, too. Pigeon is the only fitness tracker designed with family motivation in mind; the app has built-in features that allow a family unit to set group goals. For example, my boys decided to work toward a laser tag outing, and we each had to make a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. My kids aced that, no problem, but I stayed true to my end of the bargain, as well. Together, we got to celebrate meeting our milestone, after holding one another accountable for our step count every day. We even once went out on a bonus crisp evening stroll, just to up our count! Less screen time, more movement; less isolation, more togetherness.
Jon sees these family fitness features as really meaningful, and a huge part of the appeal of Pigeon, but also part of what makes kids love them so much. And if kids like them, they’ll wear them. And if kids wear them? Pigeon keeps them safe. As a Portland-area dad, Jon is working with summer camps, kid-friendly spaces, and even parks to add ways the Pigeon Network can expand throughout our city.
The Portland Pigeon Connection
We’re so lucky to have this innovation launching right here in Stumptown, putting us on the front lines of Pigeon taking flight. Pigeon is launching a Kickstarter campaign to expand the Pigeon PDX network and to further develop the family app. If you’re one of the first 100 supporters to back Pigeon, you can get your Pigeon bands for half off! Get on their newsletter list to be the first to know when Pigeon launches.
Let’s help Pigeon make Portland safe for our kids!