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Review: Telenor's Companion Watch – a promising safety gadget

Updated Mar 25, 2016 04:38pm

Telenor and one of its rival cellular companies launched a security gadget last month that allows smartphone users to locate their children through a watch.

Marketed as ‘Telenor Companion’, the watch is priced at Rs7,000 with a monthly line rent of Rs300 + tax.

How it works

It traces the wearer's real-time location using Global Positioning System (GPS)and can send/receive SOS messages but one must turn the GPS on otherwise the app shows the area not the exact location.

The Telenor advert for the watch.

Inside the box, other than the wearable gadget, there is a detailed user manual and a short operating instructions leaflet containing the QR code (a primary key) for the watch.

The gadget has only three buttons: the power button, SOS button and a contacts button.Other than turning the gadget on and off, the power button also allows the user to toggle between date, time and pedometer.

The call/contact button though is a little confusing, as the icon makes one think that this is an emergency call button but it only allows the child to switch between family members before dialing the SOS button to makes calls and messages.

The Telenor Companion watch.
The Telenor Companion watch.

If there is a single administrator, the SOS button will dial him/her by default.

The app, on the other hand, has four major options.

The 'Listen' option allows the administrator to unilaterally listen to the surroundings of the child if she is unable to contact the administrator.

Through the 'Talk' option, the administrator can send and receive SOS messages, the interface also allows the administrator to see the history of messages.

A Phone option is there to call the child while the location allows the administrator to keep track of the child’s position.

The extended menu consists of a family circle, watch management, location record, a help and feedback section.

The family circle section allows the administrator to add more family members to the watch and child will have more people to contact. The administrator can delete the other users while the Watch Management section allows you to add more members to monitor children.

'Location record' section keeps track of a child’s locations on map and allows you to create a safety zone for the child.

We try it out

We tested almost all the options of the watch after a tedious registration process which includes providing a valid email id and cellphone number.

The user has to verify the possession of the watch through a QR code given within the user manual and the device's IMEI number to register as the gadget's administrator.

By pressing the SOS button for a short time, the child can record an SOS message, while a long press will allow the child to voice call one of the administrators.

So, we started the test with SOS messaging and it worked well as the child was able to receive and listen to audio messages. It took a few attempts as the child took a little time to learn the process, which may not work in an emergency situation as the watch does not allow the wearer to listen to them again.

A child will require a little training before we move on so I had an hour long training session before moving on to test other features of the watch.

I asked my niece to go further away into a park to see how it works outside the house. This time I sent her an SOS message which she received and responded to. The audio was clear and I was able to respond with a call, which she received and talked to me for about 30 seconds.

But when it was her turn to call, she pressed the phone button and not the SOS one, after a few tries, she learnt to use the SOS button for a call and did that, which went well.

We also tested the 'listen' option through the app. Though the audio quality was not that good, the option is a blessing if the child, in any emergency situation, forgets or is just too disturbed to call his/her guardian.

Why children will like it

The design is simple and might not attract a lot of children unless they know what it is and how they can use it.

The available colours, blue and pink, give the gadget a decent look and just the idea of contacting their loved ones with a single button would make a child feel secure. My young niece,for one, was thrilled when I asked her to try the watch on for me.

Location and geo-fencing

Setting a radius for the safety zone.
Setting a radius for the safety zone.

The location menu allows a user to track the exact location and create a safety zone for the child and if the child is out of the zone.

We tested that and found that sometimes the watch’s exact location is wrongly traced when using cellphone data while it works better on a wi-fi connection. This is problematic as the administrator can be in a place where he/she might not have access to wi-fi and the child is in some trouble.

The geo-fencing option is great and worked well, albeit a little difficult and confusing to use. Instead of denoting the area, it allows you to set a safety zone from 300 meter to 1,000 meter from the 'home' location.

No SOS message on turning off the watch

This perhaps the biggest limitation of this watch, as there was no SOS message when I asked the child to turn off the device. The device is for the child’s security and a kidnapper might take advantage of this limitation.

Preview of the geo-fencing feature.
Preview of the geo-fencing feature.

Room for improvement

The contacts button has a telephone icon which may be mistaken for a call button as the child might take it for one, rendering the watch useless.

The geo-fencing option can be enhanced to denote more areas in the map, such as school, tuition centre or some location or address specific to the home or school.

The connectivity and communication is great but the SOS message option for the watch is so limited that the child can only listen to the administrator’s message if he or she uses the right button at the right time and does not miss the message.

Only the administrator can listen to the past messages and has a complete record in the 'talks' section.

Calling the child and teaching him/her to call you is the best option and works well.

The motion and rewards sections which set health goals for the child (such as calories and walk details) must be made more user friendly for the end user to understand.

The Help section of the app needs to be more helpful and should use illustrations as the administrator cannot move around with the user manual all the time.

Verdict

Overall, a great gadget, and probably the first taste of Internet of Things for a Pakistani user. The Telenor Companion amazes and helps the end user at the same time.

The inter-connectivity is great and the 'listen' option is perhaps the best thing about the gadget as one can actually hear the surroundings if the child is unable to contact the guardian.