By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Wherify Wireless has postponed production-quantity shipments of its planned Wherifone GPS Locator Phone until the first quarter of 2005 from a previously planned July or August 2004.
The company attributed the delay to its decision to initially come to market with a GSM model instead of a CDMA 1x model, said national accounts director Steve Heninger. He cited growing international interest in the product, mainly from GSM carriers. At the CTIA convention early this year, the company had announced plans to market a CDMA 1x version for U.S. distribution.
In any GSM market, a G550 user can be tracked to within 12 inches in outdoor locations and to within 3 feet to 90 feet in indoor locations. It will feature continuous tracking at one-second intervals. A store-and-forward feature lets a subscriber download the device's previous locations after the fact.
The G550 is expected to retail for less than $150, with service plans starting at $14.95/month, including a certain number of locate requests and voice minutes. It's positioned as a safety and security tool for use by young teens and the elderly and as a way to broaden the cellular market's demographic.
Heninger sees the product reaching 6- to 12-year-olds whose parents are concerned for their safety and the elderly who haven't yet gone cellular. Five-button simplicity will also appeal to these potential customers, said Heninger, who claimed that 56 percent of 13-year-olds have a phone. The phone will feature five user-programmable preset buttons, each programmed to make voice calls to five preprogrammed numbers, including 911. The device also receives calls through its assigned phone number.
Three programmable presets were previously planned. In another design change, the phone will sport an LCD display. The previous version had no display.
Consumers will track the whereabouts of the person carrying the phone by accessing Wherify's monitoring service through a Web browser or by a voice call. The phone incorporates proprietary GPS technology designed for use with Wherify's back-end server.
The triband phone can track users when they're roaming globally because the U.S. market version will operate in the 850MHz and 1,900MHz bands in the United States and the 1,800MHz band in foreign countries. A foreign-market triband model will operate in the United States. 1,900MHz band version will operate in the 1,800MHz band. A foreign market version will operate in the 900/1,800/1,900MHz bands.
Wherify recently entered into a definitive agreement to merge with IQ Biometrix, which markets facial-recognition software. The merger will help Wherify garner government contracts, as well as take advantage of the potential to combine GPOS with facial-recognition technology for security applications, Heninger said.
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