nu.m8 GPS Child Locator Watch Review

I first learned about the LOK8U nu.m8 GPS locator from a Gadgeteer post earlier this year.  I was intrigued.

I’ve had friends who have lost track of their children in crowded places.  While it’s never happened to my 4-year old son yet, and I consider myself an attentive parent, I want all the help I can get in a worst case scenario.  Would the nu.m8  work?

Not too long ago my in-laws got stuck in traffic for 8 hours in a snow storm in the mountains.  After that incident I researched GPS locating devices.  I experimented with a GPS/GSM cellular device the size of a pager that reports in real-time just like in the movies:  You get a moving “dot” with a breadcrumb trail on your computer screen.  Perfect!  But the problem is, they’re not kid friendly, even though they’re the size of a small cell phone.

Even if I could convince my son to wear a pager-sized gizmo, it would look ridiculously obvious.  He’d either lose it, break it, or become separated from it if left in a backpack, jacket, etc.  Clearly, such a thing would need to be attached to a child, or person, yet not be too big.  He’s a little young to carry his own cell phone, so carrier-based location services are out (for now).

nu.m8 on left, regular watch on right. Regular watch not included.

Yes, the nu.m8 is thick as a "G-Shock" style watch. All that goodness has to go somewhere.

Specs:

Waterproof to IPX7 (immersion in 1 meter of water for 30 min.)

Battery (from website):

“nu.m8 is quoted at 48 hours standby in good GSM coverage (cell phone network coverage). Powering up the GPS takes the most power although poor GSM or handshaking  multiple base stations (during a car journey) will consume extra battery. We would expect 5-10 wru’s outdoors will give 14-18 hours battery life, 5-10 wrus indoors where we can see some GPS but not enough to lock will reduce battery life to 12 hours.”

The nu.m8 is clever.  It looks like a no-frills kid’s watch.  My son requested the very brightly colored blue one.  The first thing I noticed is that the strap can only be detached using a special tool (included).  For the sake of other nu.m8 owners, I won’t reveal how that’s done here.  The strap can be adjusted, but only when detached.

Under the strap

Close up of strap adjustment

Back of the nu.m8. Note charging terminals.

nu.m8 docked. Two colored LEDs on top provide charging status.

Docked, side view. The cable terminates to a USB plug, which connects to the provided wall adapter (200mA).

The nu.m8 uses what I call a “pinging” style of tracking.  That is, it will send out a location update when requested or when it crosses user-defined area.  There is a “live mode” which updates more often to give a more real-time effect, but this drains the battery faster.  The live-mode can be set to activate in the event of strap detachment, for example.

I ordered this item when it first became available on Amazon.  To my dismay, I could not get reliable tracking data.  I figured it was way too ahead of it’s time so I sent it back.  A week or two later I learn that the nu.m8 had an over-the-air (OTA) firmware update that fixes this problem, so I contacted the company and was assured this fix was a good one.  True to their word, my evaluation unit works flawlessly.

Power up sequence. A series of four bars form a box around the display, counterclockwise.

Default analog display. LCD digits shown inverted. I don't know of a way to "reverse" the display to dark-on-light which might have been neat.

Text "clock" via SMS to the watch, and the display toggles between digital and analog.

You may be thinking, what good is GPS if you’re indoors?  As long as you can get a good GSM signal (I’ve learned T-Mobile is default) then it will triangulate based on cell tower location and plot an approximate circle of where your child is.  If your kid frequents only a few places (grandma’s house, school, friend’s home) then it’s good enough.

I discovered that the nu.m8 locks onto a usable GPS signal quite easily under conditions I would not expect.  It located the watch inside a car, and inside my home, which is on the top floor of a building (which probably helped).  Did not work inside my high-rise office building as expected.

The monthly rate is $9.99, which gives you web portal access to send commands to the watch, as well as mapping, based the familiar Google Maps.  From the portal you can set the unit on standby, “live”, create a geofence, monitor battery levels, email notifications, and so on.  Read more about rate plans here.  Yearly discounts apply.

Web portal interface. This screen happens to show a geofence I've drawn around my home.

For a $17.99 a month, you also get SMS control and notification.  From any SMS-enabled cell phone, you can send the following commands to the nu.m8:

  • Where are you request text “wru”
  • Off (to release strap) text “off”
  • Safe Zone on text “safe (radius as metres)”
  • Safe Zone off text “zone”
  • Clock Analogue text “clock”
  • Clock 12 hour digital text “12”
  • Clock 24 hour digital text “24”
  • Standby text “stand”

In my testing, it takes about 60 seconds for commands to be executed.

SMS functions are very handy if you aren’t near a computer with web access.  The “wru” function is especially neat.  You’ll get a reply back with the street address your child was located, or the approximate range if there is no GPS signal (“2000-2999 Main St”)

So does it work?  Yes it does.  A little creepy?  Some might say so.  I won’t go into the privacy issues that some may have.  If my son doesn’t want to wear one, I won’t make him.

It’s not real-time like you’d see in a James Bond movie (no moving dot on a computer screen) because the power requirements would be prohibitive in such a small package.  However, the “ping” method works fine for all but the truly paranoid.

The dealbreaker for me is that the watch is simply too large for my 4 year old son.  He’s about 35 lbs and 3 feet tall.  Not a big kid.  The watch fits his wrist at the smallest strap setting.  Anything larger and it runs the risk of slipping off.  It’s about the size of a typical sports watch or “G-Shock” watch, but might fit better on a slightly larger child.

When the nu.m8 can be shrunken down to an even smaller size, I will definitely pick one up for keeps.  This would also be great for children or other individuals with special needs.

 

Product Information

Price:$179 for the kit, $9.99 per month for web only, $17.99 per month adds SMS. Yearly discounts apply.
Manufacturer:LOK8U
Pros:
  • Very small, kid friendly design. Looks like a kids watch.
  • Watch alerts parent if detached.
  • When GPS not available, nu.m8 falls back on GSM cell tower locations.
  • Comes in black, pink and blue.
Cons:
  • Not a true "real-time" tracking device like you'd see in the movies.
  • Those with privacy issues may feel iffy.
  • A little big on the wrist if you're child is small.
Posted in: GPS, Kid Gadgets, Reviews

20 comments… add one

  • Ken S March 21, 2010, 7:07 pm

    I agree with you…it’s too big for a small child. By the time they’re big enough for it might just be better to give them a cell phone which with most family plans would cost your $20 a month and allow all of the same type of tracking AND even a call or two :)

  • brian Messenger April 2, 2010, 6:32 am

    is this available in perth australia yet? and how much is it worth in aus dollars?

  • Andy Chen April 2, 2010, 2:48 pm

    I am not sure. Your best bet is to visit the website and check. Or email them to ask if your country is next.

  • Mark April 9, 2010, 4:26 pm

    After a problem getting the service started was corrected, the watch seems to be working well and without problems. Parents and others who want something like this for an older child or young adult with a condition or need requiring something like this should note that the band fits up to a 7″ wrist–an adult size.
    The lock seems very sturdy and tests to unlock it with a paperclip and a toothpick were unsuccessful. While the precision of locates seems to vary, the casing and mechanism appear strong.

  • jeff April 11, 2010, 3:18 pm

    Great post! I really needed this for my young son when he plays in the park….Your review really good and BTW in response to brian above, it should be available in australia from the same place i got it from quantum-wireless.com/store/index.php/manufacturers/lok8u.html
    i recommend it, it works!

  • Kevin April 15, 2010, 5:45 am

    I saw it in my hands, and in my opinion it’s too big for a child. That Omega (the one in photo comparison) is a XXL watch, not a normal sized watch.

  • Ivo July 14, 2010, 3:21 pm

    I just received mine in the mail but I want to test it out before keeping it.

    Do you know if I can cancel my monthly subscription if I am unsatisfied and return the watch? The subscription says “one year minimum” so I am not sure how that works.

    Thanks!

  • Andy Chen July 14, 2010, 9:45 pm

    I’m not sure. I’d call them to ask if they have a trial period.

  • Rene September 8, 2010, 5:47 am

    Good review. :)

    Did you ever test the battery performance? If it actually could last for at least 12 hours?

    We are considering buying it for my grandma which often walks away from her elderly home. Her wrist is pretty small so I think it should be able to fit?
    The GPS watch she has right now has to have the battery replaced every 4-6 hours…. :(

    So the battery performance is of great importance to us.

  • Andy Chen September 8, 2010, 10:14 am

    The manufacturer states it should last 12 hours with heavy use (see review quote above).

  • Jf September 29, 2010, 1:03 am

    Any reeks for a 2 yr old?

  • Robert October 14, 2011, 5:29 am

    Is this product available in Romania ? .. I hope so ..

  • Andy Chen February 6, 2012, 10:12 am

    Romania? Yes.

    http://www.lok8u.com/contactus.html

    Address: Str. Hagiului Nr. 7, parter, sector 2, Bucuresti
    Tel: +40.314.32.80.83
    Mobile: +40.743.55.32.55
    Email: office@safekids.ro

  • Jilian Tirbany July 12, 2012, 10:19 pm

    Do you sell it in Canada? If yes – where please? Also, we’ll be moving to the Caribbean (Trinidad) – would it work and be able to track the kids there ok?

    Jilian

  • chevis d October 31, 2012, 3:00 pm

    For those of you that say, “ooh it’s too clunky”, ARE YOU STUPID???!! Our daughter was missing at 3 years old. She was recovered safe but at the time I would have strapped a big red bick onto her arm to have have the ability to track her.

  • Sara Wiese January 11, 2013, 9:19 am

    I have three children and looking to but these for my two older kids when we take a trip to Disney world, just wondering if the text msg alerts will advise me which watch it is so i know what kid i am looking at on the computer or when i text it for the coordinates.

  • Andy Chen January 11, 2013, 9:58 am

    I’m not sure if it’ll do that, Sara. It’s been almost three years since I’ve played with this device. Things may have changed since then. I own other GPS tracking devices that allow some form of customization you’re looking for, so it’s definitely possible.

  • claire April 21, 2013, 6:12 pm

    I am looking at this for my 5 year old. She has brain injury and often wanders off. She is however only little. 15kg her wrist would be about 12cm around. Does anyone who has one of these know if this would still fit her?

  • Leatiogie January 29, 2014, 5:57 pm

    Thank you for taking time to make this review!

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