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Mobile Monitoring, Management, and Location Services: The $100 Million+ Market and Growing

Children and Mobile Internet Access

To date, my blogs on parental controls and monitoring solutions have been focused mainly on software that assists parents in managing and controlling the kind of web access their children can have. As mentioned previously, although there is a sizeable total addressable market for solutions that manage kid's access to the Internet (uKnowKids, for example, estimates that there are 91 million teens and tweens worldwide with the means to access technology), many companies with whom I've briefed have indicated that stand-alone parental controls solutions are a tough sale at present.

Of course, attempting to monitor and manage kid's online activities from a fixed location (a computer) is nothing compared to the near impossibility of doing so on mobile devices. According to Nielsen, 70% of U.S. teens (ages 13-17) and 79% of young adults (ages 18-24) own smartphones. More startingly, F-Secure reports that 60% of children under 12 own at least one mobile device with Internet access such as a phone, tablet, MP3 player or handheld game console. Furthermore, for some teens, the mobile device is the only way in which they access the Internet and other applications. According to the Pew Research Center, one in four teens can be considered "cell only" users, meanting they mostly go online using their phone and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.

Managing and Monitoring Mobile Internet Use

According to a recent survey from the BBC in England, 90% of parents say that they have spoken to their children about the potential dangers of mobile Internet use. However, less than one-half have set up any kind of parental controls on smartphones. According to Parks Associates, only about 6% of U.S. broadband households with children use any kind of parental controls on smartphones.

With greater availability of mobile monitoring and controls solutions, however, awareness and use of these solutions will rise over the next few years. One company currently taking advantage of the growing market is Location Labs, The company's mobile monitoring and management tools - known as the Safely Family Essentials suite - are currently in use by the major mobile operators in both the U.S. and abroad.

Location Labs' offerings can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Mobile Management Tools: AT&T's Smart Limits®, Sprint's Mobile Controls, and Verizon's FamilyBase™ allow parents limit mobile use by time, data and text use, and applications purchases. The cost for these services is around $5/month per account.  T-Mobile Family Allowances® is a similar service, but does not appear to be powered by Location Labs.
  • Location Tracking: AT&T's FamilyMap and Sprint's Family Locator are services that use the GPS capabilities of mobile phones to provide parents with a child's location (down to a street address). These services include other capabilities such as setting arrival and departure alerts for specific locations and include integrated messaging to directly communicate with a family member. The monthly pricing for a location service varies slightly among the major operators, but it falls between $9.99 and $14.99/month, depending on the number of phones that are to be tracked. Currently, T-Mobile's FamilyWhere, and Verizon's Family Locator are not powered by Location Labs.
  • Driving Safety: Location Labs' DRIVE FIRST feature disables e-mail and text notifications if it detects that the phone is in a vehicle traveling more than ten miles per hour. Sprint's Drive First is a free offering to its mobile customers.

Location Labs' services extend outside the U.S. as well. For example, Movistar (Telefónica) offers Aquí estoy (Here I Am) for €7.26 / month.

Although these features are commonly available as separate services, Sprint bundles the location features with mobile anti-virus in an offering called Sprint Guardian. At $9.99/month, this supports up to five phones on one account. Sprint also has a unique offering called WeGo that combines location services, a managed contact list, and speed detection into one service. Customers pay $9.99 for such service in addition to purchasing special WeGo phone.

Other Solutions

Although Location Labs has well-established relationships with the major mobile operators, it is by no means the only company offering location and mobile management solutions to parents. One such company that was brought to my attention just today is called MamaBear from a company called GeoWaggle. This free app combines the capabilities of a social networking monitoring solution with location features, including sending alerts to parents if kids are speeding in their cars. The free service limits the number of alerts parents receive each day; they can upgrade to a premium service for unlimited daily notifications. The company just announced that it closed $1.4 million in funding.

F-Secure's Lokki application - available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices - provides location tracking as a free offering.

Additional mobile management offerings come from such companies as Famigo, Kytephone, and MMGuardian.

How Big is the Market?

As mentioned previously, Parks Associates' data indicates that mobile parental controls solutions are used today by about 6% of the total addressable market. Last November, Location Labs revealed that it had surpassed one million paying subscribers for its services. Calculating the annual revenue generated at $9.99/month subscriptions, I came to a rough total of about $120 million in revenue for just Location Labs' solutions alone. If these solutions can capture only about 1% of the total addressable market, annual revenue will reach about $1 billion by 2018.

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