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SXSW was saved by Life360

kristi at sxswIt seems like South by Southwest (SXSW) was just yesterday. In reality, it was back in March. I had just been notified that I was part of the Blog Ambassadorship with Life360 days before I arrived in Austin.  What I didn’t expect to see where three brand new electric BMW i3 cars rolling around with the Life360 logo on them.  Life360 partnered up with BMW to bring a safe ride experience to a select few of the VIPs and Executives roaming around the tech portion of the conference. Luckily, my friend Robert Scoble who is the Startup Liaison Officer for Rackspace, was one of the chosen few for the cars.

By hooking up your smartphone to the car’s interface screen, the Life360 app popped up on the large screen. We were able to see where all of our friends were and it made it easier on the driver to map out a course to pick everyone up. The i3 looks small from the outside, but it is oh so roomy on the inside. We were able at times to get five people in this car!

We made a few Circles within the app while at SXSW. One was just used by Robert Scoble and the rest of the Life360 team to schedule rides and manage everyone. Then there was a Circle of our friends so we could see what venue everyone was at. There were quite a few messages going back and forth about the cool things we saw on the streets (it was SXSW after all!) or where we might be enjoying some grub and a cold craft brew.

A few times I lost my friends in the massive conference center and I would pop open the app and I navigate myself right to them. It was awesome!! I am a talker so there were many times when the guys would continue on to our destination and I would use the app to catch up. Life360 saved me from having to play the phone game of – Where are you? Where is that? What is that by?

On the way to an after party, I jumped into a cab with my friends as the Life360 cars were busy. Everything was great until I realized that my phone had slipped out of my pocket. I logged into the Life360 console online and watched as my phone took a ride all over Austin!  That GPS tracking feature is no joke! The cab company refused to give it back even though I could tell them the exact address of where it was. All weekend I watched my phone have some serious SXSW fun until the battery died. Bye bye my little phone friend, you were missed. 

I hope Life360 partners up with other conferences not only for this unique way to transport guests, because it makes staying connected to your friends and colleagues so much easier. For me, SXSW was saved by Life360 and I couldn’t possibly fathom going to another conference without this app. Oh, and those cars – they picked us up in the middle of the night on more than one occasion. Lifesavers, really!

Life360 goes with your family wherever you go thanks to Android Wear™

life360_mapThis week we’re excited to announce another step into the wearable space, with Android Wear. This is an exciting move for us, that allows us to help families stay connected not only through their smart phones on Windows Phone, iOS and Android, but also allows us to engage with wearable devices that run on Android Wear.

What this means for Life360 users on an Android wearable is that with the flick of the wrist they will be able to take advantage of innovative, new voice features to say things like, “start Life360” and the app will open. Once open, users can see where everyone in the family is located, and click on the specific family member to navigate directly to them. Users will also automatically receive card notifications when family members arrive to designated places like work, school or home, making it easier for busy families to stay connected throughout the day, without the friction of multiple text messages or phone calls. life360_place_alert

At Life360 our goal is to be the hub for today’s connected family across all connected devices and family assets such as the home or car, and wearable devices present an exciting opportunity for us to reach beyond smart phones to a broader group of users. Android users make up a significant portion of our user base today, so we are excited to join Android Wear so users can continue to take us with them wherever they go.

Let us know what your family thinks of wearable devices like smart watches and fitness trackers!

Our Kids’ Intuition

Just as I was blogging last time about giving some freedom and in fact forcing my kids to leave the house this summer, there’s something that happened to my 12-year-old daughter that has me reassessing that freedom.

Last week she was walking alone to meet her BFF at our pool, something she started doing last summer and again this summer. It’s a freedom I love for her to have and something I encourage. On this day I pulled up in the car when she was leaving and she waved goodbye, smiling that she just texted me that she was going to the pool. “Do you want a ride?” I said. She shook her head no and bounced off in shorts with her backpack, as tweens do, holding her phone with probably a headset in blaring the music of none other than One Direction, or “1D” for us hipper parents.

A little bit after seeing my girl leave our driveway, I get a text that says, “When I was walking to the pool this car stopped right next to me and he screamed “get in” so I started running and he soon just drove by me.”

I gulped, my heart stopped and I could only think of wanting to be with her.

I got in the car and drove up to the pool to hear the story of the man in a white, sporty car, who drove by her slowly and she noticed. She said she “got a gut feeling something was wrong” when the car slowed, enough for her to turn her head to find him parked for at least five or ten seconds. He then backed up onto another street to drive towards her where he slowed or stopped (she didn’t remember which) and yelled at her to “GET IN!” and she took off running and then he took off driving past her. We went through the proper channels of filing a report and have since been interviewed by detectives and our local new stations to share our story because my daughter isn’t the only one approached, apparently.

news story

How can we talk to our kids about their intuition?

  1. Talk to them often about their “gut feeling” or intuition. I think intuition is largely squelched out of us by the time we’re adults. If we don’t talk about it when they’re kids, it’ll be harder to recognize in themselves.
  2. Talk about certain circumstances in which intuition might come into play… stranger situations, friends or family member in trouble, when they are alone at parties etc., or even in group situations with people they know.
  3. Talk about what a “gut feeling” feels like. To my daughter, she said she got immediately “nervous” and “scared” and she didn’t know it, but it was a feeling of vulnerability.
  4. Talk about not fighting the gut feeling and staying in danger. Talk about how it doesn’t matter if feelings are hurt, even with adults. Adults will understand if they are protecting themselves and if they don’t, oh well.

I am, obviously, grateful my daughter’s intuition served her well. I hope this never happens again to her, but this experience has been a reminder that while our kids seek their independence (and she will walk alone again) maybe we can help them by talking about their intuition or “gut feelings” and how they can serve them well.

Long-distance peace of mind

I travel a lot for work, but this week, I was further away from my son than ever before. While I was in Washington, DC, he was in Wyoming as he and a group of kids from his school district headed to the Grand Tetons. According to the Life360 app, we were 33 hours away from each other. That is a lot.

reeves family

There are so many reasons why being so far apart is manageable. First, I trust my son. He’s a good guy and I know he deserved a trip where he could grow. Second, the organizers of the trip are keeping families updated with daily emails about their activities and daily photo dump to a Facebook page. It is SO cool to see the images and stories coming from this adventure. I encouraged my son to take a ton of pictures, but who knows if the camera will make it home!

The trip was a really big deal. And I didn’t want to be “that mom” who kept bothering him while he rode on a bus for 17 hours to and from the Teton Science School. Luckily, Life360 helped me keep tabs on his location without being annoying to him. Plus, it gave me a chance to give updates on Facebook to other parents with kids on the trip.

Being so far away from my son was a strange feeling. I knew he was safe and even better, when he was allowed to use his cellphone, I knew his location.

Windows Phone Family Locates Life360!

life360 windows phone screenThat’s right, it is finally here! The Life360 Family Locator app is now available in the Windows Phone store for WP8 and above. That means now everyone in your family can stay connected on Life360 regardless of the device! iPhones, Androids, Windows Phones, and even non-smartphones.

Most of us have families that have all kinds of devices and different operating systems. The addition of Life360 for Windows Phone fills that gap for this growing segment of users. This also means that if you decide to change phones and switch to a different type you will still be able to continue using Life 360 without any interruptions. Just download the app to your latest device and log in to be connected to your existing account.

If you are new to Life360 you will be amazed at what it can do. You create a Circle (group) of your family and friends in the app. Then Life360 uses GPS technology to locate all of the group members and it neatly shows you each member on a map with their own icons. Alerts can be set up so you receive a notice when someone in your circle arrives or leaves a location, like home, school or work.  This is perfect for keeping that piece of mind that your kids arrived to school safely and made it back home the same way!  Life360 also keeps families connected- especially when schedules change or you’re traveling. Messaging within Life360 allows you to quickly let everyone know things like where to meet for dinner or that it is time for the family to meet back up at a certain spot in the mall to head home.

While you can do some of these tasks on your smartphone already, Life360 brings everything together in one place, and now on everyone’s platform, making it easier to locate and connect with the people in your inner circle in a private setting.

So for all of you Windows Phone fans out there (myself included) head over to the Windows Phone store and get the new Life360 Family Locator app now and give it a try. You will love the simplicity of the app, and how it keeps your family connected and provides the extra piece of mind.

Summer and Teens

teens and summerSummer is here. It’s right after that season of Spring and when Spring hits, if you’re like me, a little panic sets in because you wonder if your kids are going to be sitting in the house, playing video games and listening to One Direction all Summer. No, really. Hours of One Direction music and reading One Direction Fan Fiction (the reading is educational, right?) are for sure on the docket.

This year is a little different for our family because we moved our business home. Nearly all of our clients are out-of-town and we don’t need a big conference room and eight-line phone system anymore. I am sure we’re going to cramp the kids’ style by working from home, but it will also allow us to (strongly) encourage the kids to leave home.

We have a neighborhood pool they can go to if they want to meet a friend, they can ride bikes the less than two miles to the mall for Coke Icees, cinnamon pretzels and Game Stop or Forever 21.

Freedom. If you’re old enough, you remember a time when you left the house sometime in the morning with a bag, a snack, a dollar and didn’t come back until the streetlights came on because that meant it was time for dinner. It would never occur to me not to know where my kids are for six or more hours a day, kudos to my parents for giving us the freedom. I am going to try to be a little more gracious of their schedules. My goals for the family for summer…

  • Kids have to go outside nearly everyday. I don’t care if it’s in the front yard to read a book, but they have to see sunlight. We’re guilty of the lounging pajama day – and I still see a huge value in those as a family too – but for the most part, outside in the sun.
  • We (continue to) eat together as a family. It’s terribly easy to let schedules go every which way and during the summer, more so, but I cherish dinner conversations and laughs.
  • Practice instruments and touch-typing and do chores.
  • Flexible (this is mostly for me).
  • See friends a few times a week. This is especially important for my anxiety-ridden son.

The kids know that I have Life360 on their phones because it’s part of our deal right now. I think it actually gives them freedom instead of squelching it, so that is how we are going into the summer. I might even be okay with them leaving in the morning and not coming back until the streetlights come on for dinner.

Living a connected life

When I’m asked how I got “involved in social media” I have to think back to January 2005, when I had a chance to help podcast the world’s first podcasted conference. I was a manager for a newsroom at the time and taught at the Missouri School of Journalism. It was the first time I really understood the concept of delivering information directly to the consumer instead of the consumer going to a website to get information. Back then, you had to download a program onto your computer to “grab” podcasts and then manually add them into you iPod. These days, iTunes has a massive collection of audio and video podcasts that you can subscribe to directly in iTunes. It’s so easy.

Podcasting was just the beginning. These days, we can tailor all types of information to deliver itself into RSS feed readers (I use Feedly), social media and apps on our devices. I have specific lists on Twitter that collect my favorite news sources, my RSS feed overflows with blog posts I want to read and I wear a Nike+ Fuelband to tell me about my activity when I use Bluetooth to connect to the app on my phone. I love having information constantly delivered to myself without doing much work to seek it out.

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 10.38.00 AM

That’s why I really love IFTTT. The website means “if this, then that” and it helps automate social media and other tools you use into a more customized way. You can create “recipes” that help take your personal automation to a new level. My favorite recipe collects the links I share on Facebook into my Evernote account. I also like trying out ways Life 360 can be used in a creative way. I use a recipe to send me a text message every time my son leaves his middle school. It’s just an extra reminder he’s going home when I’m working. The recipe that blew my mind was when you can start automating the devices in your home. Check out the Hue light bulbs which connect to your home’s wifi and with the help of IFTTT, you can have the lights turn on when Life360 notices you’ve arrived home. It’s a long way from podcasting for the first time. Automation is now available beyond content, it can be based on your location. I know we’re just starting to tap into its potential.

Widening your circles

widening circlesI’m currently on a business trip in Boston, and I’ve been using Life360 to help me stay connected to with associates. Life360 is primarily about keeping families connected, but now you can create other circles, either long-term or temporary.

When I arrived at the venue from the airport, it was quick and easy to send a message privately for directions to the meeting room. Also, I could actually see on a map where my work friend was. Life360 gives colleagues a quick and easy way to connect and communicate, either individually or to the larger group.

Location isn’t always necessary with work-friends, so it’s easy to toggle off when not needed. It would be useful if you needed to find each other in a big venue (like I’d use it with my Family Circle when we are at the mall or a warehouse store.) Catch up quickly in a cavernous convention center!

I’d feel secure using Life360 as a messaging service because they assure their “maps and chat channels are built with bank-level security.” Also, because it’s not through email or a messaging app that contains all your contacts, it won’t be accidentally forwarded when someone hits “Reply All.” Because that happens.

Thinking about how Life360 can keep you connected to other groups besides the people who live in your house opens up a world of possibilities. My daughter walks our neighbor’s dog. If the neighbor made a circle that just included just her and my daughter, she could get alerted on when my daughter arrives at the house, departs with the dog, and later returns. After dropping the dog off, my daughter can toggle off the tracking. This would work great with a sitter or other caregiver, especially if they are driving your children anywhere. You could track them safely home from the afternoon school run, especially if your kids are too young to have their own cell phones.

If you have parents who are getting older and need a little more assistance, upgrading them to a Premium account not only keeps you connected though location tracking and messaging, but also it provides them with a 24/7 Live Advisor.

With the push of a button, they get connected to a real live person who can provide crisis care, dispatching help for a medical emergency or a car problem. Also, the advisor will know info provided to the app, like name and family members to contact, and their exact location! The last time we had a car breakdown, it took hours for the tow truck to find us. Now, they can be guided with exact location information.

Life360 is one of the most useful apps on my phone. Now it can not only keep you connected with the people who live in your house, it can also make things easier in every area of your life.

The Amazing Race

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 11.11.25 AMMy daughter’s favorite TV show is the Amazing Race. She loves how the contestants go to faraway places to compete in local challenges in an attempt to win a million dollars. She would love to be on the show one day and already has one of her best friends lined up to partner up with her.

One day my daughter mentioned to me how she’d love to have a joint Amazing Race birthday party with her friend. I thought it was a wonderful idea and I encouraged them to do their research and plot out their quests. It wasn’t much later when she came back to me and said it would be better if the moms planned out the party so it would be more of a thrill for them. Hmm….makes sense, but it sounded like a lot of work.

Fortunately, Amazing Race birthdays have been done numerous times before and generous bloggers and pinners have posted about their adventures. We came up with all sorts of fun adventures like…

  • Buying bunny ears and colorful leis at Party City…to be worn the entire race!
  • Eating an entire slice of mud pie at Red Robin (1 slice per 2 girls)
  • Looking up trivia questions at Barnes & Noble
  • Herding “sheep” from one corral up the hill to another hill at a local park
  • Singing the national anthem….LOUD…at their favorite store, Justice, to a sales associate
  • Drinking down a Kale smoothie at Juice It Up
  • And more!

The girls were given an envelope with their money and a taxi driver (parents) for the kids to tell them where to drive the car to. Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 11.11.33 AM Being the techie of the group (and rather competitive too!), I thought it would be a blast to install Life360 on each taxi driver’s phone so we could track where each team was through the city. I wanted to know who was in the lead!

Life360 was also handy for our sheepherder. She was at the park, setting up, waiting for the girls to arrive. She used the Life360 app to see how far away each car was (there were 6 cars with 3-4 kids in each). She had 80+ balloons with sheep faces on them ready to be herded.

I set up a Place around the park on her Life360 app so when taxi drivers were within a mile, she would be alerted that someone was on their way. I also created a “Sheep” Place zone 500 feet around her herd on my app so I would know if someone was reaching the sheep herd before me.

As with any planned event, there are always some hiccups. We found the Life 360 app very handy in communicating directly to the whole group at once, so we’d all have the latest updates. Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 11.11.40 AM I’m happy to say the Amazing Race Birthday party was a smashing success and being able to track everyone through the Life360 app added an extra element of intrigue and competition. The parents had so much fun, now we want to plan one for us big kids!

When Life Gives You Lemons, Hit the Panic Button

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 1.26.05 PMAs a couple with no family in town, and two kids too young to have their own devices, my husband and I use the Life360 app as more of a private communication app. Our circle is very small. Small enough that one might call us online recluses. Honestly we kind of like it that way, call us the paranoids of the internet. But recently I was struck by how opening up our Life360 Circles would be helpful. It all started with pneumonia. My uncle went into the hospital because he couldn’t kick it. Then they discovered cancer, fast acting cancer. He is the kind of guy who is beloved by many, so those across the country were waiting on pins and needles and constantly bugging family in the waiting room to update us. When what we feared came to pass, I jumped in the car and began the ten hour drive to Texas. Per usual, I stopped for gas and checked in  with my home Circle so my husband would know where I was at. A little light bulb went off… it would have much easier to have shared the news of my uncle’s passing through Life360′s panic function.. My cousin would have been able to alert everyone in her Circle via a method they use with one push. As if to tell me how right I was, not ten miles down the road my husband pinged me. Figuring it was just a thanks for updating me, I ignored it. Until he called. In a panic because he had a last minute work thing he couldn’t miss and I was halfway across the country. And our twins were due to be picked up in thirty minutes. Talk about real life panic. As he worked text and email and I worked the phone, I kicked myself for not adding all of our family-friends to a Circle that could have been alerted at once. My driving would have been less erratic and my husband wouldn’t have had to hide in the bathroom for twenty minutes working the phone like a stockbroker. You win Life360, you totally win. You have lured me in with your connectedness. We are opening our Circles and letting those that love >us in. We’ll just mute them when we need to be alone.