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Letting parents police their children's life online

Innovation awards finalist: iKydz offers a controller accessed via smartphone app gives parents tools to protect their children

Jason Sheehy, finance director, John Molloy, chief executive and Paul Van Den Bergh, sales director from iKydz. Photograph: Conor McCabe

The idea for the iKydz controller was formed after John Molloy, an IT professional who spends much of his working time on the road, grew concerned that his children may not be safe online and were being distracted from their studies.

“I’ve spent most of my life on the road, working in various different hotel rooms,” he says. “I have three children – I call them my cost centres – who are on the internet all the time doing this, that, and the other.

“So in order to monitor and restrict what they were doing, I would have to log into the router and restrict them from doing stuff etc, which was very complicated, and I didn’t always have access from various parts of the world.

“I thought that there had to be an easier way of doing it. So, we started producing a little device that can be plugged into the router, which allowed me to remotely log in and block an IP address for a period of time.”

The issue prompted the opportunity to develop iKydz so that it would assist other parents struggling with the same problem.

“I got that working and wondered what else I could do, so I started looking at the other concerns like managing content, streamlining content, blocking content, the ability to block apps like Facebook and Whatsapp, ” he says. “I wanted to put all that in a little box, so I did.”

Work began on the software solution in 2014, and two years later the iKydz controller unit was designed and built in China. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign the product was launched in Ireland in October 2016.

All the functions and controls of the iKydz controller are accessed via an app on the parent’s smartphone.

The product operates a cloud service; does not require any software installation; is device specific; is tamper proof; and works with any existing router. It works by creating a separate “safe network” for children’s devices.

For example, while one of the children’s access is switched off at 9pm, a parent can continue online into the night. Meanwhile all members of the household are protected by the blocking of any content deemed to be inappropriate.

The product also provides a record of what sites a child has accessed over a recent period. This is all done by creating a separate “safe network” for devices, thereby leaving parents with their service uninterrupted.

Bad content

“Ikydz is a little box that plugs into your router,” continues Molloy. “It registers and creates a new network called Ikydz, which you can change the name and password of, and it allows you to control all the devices connected to that.

“Parents are worried about content, so what we do is block all the bad content. If someone does a random search of the internet, we block anything that’s inappropriate coming up so the child can’t get at them.

“Every child has a device these days, so what we also do is allow parents to see how long the child was online for, what they were doing, etc. It’s a monitoring tool. It’s also device specific. Different children can have different settings etc.

“It’s not a big brother thing. It’s about completely securing some content on the internet, and giving parents the tools to protect their children.

“We control everything from the television, to the Xbox, games consoles, everything that is connected inside your house. Then, our digitally available, currently being deployed in Nigeria, mobile model controls 3G or 4G outside the house.”

The product has enjoyed considerable success to date.

“We’re selling to 28 different countries,” says Molloy. “We’ve just done a deal in Saudi Arabia. We sell to Australia, America, Canada, Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, the UAE, which is a very big market, and we’re currently deploying a 3G mobile solution in Nigeria.

“We have a retail presence in Ireland and the UK across about 160 different outlets. We sell online and also through various different business partners.”

Molloy, who has more than 30 years experience in the IT industry, says his skill set involves “an ability to understand how business works”.

“I have been an independent consultant for about 14 years,” he says. “I understand how technology works and I like creating solutions.”