Last January, at the peak of another scorching Australian summer, media outlets were again tragically reporting the deaths of children who’d been locked in overheated cars.
At the same time, Sarina Kilham and her partner, Ednilson Santos, welcomed their second child.
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Determined to prevent parents like themselves losing a child to such a cruel fate, the pair set about finding a product to ease their minds with little success.
“We found it incredible that there was nothing on the market yet,” Kilham says.
That’s what motivated her to create RememberMe, a sensor device fitted to a child’s car seat that sends alerts to a parent’s smartphone if they leave their child inside the vehicle.
If the alert isn’t received by the driver, the device then starts to call a list of emergency contacts.
The idea, still in its prototype phase, won Kilham and Santos the $5000 first place prize at the University of Technology Sydney Project Pitch competition in September.
But while the startup community showed its support for RememberMe, not everyone has been so encouraging.
One of Kilham’s friends, a mother-of-four, called the idea “terrible”, saying she’d never leave her baby unattended in a car.
“Hearing that feedback really rocked me,” Kilham says.
“The research says it can happen to anyone. It’s not linked to parenting ability, profession or socioeconomic class.”
Kilham says children are most often left in cars when there’s been a change in the family’s daily routine.
“It might not have been dad’s day to drop the baby at daycare, and he just keeps driving to work,” she says.
The duo plan to overcome the possibility of parents not admitting they need the device by targeting the baby shower market.
Kilham also says families who hand over their kids to grandparents will want one fitted in their car too, allaying need for constant worry.
“We’re looking at it as a peace-of-mind product,” she says.
“You pay your car and house insurance even though you never expect it could happen to you, and it’s the same with this.”
Kilham and Santos are now looking for an app developer that can create the software to complement their pressure-pad device. Then they’ll crowdfund to have RememberMe industrially manufactured.
While the Sydneysiders might be new to entrepreneurship, Kilham says they’ve been energised by their interactions with the startup scene.
“Realising there’s a whole community out there is exciting because it makes your idea possible,” she says.