Summer is almost here and soon the refrain “go outside and play” will be uttered by parents throughout the land. Kidlings who have been underfoot during the depths of winter will be “encouraged” to seek entertainment beyond a six inch screen. This “suggestion” by parents may be met with wailing and the gnashing of teeth, but by mixing a bit of technology with outdoor fun the “pain” endured by the munchkins can be managed. 


For example, keeping track of little ones during their adventures just got easier for parents and hi-tech fun for kids. The Coolpad Dyno Smartwatch debuted in January and the reviews are raves. Android Central calls it “the only kids smartwatch worth buying” because it delivers “peace of mind without the worst parts of the Internet.” 


The review continues: “The Dyno Smartwatch stands out as something genuinely enjoyable to use for both the kid and the parent, and that's a big deal. Coolpad Dyno is a fully functioning phone, complete with SIM card. If my son needs to call me, he can. If I want to send him a text, it's easy. And instead of a phone that could fall out of his pocket this phone lives on his wrist.”

Parents can create geofences for areas so they know where their child is and get notifications when the child enters or leaves those zones. “When his bus has left school, I know about it. When he takes the dog for a walk when I'm not at home, I see the notification that he's left home and can message him to see what he's up to. He can choose between a handful of pre-loaded text responses or he can send me a voice message with whatever he wants to say.” 


Kids reviewing the Dyno call it a “spy watch.” It links to an app on the parents' phones. For $150 it could be fun for the kids and a security tool for parents. Check this out at:, and


If your child wears the Dyno Smartwatch on a bike ride, another instance of new technology might give parents a safety option. The new Bontrager Wave Cel helmets claims to offer better protection. “WaveCel is a revolutionary, Bontrager-exclusive helmet technology that has been shown in a recent study to be up to 48 times more effective than traditional foam helmets in protecting your head from injuries caused by certain cycling accidents.” (


Virginia Tech University studied bike helmets and gave this one five stars. “The Bontrager Ballista MIPS scored highest in the first set of ratings, held onto its spot at the top of the pack.” (


Parents might want to keep their charges close to home, so a bit of citizen science might accomplish this. Volunteers of all ages are needed to help scientists with all sorts of interesting projects. “Citizen science enables people from all walks of life to advance scientific research.” Three websites that contain listings for these possibilities are:,, and Some of the projects even have their own apps. 


One project that might interest kids is Project Squirrel. “Count squirrels anytime, anywhere, report findings online. Project Squirrel is calling all citizen scientists of all ages to count the number of squirrels in their neighborhoods and report their findings. The goal is to understand tree squirrel ecology. Learn how to identify three tree squirrels then report your observations about their presence or absence and some of the ecological conditions of your neighborhood.” This one is at


Another project lasts all year but has a big event next Saturday (May 4). Through the use of an app, eBird is a way to observe birds in your area and report your findings. “On 4 May, will you join more than 30,000 others and become a part of Global Big Day? You don’t have to commit to birding for 24 hours—an hour or even 10 minutes of watching birds makes you part of the team. Visit your favorite spot or search out someplace new; enjoy a solo walk or get some friends to join in the Global Big Day fun.” Get all the information at: and


All this technology takes power, mostly from batteries. A new power source development from MIT is not available this summer, but it's on the near horizon. They are developing “rectennas,” have proved the concept and now are speeding toward efficiency. 

“Imagine a world where smartphones, laptops, wearables, and other electronics are powered without batteries. Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have taken a step in that direction, with the first fully flexible device that can convert energy from Wi-Fi signals into electricity that could power electronics. The researchers demonstrate a new kind of rectenna that uses a flexible radio-frequency (RF) antenna that captures electromagnetic waves — including those carrying Wi-Fi — as AC waveforms. Promising early applications for the proposed rectenna include powering flexible and wearable electronics, medical devices, and sensors for the internet of things.” (


Beam me up, Scotty. Science fiction is about to become science fact. In the meantime, enjoy your summer. After this winter, we all deserve it. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and