Republic Wireless’ new Relay communication device has potential to further enable ICT access.

A new device released by Republic Wireless at the beginning of 2018, called the Relay, was designed to provide children with a screenless communication device. The device gives kids more freedom, while giving parents’ peace of mind by providing a way to both locate and communicate with their children without the need for standard phones. 

 Image of the relay device

The device, approximately 3 inches by 3 inches, has a simple one-button interface to maximize the ease of use. It is a durable device, both waterproof and drop-proof. For further simplicity, it includes a magnetic charger, eliminating the need for proper orientation that exists with many chargers.  

Republic Wireless’ priority with the Relay is safety. This communication device ensures privacy. The website writes, “we eliminated any requirement for phone numbers, and nixed all personal data storage on the device. These choices, along with parental setup and approval, protect kids from ‘stranger access’ and privacy invasion”. The Relay also includes both GPS tracking and a companion app that can be downloaded on a mobile phone. The app can be used to locate and communicate with the Relay with which it came. The Relay itself can communicate with either the companion app or the other Relays to which it is paired. Each group of Relays that is formed is controlled, permitting greater communication without sacrificing safety.

Republic Wireless is known for its Wi-Fi calling capabilities that they have developed for their mobile phones. They included this feature in the Relay, giving it the capability to function over both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE networks. Therefore, though the device appears to act like a walkie-talkie, it has a much wider range of communication. 

Republic states that they are working to release some new features for the Relay. Eventually, they plan to enable Google Assistant on the device, permitting people to use it for more than simply calling. Republic wireless also says they are working to release “its own ‘app store’ where, in the upcoming months, parents can safely introduce kids to music, games, and an initial on-ramp to the vast information available on the Internet”.

Though the Relay was designed primarily to address a need seen among children of younger ages, Republic recognizes the wider population it could serve. They advertise its usefulness for “outdoor enthusiasts”, “seniors”, and “teams”. However, there exists an even wider range of people that this device might be able to serve. Those with visual impairments, physical impairments, and cognitive impairments who are generally limited in their ability to access a flip or smart phone could potentially benefit from the Relay. With the device’s current capabilities, it could aid those in need of communicating, while also giving individuals increased independence and reducing the pressure placed on caretakers. With a simple push of a button, the Relay could be used to notify either a person with another Relay or the person with the companion application. Furthermore, because the Relay functions over Wi-Fi, it is not necessary for the users to have a SIM card from Republic Wireless, though for communication on the go, 4G LTE can be used. If the phone with the companion app and the Relay are connected to Wi-Fi, a message can always be quickly sent or received. Lastly, the new features that are being released in the coming months will increase the usefulness of the device for the visually, physically, and cognitively impaired. With connection to Google Assistant, the Relay could permit those who cannot drive to call for an Uber and those who cannot see to access audible directions to reach a desired location.

 Image of the relay device in use

Though Republic has created a range of new communication opportunities through this device, there are a few limiting factors. First, because it can only communicate with other connected Relays or the phone with the paired companion app, the Relay does not truly replace a cellular phone. If a user wishes to communicate with someone, that person must either have a Relay or the companion app. Further, since the Relay does not store data for security reasons, the user must always have the Relay nearby and to be prepared to hear the message. As soon as a message is sent, the other devices will receive it, meaning that if the owner of a Relay or the companion app is not near the device, the message will not be heard. Lastly, the device does not have the capability to call 911, which could present problems if the user is faced with any danger that requires an emergency care response. If these needs were met by Republic Wireless, the Relay could enable the safe and crucial communication to which many populations currently do not have access.

The Relay can be purchased in packages of one, two, or three, or in any combination of these options. One Relay costs $99, two costs $149, and three costs $199. There is also a monthly service fee of $6.99 per Relay.

To learn more about the Relay visit their website at https://relaygo.com/.

Written by: Adrienne Hawkes