Meet Ily, a brand new take on personal communication between family members. Ily is a new connected device for your home as well as a smartphone app. Developed by New York-based startup Insensi, Ily doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. This all-in-one communication box does a few things really well, and makes sense for all family members, from kids to grandparents.
“When I was working in California for Jive, I was traveling a lot,” founder and CEO Ilan Abehassera told me. “And I realized that it was hard to stay in touch with my kids. And then I thought about their grandparents as well.”
That’s why he wanted to design a device that was so easy and safe to use that it would reduce the friction to communicate with your long-distance family members. Ily is a $200 communication device that you set up in your kitchen or living room — it’s not a tablet, it’s not something that you carry with you around your home.
It has an 8-inch touchscreen, a camera, a microphone, a speaker, proximity sensors as well as temperature and quality of air sensors. There is also a separate handset for voice calls. By default, Ily displays a grid of your family members. You tap on someone’s picture, and you can then start a call, a video call, send a video message, text message or drawing. This works particularly well with other family members who also have an Ily.
But what if your step parents don’t have an Ily? The company will release iPhone and Android apps so that you can keep up with your family from your smartphone. Unlike FaceTime, it works on both Android and iOS, unlike Skype you don’t need to sign in to become reachable. These mobile apps will be particularly useful when you want to share photos as well. Ily creates a simple family photo stream so that grandparents can see their grandchildren for example. With the Ily mobile apps, you can upload photos to this stream directly from your phone.
In addition to taking advantage to your Internet connection for native Ily calls, the device also comes with all the VoIP functions you would expect — you can call a regular phone using Ily without having to think about it. Finally, you can also replace your landline phone with Ily as there is a special landline port. “Replacing the landline phone is the best way to convince grandparents,” Abehassera said.
Behind the scene, Ily runs on an Android fork called the Family OS. It’s a stripped down version of Android with mostly communication features — you can’t browse the web or play games on Ily, it’s not made for that. There will be a few apps on top of this family graph, but the company doesn’t want to bloat up the device. In addition to the photo stream, Ily will also come with a music app that fetches your Spotify playlists so that your kid can play music without having to borrow your phone.
Finally, there is a feed of everything that happened on Ily. You can see if your kid sent a drawing to her grandmother for example, and get your brother’s latest photos. “Unlike social networks, you don’t need to have 50 people on Ily to make it useful,” Abehassera said. “Our initial target is family with young children. Then you can add uncles, aunts, cousins…”
You can pre-order Ily on the company’s website for $199. The mobile apps will be free, and you won’t need the communication device to start using them. The company already raised $2.4 million and managed to attract a team of talented engineers. “Our software team is bigger than our hardware team now,” Abehassera said. If you pre-order today, you can expect to receive your Ily this Fall.