In 2018, approximately one child died each week from vehicular heatstroke. This tragedy is what Tomeka Carroll (SEAS ‘22) set out to solve with her company, Heartbeat.
Heartbeat is a device compatible with any car seat that helps busy, distracted and tired parents feel like they have additional support in remembering their toddler is in the car. The device connects to an app on the guardian's phone. The app can sense if the phone has moved a certain distance from the car and will send an alert if the device detects a child in the seat. Tomeka is working on developing multiple security nets in case the guardian forgets their phone as well.
Tomeka Carroll (founder of Heartbeat) grew up in Glen Allen, Virginia and received her bachelor’s degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She then attended Georgetown's McDonough School of Business master's program and is currently in her second year at UVA, on her way to obtain a Ph.D.
Tomeka elaborates on what drives her passion for Heartbeat, saying that upon, "seeing so many interviews and news reports of parents in the summertime losing children in a preventable manner… it just really hit me." Additionally, Tomeka has nieces and nephews of her own, allowing her to understand the real need for this product in today's market.
What sets Heartbeat apart is its compatibility with any car seat on the market. Other products require the purchase of a whole new car seat, which adds inconvenience for many parents, in addition to a greater financial burden. Tomeka is trying to find Heartbeat’s place in the market in terms of what the parents are willing to pay and how she can fit it into their lives seamlessly.
One thing Tomeka appreciates about her time at the i.Lab is the support from the other ventures, "I just really love the collaborative environment. I can ask other companies for their input and offer [input to others] as well." While in the i.Lab Tomeka hopes to create a prototype of her product that will allow her to have a trial run with a few parents that will provide insight for additional iterations, "I want to get their thoughts on the products and… really understand what a day looks like for a parent that is busy and tired…in hopes Heartbeat can put their mind at ease."
When Tomeka first described her product, I immediately wondered if she had looked into expanding the product to dog owners as well. As an owner of a dog myself, I worry every time I leave him in the car that it is too hot. There is a market for this product, for parents and dog owners alike! Tomeka is very aware and excited about the potential to expand into pets and hopes to tackle that after she nails down her car seat device first.