Changes and Updates:
2021-01-31: Power Failure at our Operations Centre
At 3:10 this morning the main 3-phase supply to our office and all the servers with it, went off. We have battery backup and an emergency supply so the good news is that’s worked fine and all took over without any downtime.
Western Power is currently digging up the road to find the break and will be installing a temporary generator this afternoon to provide our main power. Unfortunately wiring it in is going to mean taking the standby off. If everything goes smoothly and within the UPS up-time nobody will notice. The same will probably be the case when they want their generator back.
Some investigations into SMS problems have revealed some technical issues that have taken some time to sort – really sorry if you have one of the device/network issues on your mobile phone that have bedevilled a few users.
Our Superhero development team has been looking really hard into a plan with the Networks involved and we are scheduling a date for integration of our new SMS-C.
We think that was the message, anyway.
2021-01-07: Call recording format improvements
We have improved the way calls are recorded and stored. It’s improved performance which is great, but if you’re seeing some calls from the last 24 hours or so with very suspiciously long reported call durations – please don’t worry , it’s a temporary display issue that we will tidy up!
2020-12-20: Last Christmas Shipping dates
Unfortunately, after the new lockdown rules announced over the Weekend, the Royal Mail have announced that they’re no longer honouring the Next-Day delivery guarantee for Special Delivery posted on the 23rd of December. So we’ve had to change the information on the Site about last possible purchase dates for Christmas. Sorry about that.
2020-12-18: Support over Christmas.
We will have SIMS available for collection with appointment while we are unable to post over Christmas. Please note we may have reduced capacity to take calls over Christmas and the New Year, but we will get to any email as quickly as possible. General Support issues should be no problem. Please allow more time for network operations such as porting where we have to rely on other networks.
2020-12-18: New User categories.
We can now support accounts where the person paying for the account does not need access to the SIM controls or monitoring, or multiple users on the same account. Drop us an email to hello@parentShield.co.uk if you would like details or to set this up.
2020-10-29: Forwarding messages that were blocked…
Something we’ve wanted to do for a while is provide a tool in the Portal to allow you to forward SMS on to your Child’s phone if the message had been blocked by one of the filters.
It’s particularly useful for cases of two-factor-authentication for banking and the like.
If you have a new-style SIM ( Aug 2020 and later ) you will start to see a little
icon appearing next to blocked messages. Click on it to forward the message on to the ParentShield Phone.
If you have an older SIM – don’t worry, we will be posting replacements out very soon.
The way banks send these messages mean they will more often than not be blocked as they are not sent from a real person and so can’t be easily verified.
Messages are always forwarded ‘from’ your mobile number. This is necessary to avoid any possibility that whatever rule blocked the original message can’t cause the forwarded message to be blocked again!
2020-10-21: Blocking iMessage Activation
A New Setting… In the Settings tab you will now find a new switch “Block iMessage Activation”, which does exactly that. All new SIMS are being shipped with this setting in the “ON” position. This is to prevent any users potentially receiving inappropriate messages – text, picture or video without your awareness. We’ll write a bit of a more detailed bog post about this shortly. In the mean time – if you want to allow iMessage activation and association with the phone number, then turn this to OFF.
2020-10-01: Mobile Data Updates for 3rd Gen SIMS
OK – what’s a 3rd Gen SIM? If you received your SIM after the 1st August 2020 then that’s what you have. Everyone, before too long will be switching over to these.
The main changes this week have been to Mobile Data. You will now find the Data tab is back in the Portal and you will be seeing data usage day-by-day in the graph. Historic use won’t be there but it will be accurate from now on.
We’ve been finding our feet with the new platform and tweaking the values and timings that we use when communicating with the networks to try and get everything really smooth and nice. Sorry if you had a bit of a bumpy data experience earlier in the week as we started switching things onto the new Data controller platform.
We have tried to make the while thing “just work” and you will see the phone when you first put the SIM in will have an APN of “pepper” set that should work, but if you can change this to our dedicated APN: “dataconnect” – then do as we think this seems to work a little better. ( remember this is just SIMS delivered after 1st August 2020 )
When data has been blocked by time controls, school block, or the main Data Button, please allow a few minutes for the phone to continue getting data. There will also be a small delay after shutting off data before data stops. We’re monitoring these to work out the optimum values.
You should be seeing 4G in most places.
2020-09-14: Portal Phone Label
From today you’ll find in the portal – against SMS and call recordings you’ll see the SIM label against recorded calls and SMS to make it easier to spot incoming and outgoing calls and texts to your child’s phone.
It’s particularly useful for those customers with more than one child using ParentShield SIMs.
2020-07-30: blocking WhatsApp activation messages.
WhatsApp appears to have made some changes that have allowed their activation message to sometimes sneak past our filter. We’re rapidly applying a fix tonight and tomorrow.
2020-07-22: New SIM and profile
You may have noticed that we are currently out of SIM card Stock. Multiple reasons for that – mostly out increasing numbers and the Pandemic.
But we are using the opportunity to completely overhaul the way things work to improve a few things that we were otherwise unable to touch.
New SIMS will be shipping over the next couple of weeks and there will be some lengthy post in the blog explaining differences.
2020-06-05: New 3GB tariff
Eagle-eyed site watchers will have noticed a new 3GB tariff (safe plan +3). Like the other Safe Plan tariffs it can be used in conjunction with our daily data budgeting feature.
2020-06-02: New Connection Process
We have made a small but significant change to the call set-up process for Inbound calls to improve performance and fix an occasional instance where the calling party would hear an incorrect or no ringing tone. We’ve been monitoring this for a while and this seems to be successful.
2020-05-01: Back-office billing changes
Billing has been improved to allow even more flexibility. We are always frustrated by the big networks’ inability to do exactly what is needed. We are baking in flexibility as we continue to grow so we can offer:
- Monthly and 4-weekly bill cycles
- ‘third party’ payments – so a grandparent or social services can pay for a contract but not have access to the portal
- Slicker Direct Debit Setups
- More Credit and Debit Card Options
2020-04-01: New Account Types
We have completely overhauled our account types. This means we can offer many new types of account. For instance – accounts paid for my a grandparent or other, but where the Portal access is controlled by the main guardian.
Part of the process for getting ready for App V2.0 has been the production of a comprehensive suite of Application Programming Interface ( API ) tools.
If you’re a bit techy and would like to export data or make changes to your ParentShield SIM account via a RESTful API Interface – drop us a line and we’ll send over the documentation.
2019-12-10: Number Porting
We have finished a bit of work to make easier and quicker the process of porting numbers in and out of the network. Big thanks to our porting partner for making this possible…
2019-12-07: Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
As part of the ongoing security work we have completed the integration of 2FA in the portal login code. This allows you to use a secure time-based-code generation app such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator on a mobile phone or even Smart Watch – to create an additional layer of security.
For now there is no visible difference unless you are enrolled in the process – and we are doing that from the office for accounts that have requested the feature.
We’re determined to keep things as simple and straightforward to use as humanly possible, so if you’re not a fan of 2FA, don’t worry. If you are, and you want it… call 03301221180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll email over a setup link and an authorisation key.
2019-11-26: Login Notification
We have added Login Notifications to alert you if your ParentShield Portal is accessed from a new or different computer or device. We are now sending a short SMS to the Parent Alert number ( set this under the word alerts setting ). If it’s a login you don’t recognise you can then change your password.
2019-10-16: PUK / PIN Details
If your child locks the SIM by setting a SIM PIN, the phone will ask for a PUK – a PIN Unlock Key.
This was sent with the SIM on a little card, but if that has been lost you can now access this information from the Settings tab in the my.engine-mobile.co.uk Portal under “SIM Information”
As always, feel free to call or email and we can pass you the PUK that way.
2019-09-30: machine-generated text messaages
A constant source of frustration for us are ‘A2P’ SMS of the sort used by banks or applications overseas to verify a phone.
Some of these are so badly formed they just don’t arrive. It’s not just us; a such search online for ‘did’t receive activation SMS’ shows it affects all networks that abide by the rules and handle SMS properly. However, we have found a way of getting a few more through though over the past few days and have made a couple of changes to the SMS platform. These SMS that would previously have been blocked as unsafe will now appear in the portal with block message. They won’t go to the phone directly. So you can decide whether they should be used. If you want your child to install that app, just forward on the activation code.
If you have had trouble with sms in the past, now would be a good time to try again. Let us have your observations!
2019-09-26: 4-weekly payment cycle
We were asked by a new customer – who gets paid every 4 weeks rather than monthly if it was possible to organise the billing to suit. So we have added that feature today.
Because there will be 13 ‘months’ in a year the payments are slightly lower. It’s not selectable via the portal just yet so if it’s something you would like to have turned on fo your account – just let us know as well as saying when the next bill needs to be.
2019-09-10: Data Budgeting
From yesterday you will maybe have spotted a new switch and a nifty little graph on the Data tab that shows how much data has been used each day for the past 30 days.
With Data budgeting turned on ( only works with plans that have data – Safe Plan and Safe Plan Plus ) the remaining data amount for the month is spread equally across the number of days remaining until the next bill. If the data isn’t used it is returned to the reservoir and then spread across the days remaining from the next day. The data remaining among in the green bar will reflect the amount available for the current day.
If you need extra data, to locate the phone for instance, if all that day’s data has been used, simply turn off Data Budgeting and then turn it back on when you are done. The system will re-calculate the remaining data and spread it across the remaining days of the billing month.
2019-09-05: Coming Soon – Data Budgeting
We don’t usually use this space for news, but don’t want anyone to think we are up to no good. Very soon we will be showing off some new data Budgeting tools and you will be able to set a daily data cap.
This is to help ensure there is data available every day and encouraging moderation. We hope you like it.
2019-08-23: Do siblings talk to each other?
From today we have a ‘secret’ setting that will allow us to force Sibling phones to respect the time controls when calling one another.
The default behaviour is: if you have more than one ParentShield SIM is to treat them all as if they were ‘Home Numbers’. So even if there is a time control set a child can still call their brother or sister to have an argument at any time.
Now, if you prefer, we can set the account so siblings won’t be able to call each other if either SIM has a time control that would prevent it.
If you want this to apply to your phones – let us know via any of the usual channels.
2019-08-20: App.Download our app for your own mobile phone.
The ParentShield SIM user just needs the SIM card in their phone, but we have a small app that you can install on your own phone to make it easier to get to the Portal and do a few basic bits and pieces.
This is by no means a finished article, so please do keep checking for updates. You can email us directly at email@example.com with comments, suggestions etc. as you’d expect.
2019-07-23: Emoji 🎉
You should find that Emoji in text messages should now be displaying in the Portal. This was a feature that we had previously mastered but changes network-side scuppered a while back.
Let us know what you think.
We will be working on the possibility of extending word alerts to include searching for specific emoji in future but this is a while away yet.
2019-07-12: Home Numbers
To counter some abuse we have experienced, calls and SMS to Home Numbers will now count against the Monthly Allowances but will still be allowed even if the Monthly Allowance for Calls or Texts reaches zero.
2019-06-30: Tools for managing multiple users
Although the majority of our customers by number have only one SIM card on their account, we have a number of customers with several so we’ve added a new optional tab in the portal for SIM Management. There you can change the label against a SIM, turn the SIM on or off completely and, if required, wipe all the history and recorded calls and SMS for that user in one go. These are tools that are particularly suited to some of our corporate parents like Childrens’ homes.
If you have multiple SIMS against your account and would like this feature turning on for you – just drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do that for you.
If you have multiple SIMS on your account and are seeing any odd behaviour – let us know as it could potentially be related to this work.
2019-06-07: Changing Tariff online
It’s now possible to change the tariff you are on from the Portal.
If you go to the Billing tab in the portal you will now see a link : “To change your tariffs, click here.” That will pop up a little box allowing you to change the tariff from the start of the next billing period.
If you want the new tariff to be applied immediately to give you more minutes, texts or mobile data just drop us an email or call 03301221180 and we’ll sort that for you.
2019-05-09: Shortcode Inbound SMS
Inbound SMS that are sent from machines rather than people ( like your bank sending an account access code, or an authentication code sent by a messaging service ) are now always blocked if they are sent with an alias or shortcode as the sender ID because they pose an access or authorisation escalation risk.
For some time the behaviour will have been slightly more variable depending on the source and format of the message. Today’s changes aim to make the behaviour for A2P SMS like these as consistent as possible, and still provide protection.
The blocked messages, where possible, appear in the portal marked in as a blocked message and you will have to convey this to the user if needed.
2019-05-06: Schoolblock and Bank Holidays
We are now automatically disabling Schoolblock on Bank Holidays. We had a few calls on the last Bank Holiday about calls not succeeding because school block was turned on. Unfortunately with the variability of school holidays nationwide it’s not possible to do them all automatically so it will just be the official bank holidays, and the period between Christmas and the New Year where we will disable this feature.
2019-04-20: More work on overseas roaming
We’re seeing more and more customers roaming to exotic locations as we start to enter the Holiday season. Please do let us know beforehand if you need to use your ParentShield overseas. See : Taking your ParentShield abroad.
2019-04-08: Balance Notifications
Just reminder that your child can find out how many minutes or texts that they have available by texting the word “balance” ( or some close variant ) to any of their ‘Home’ numbers.
From today the text message they receive will also say how much data is remaining.
If the wording is like: “You have 520 MB data remaining” that will indicate how much of the monthly allowance remains.
If the wording is like: “You have 520 MB data available” that indicates that the data allowance is being drawn from a top-up.
2019-04-07: Taking your ParentShield Abroad
We have put together a help page about taking ParentShield SIMs abroad. As our SIM is a roaming SIM it will work abroad but because the SIMS are designed to prevent extra spending we will have to make a special arrangement in certain countries and there may be a small one-off charge, depending on the destination.
Full details and a form to inform us where your child is travelling to can be found at: Taking your ParentShield abroad.
2019-04-05: New Tools for Corporate Parents
While it’s a bit quiet as we sit and wait for the new Network infrastructure to come into place we’re working on some tools to make lives easier for Childrens Trusts, Childrens Homes, and possibly parents with more than two or three children.
We’ll soon have a whole page full of new controls available that will allow you to activate SIM cards from a stock-pile, change numbers, change users and clear recorded content and history.
A big thank you to the hard-working Long Term Childrens Home users we have who have been telling us exactly what they need. Watch this space!
2019-03-29: New Data Connections
2019-03-28: New IVRs
Meet Rosko. Rosko Lewis is the owner of the voice behind our Voice Announcements and messages. www.roskolewisbritishvoiceover.co.uk Today he’s recorded some new messages for us, as well as new messages for our telephone support platform that we’re working on.
2019-03-28: Server upgrades
Last night we switched over finally to the ParentShield Mk3 server stack. Most things went according to plan and everyone should be noticing faster call connections and faster handling of recorded calls. We’re monitoring performance as normal so we’ll spot any unexpected behaviour. As always, call or email us if you are experiencing anything that doesn’t seem right.
2019-03-12: Portal, call dispositions:
We have improved the Portal now, to clarify the reason why a recording is not available ( if a recording is not available ). It will now display “No Answer”, where the option to listen or download a recording would be, if a call does not get answered. It will say: “Recording Off” if recording was turned off in the “Settings” tab of the Portal.
2019-03-07: System updates:
We are just about ready to swap our core server stack over to the ‘mk3’ version with all its fast processors, upgraded switch, and loads more capacity. We currently run at < 10% capacity and this hardware has about 10 x the capacity of the current setup. Basically it means capacity won’t be an issue for a fair while, even at the current rate of growth. The date scheduled for the first live run is a week on Friday – the 15th March.
We will be running a live test between 4am and 6am on that day. Any calls in progress at the time will be terminated unfortunately. If everything works as expected we’ll be leaving the new system in place and nobody will notice; apart hopefully, from the faster call connections and considerably quicker decryption and spooling of recorded calls.
The current stack will remain in place and function as the new redundant standby.
2019-02-21: System updates:
We have finished some important work on our SMS platform that will improve performance and compatibility with various other systems. This should help reduce the number of SMS that go missing or arrive out of sequence.
Other work is underway to prepare for the new servers that will be handling call traffic. The new infrastructure will mean calls are connected faster.
2019-02-14: System updates
We’re currently preparing for a new Data connection and an improved backup for our NOC ( Network Operations Centre, AKA. “the Office”) . Our Backup connection will be as capable as our main connections are now and we’ll have considerably more capacity on the main call trunks to London, Manchester and Slough.
There isn’t any downtime expected except for a few 5 or 10 minute outages between 2 and 3 in the morning as we swap some hardware over the next couple of weeks. We’ll put a note on here and the website beforehand but it’ll definitely be at a time all the users should be fast asleep.
2019-02-04: Website Updates and changes pt.II
If you can’t find the Portal Login button when using a mobile phone to access it – the green button is now inside the new slidey menu thing accessible by clicking on the “three bars” Hamburger Menu in the top right hand corner of the parentshield.co.uk website. ( In rare occasions it may be top left, which is odd I know. )
2019-02-01: Website Updates and changes
We’ve been updating the portal theme to fix a few small bugs that were introduced during a recent upgrade of the ParentShield.co.uk site. Sorry if you were logged in today and found the menus, header and footer looking a bit dishevelled.
2019-01-23: New SchoolBlock Feature
To create a simple block of calls, texts and mobile data during school hours we have added a new single button that does exactly that. This means you can block all calls and texts during school hours and still use the existing time controls for bedtime.
When using both controls at the same time a ‘block’ action always wins so if the SchoolBlock switch is blocking calls it cannot be overridden by the other time control.
Calls started before the SchoolBlock time of 9am will not be terminated at 9am and will proceed as normal.
Calls and texts to and from the Home Numbers are unaffected as these will always be allowed.
2019-01-23: Direct Debit and Payment Process improvements
This week we’re working on some of the bits behind the scenes. We have improved the Direct Debit notification email and better automated Direct Debit Set-Up to make it slick and remove human intervention and potential errors.
2019-01-17: Informing the User of remaining Minutes and SMS
One of our brilliant customers pointed out that we had no way of allowing the Phone User to discover how many inclusive Minutes and Texts they have remaining this month.
From Today if your child texts the word balance to any of their home numbers they will receive a text message straight back with the information they need along with the number of days left to go before the balances ‘reset’.
Please let us know how you get on.
2019-01-16: SIM ONLY plans with No Data
Today we have created some new Mobile Tariffs with Data Disabled automatically for customers who are looking for a mobile network SIMO plan with No Data
2019-01-10: Word Filter Now in its own Tab with Extra tools
We have just put live the new version of the Portal that now has the Word Alerts filter in its own tab.
The basic functionality is unchanged and everything works as before, but with the addition of a couple of new tools:
- Testing. You can type in a message and test it against your filter words to see if it would raise an alert.
- Explain. This function expands your word list and explains what will be matched by it
2019-01-08: Displaying Children’s Blocked SMS Messages in the Portal
From today any SMS message that have been blocked by either Time or Secure Mode settings will appear in the Portal prefixed by “BLOCKED” and the reason why the message was blocked. This may be useful to aid with debugging or decision making. At the minute there is nothing else can be done apart from seeing that the message has been blocked and not transmitted onwards. We are playing with some controls to allow the message to be ‘released’ and transmitted if necessary.
2019-01-07: Caller ID Control
A few Customers have asked if it is possible to stop children withholding their caller id, with a view to being able to make anonymous calls, by changing the preference setting on their phone.
We have added a new ‘switch’ that now allows you to override the caller-id preference setting on individual SIMs in your account. If this is set to ‘ON’, caller-id information will always be sent regardless of the phone setting.
We don’t envisage many customers needing to do this and the default setting of ‘OFF’ will usually be the most suitable and before changing this setting you should consider privacy needs of the user.
2019-01-03: Caller ID Presentation between users in one account
There had been an ongoing issue for a while that we have been aware of and wrestling with that has now been fixed. Under some circumstances if you had two or more SIM cards under the same account, caller-ID information was being lost as the call did a trombone. We have had a few anti-tromboning measures in place that were partially successful but we haven’t been happy with this for a while. This has now been resolved, and we believe users will always find brothers and sisters can argue properly.
2018-11-29: Terminating calls at Bedtime. Changes to Time Setting
A few customers have asked us to look at the termination of children’s calls at bedtime. It turns out a few smart little people have worked out that they could make a call at 1 minute to bedtime and stay on the phone indefinitely thereafter.
From today, calls will be terminated a few minutes after the set bedtime even if they are in progress. Calls to or from Home Numbers are unaffected. Sorry about the behaviour change but we think this how the majority of customers expect it to work.
2018-11-22: ‘Broken’ time settings
It has been brought to our attention that it’s possible to accidentally set the ‘from’ time in the time setting to be before the ‘to’ time resulting in all calls being blocked by the time control. We have added a test and an alert in the Portal if you try and do this.
We still allow it if that’s what you want, just in case you want to do that. We can’t think of many situations where you would…. but you can, if you like.
2018-10-19: Setting Home Numbers
It’s only possible to change home numbers once per month. We have made a few changes to the Portal to try and make this slightly easier to do and a bit more obvious when changes can be made and when they can’t. There were a few ways of deleting numbers accidentally and not being able to replace them. Hopefully it will behave a bit better now than it did. Thanks to everyone who pointed this out!
2018-09-03: Portal Messages
You may have spotted that we made it a little easier for us to present appropriate portal pop-up messages if there is something we need to communicate. Please keep the feedback coming – Andy.
2018-08-10: Direct Debit Set-Up Process
The process for setting up direct debits and seeing what payment method is in place, and when the next payment is due.
2018-08-01: Portal Registration
To improve security, it’s now necessary for customers to register at the portal and turn recording on before any calls are recorded. This means that a SIM card, if intercepted en-route, will operate in the same way as any other SIM card and will not record any conversations or SMS.
2018-07-07: Children-in-Care Modes
In response to requests by our corporate-parent customers from today we have two optional modes available.
- No Recording – all call recording is permanently disabled.
- Third ‘Home Number’ for unrecorded use by a responsible known third party