Babies and wearable devices

By  November 26, 2013

Connected tools are now making their appearance on the baby products market. Several companies are looking to respond to the increasing tendency among parents to try to keep very close tabs on their young children, helping to ensure peace of mind by providing them with real-time information on a child’s condition.

The boom in connected tools is no longer all about adults’ needs.  Wearable self-measurement tools for infants that connect up to their parents’ smartphones are now hitting the market. Some of the more nervous parents are ready to do anything to find a way to help their baby sleep peacefully and these new tools, providing lots of information that will reassure them about the health of their babies, seem to fit the bill. US companies such as Sproutling, Owlet and Mimo are developing tools which can monitor and measure a range of data relating to children and their immediate environment. These devices come in the form of a baby-suit, ankle bracelet or bootie, and are designed to alert parents if their baby shows any worrying symptoms. The companies are also running with the Big Data trend, gathering and analyzing information on children’s sleep patterns, eating times and toilet. Such tools might well be the means to ensure that baby remains healthy and happy, or perhaps it is just a matter of reassuring the parents.

New connected objects to measure infant health

A number of startups are now coming up with connected tools for infants, whose purpose is largely to reassure anxious parents. San Francisco-based Sproutling, for example, is due to launch in the second quarter of 2014 a device that fits on to the baby’s ankle and connected to the parents’ smartphone. It will send real-time information on the baby – heart rate, waking time, etc – plus its immediate environment, i.e. such parameters as room temperature. This system has been designed to help parents rest and relax in the certain knowledge that the infant remains in the best of health. Sproutling founder and CEO Chris Bruce claims that the product is intended to ″raise parenting IQ″. Meanwhile Utah-based Owlet has designed a connected bootie for babies which measures their vital signs and transmits the info to their parents’ smartphones. The system will alert parents about any health problems detected, such as bradycardia or sleeplessness, and might help to avoid such scourges as cot death syndrome. The bootie should be on the market in 2015 at a cost of around $159. In the same vein, Boston-based Mimois planning to launch in the new year a connected baby suit with the same functionality as the Sproutling and Owlet devices, allowing parents to keep tabs on their child remotely.

Reassurance for parents the main purpose?

While these connected tools may well help ensure infant health and well-being by advising parents on the right time for baby’s nap or diaper change, the main target appears to be the parents who, it is assumed, will be reassured by all the information they will receive from these surveillance systems. However, the system may not be much use in preventing cot deaths, which today is parents’ greatest fear. Companies such as Sproutling hope to be able to use the large amount of data gathered to feed into research with the aim of finding correlations and detecting trends. Nevertheless, what might appear to be progress for some may be a source of additional worry to others. Many parents seem reluctant to allow data on their infants to be used. Although these companies say they will protect user data, they might decide to sell the information to insurance companies or be forced to hand it over to the government. Lastly, there is always the risk that anxious parents will put their trust in number-crunching to find solutions and monitor their children’s health and simply forget to engage closely with their children and keep an eye out for problems themselves. Today health is starting to play an increasingly important role in the everyday life of the home, and smartphone users in particular are keen to quantify vital signs. Meanwhile the parent-child relationship is also altering and infants are becoming the center of attention. The new connected objects for babies provides a new approach to meeting some of these needs.


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