Clever IoT Engineering Helps Infants and Parents Alike
Michael Alba posted on June 02, 2016 |
IoT devices aim to prevent SIDS, monitor temperature and aid in breast pumping.
Babies are the latest target for IoT developers who are seeking to increase infant safety and make parenting easier. (Image courtesy of Owlet.)
Babies are the latest target for IoT developers who are seeking to increase infant safety and make parenting easier. (Image courtesy of Owlet.)

With the Internet of Things (IoT) constantly expanding, engineers can expect to design more and more everyday devices suddenly equipped with connectivity. In some cases, this upgrade is almost comically impractical, though in general, the IoT is intended to make our lives better and easier.

Let’s take a look at a few IoT products that hope to meet this goal for a new demographic: babies.


Baby IoT Wearables

Wearable technology is the latest domain in which IoT technology is finding ground, with products such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch. Now even your baby can join in on the fun, but what is an entertaining tool for adults may mean the difference between life and death for infants. 

The Owlet is a sock that monitors your baby’s breathing and sends alerts to your phone. (Image courtesy of Owlet.)
The Owlet is a sock that monitors your baby’s breathing and sends alerts to your phone. (Image courtesy of Owlet.)

The Owlet is baby sock embedded with pulse oximetry technology that monitors a baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels and sends this information to your smartphone in real time. The ultimate goal of this constant monitoring is to help prevent tragedies such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which accounts for approximately 1500 infant deaths in the US each year.

Although the causes for SIDS are unknown, the Owlet aims to be a sort of alarm system that will alert parents when something is amiss with their child. “[One user’s] baby was choking silently in his crib on his formula. Another baby happened to roll over in the middle of the night and couldn’t breathe,” said Owlet co-founder Jordan Monroe to the Guardian. “Owlet is a second set of eyes that lets you rest assured.”

The Sproutling ankle strap is another smart baby monitor for modern parents. (Image courtesy of Sproutling.)
The Sproutling ankle strap is another smart baby monitor for modern parents. (Image courtesy of Sproutling.)

Owlet is not the only IoT technology designed for anxious parents. Sproutling is a similar concept that uses an ankle strap instead of a sock to monitor baby vitals. And Mimo is yet another option that takes the form of a onesie and even integrates with the Nest smart thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature of your baby’s room.

A baby sleeping soundly with the turtle-shaped Mimo breathing monitor. (Image courtesy of Mimo).
A baby sleeping soundly with the turtle-shaped Mimo breathing monitor. (Image courtesy of Mimo.)

We have the technology. But do we have the need? While the goal of baby wearables is certainly admirable, some believe they may in fact exacerbate parental worrying. After all, it’s hard enough ignoring alerts on our phones as it is. What if every vibration in our pocket could mean our baby isn’t breathing? Wearables may not be able to deliver on parental peace of mind.

What’s more, as with their adult counterparts, baby wearables don’t come cheap. The Owlet will cost parents USD$250,  with Sproutling an even heftier USD$300. And Mimo isn’t much better, selling for $200 for the breathing monitor with a separate movement monitor listed at USD$180. While you can’t put a price on your baby’s safety, parents should think carefully about whether their fears are merely being exploited.

 

IoT brings Smart Breast Pumps

Losing track of your baby’s feeding habits? The Lansinoh Smartpump and its app are here to help. (Image courtesy of Lansinoh.)
Losing track of your baby’s feeding habits? The Lansinoh Smartpump and its app are here to help. (Image courtesy of Lansinoh.)

Wearables aren’t the only IoT technology with the potential to ease the task of parenting. The Lansinoh Smartpump is a double electric breast pump that uses Bluetooth to connect with the Lansinoh Baby smartphone app. The app enables users to keep track of pumping stats, including the date and time of pumping sessions and the amount of milk pumped per session.

The app can also track breast and bottle-feeding sessions as well as diaper changes and baby growth. Retailing for $200, the product raises the question: why? Though the IoT works to reveal the information in everything we do, will access to this type of information actually help mothers and their babies?

Gina Cicatelli, VP of Global Health Relations at Lansinoh, believes the answer is yes.

“We’ve designed the Smartpump to help simplify the pumping experience, delivering convenience, comfort, efficiency and performance all in one package,” she said.


Shaping the Future with the IoT

While there is little doubt that our future will be laden with interconnected devices on the IoT, these products help illustrate an important fact for IoT engineers to keep in mind: augmenting an item with connectivity should not be done merely for its own sake.

Rather, engineers must consider exactly how users will benefit from the enhanced technology. Is it simply exploiting a gimmick without offering any additional value? And even if the benefits are clear, engineers must still consider the technology holistically. Is it creating problems even as it purports to solve others, such as baby wearables that may increase parental anxiety?

I hope the above IoT innovations manage to meet their admirable aims. However, they may simply be among the first shaky steps as IoT technology moves past its own infancy.

Recommended For You