Wired Babies Invade CES
I’ve been to almost every Consumer Electronics Show, except that I missed 2008. That year, I had to miss it because I was giving birth to twins. The following year at CES, I had a fresh pair of eyes, or rather a very tired pair of eyes, searching madly for new products that would make parenting easier. There weren’t any.
But, oh, baby, things have changed. Smartphone apps, low-power Bluetooth in devices, and ubiquitous Wi-Fi have opened the door to the entire connected home. And new parents are the perfect target; they need to buy a lot of new gear, they have no idea what they really need, and they are desperate for anything that can bring them peace of mind and more sleep.
Pacif-i : The smart pacifier
The Pacif-i pacifier connects wirelessly with your smartphone. It relays the temperature in the baby’s mouth. Although the temperature around the pacifier is a little different from the under-the-tongue temperature, it can track temps over time to show spikes and a normal range. The device costs $39, which seems insane when you think about how many pacifiers a kid can go through. But Pacif-i’s makers considered this, and the pacifier is trackable from your smartphone.
Temptraq: Thermometer patch
Also a thermometer, the Temptraq is a one-time-use patch that’s placed under the baby’s (or child’s) arm. It communicates with an app for 24 hours, tracking temperature changes. It is not currently available for purchase, as it’s under FDA pre-market review, but it may offer an alternative to the Pacif-i, especially for babies who don’t use a pacifier.
GLGL: The bottle that tracks your baby’s milk
From the people who brought us the HapiFork, now we have the GLGL (sounds like glug-glug). It’s a Bluetooth-connected bottle holder that weighs the amount of liquid before and after a feeding, and then records the data in its app along with the duration and time of the feeding. With my kids, I needed to keep a log of when they had last been fed. When both parents are involved in feeding, and then a baby-sitter and grandparents get into the action, it can get confusing. You miss a feeding, and then you have a screaming baby. Of course this isn’t super-helpful if you are exclusively breastfeeding, but the concept is cool, and I could see this technology licensed for use in bottles from existing bottle companies like AVENT or Dr. Brown.
The bottle also gives you a visual warning if you have it tipped up high, causing baby to drink too fast or take in air bubbles, but this seems more gimmick than useful feature in the real world. Babies have their own feedback mechanisms for this issue: crying and projectile vomiting on you. New parents make that mistake only once.
MamaRoo: The bassinet with smartphone controls
The company that made the Origami Stroller has introduced the mamaRoo, a bassinet with dynamic motions: It simulates bouncing, swinging, rocking, and even a car ride (for my son, who had colic, this would have been a very good thing). The iterative step here at CES 2015 is the addition of smartphone controls that can wirelessly change the motion, turn it off, or add in soothing white noise. Why couldn’t you just get up and walk over to the bassinet to turn it off or change the music? Let me give you a recreation from my own memory: “He cried for an hour, and I think he’s asleep, but I wonder if that crazy motion that put him to sleep will now wake him up? Should I go in there and turn it off? What if he hears me and wakes up? Oh, no. I can’t risk it. What if I sniper-crawl in on my belly and turn it off? Yes — I’m going in.”
Mimo and Owlet: Sleep trackers for babies
The Mimo ($200) is a combination onesie and snap-on tracker that detects your baby’s breathing, motion, body position and most importantly, her sleep. The Owlet (preorder $250) is a sock with much of the same tracking capability, but without the likelihood of getting barfed on, since the baby wears it on her foot. Tracking a baby’s sleep is one of the few things you can do to predict when you should be sleeping, trying to grocery shop, or catching up on everything in life you had to let slide. As a mom of twins, I was so sleep deprived that I couldn’t remember to write in the sleep log when the kids had been up in the night. This passive sleep tracking is really useful when you start sleep training your baby, and I see the technology taking off either in this wearable format or in a pad under the crib sheet.
Voxx/Intel Car Seat SmartClip: Warns parents if they’ve left an infant in the car
It’s a sad reality that so many children die each year when accidentally left in cars. To help combat the problem, Intel is showing off Voxx Technology’s SmartClip for car seats. It would pair with a parent’s phone, and if the parent separates from the car without unclipping the child, a loud alarm beeps. While the product is not currently for sale, it could be licensed to car-seat makers.
Smartphone baby monitors
Back in 2009, when my kids were infants, the one thing I wanted to find was a baby monitor that transmitted video to my smartphone. It didn’t exist then, but there are a lot of them now. Just to name a few, Withings, WeMo, and Kodak are all showing new monitors that transmit audio, video, and temperature to your phone no matter where in the world you are.
You don’t need any of this stuff
I am not advocating you run out to buy any of these devices, but in the past five years, the technology for parents and families has grown exponentially. The technology we’re seeing at this CES show will get better and cheaper, and I believe judicious use of some of these products could help parents solve some of their problems.