Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

The Quantified Baby: Trackers on the Toddler

Over the past few years, the Quantified Self movement has grown into a powerful movement with a huge number of active Lifeloggers and a plethora of devices. The fitness tracking and wearable device markets have grown exponentially as a direct result of the increasing popularity of the QS Movement and Lifelogging in general, and the prospects for the concepts in the near future are pretty good!

This rise in popularity has also given way to an increase in the range of stimuli that can be measured. Simple fitness, sleep and activity trackers have given way to mood trackers and dream trackers, and all of these serve one purpose: generate data which the user can use constructively to better one’s life.

But more than the range of stimuli measured, it is quite interesting to note the fields and sectors where QS is making its presence felt. Unorthodox sectors, such as The Quantified Dog, for example, showcase how a simple concept can be applied to varied things around us. In this article, I talk about how the Quantified Self is stepping foot into the world of baby monitors and infant tracking systems, to possibly enhance the baby monitoring experience from the perspective of a parent/guardian.

EASING INTO THE BASICS

The baby care market is quite a blooming industry, encompassing different segments such as toys, feeding accessories, baby care products, soothers and sanitary products. Growth drivers for this market increase, according to Statista, can be attributed to the growing population worldwide and also to the fact that parents want the best when it comes to baby care.

As seen on Shark Tank, the Hatch Baby smart changing pad allows mothers to track their babies’ growth, feedings, diapers, and sleep on their smartphones. This reduces anxiety for new mothers. This is a great application of the Quantified Self movement.

 The growing demand in this sector has made way for product innovation and development, enabling retailers and manufacturers to widen the market in terms of range of products, using new technologies and advanced marketing approaches. In fact, a look at the baby care market forecast shows the sheer growth in terms of numbers: The market is expected to increase the total sales to 66.8 billion U.S. Dollars by 2017.
emberify_global_baby_care_market_forecast
Data Source: Statista

ENTER WEARABLES

Now wearables have been around for quite a lot of time, and with the rise in Lifelogging and the Quantified Self movement, the wearable market has also taken a wide range of avatars in order to enable users to record as much data as possible and help them visualise the data to draw useful conclusions. Evidently, the toddler isn’t left from this entire state of affairs, and wearables are now being designed to track babies.

Take for example The Sproutling Monitor. It is a simple band which goes around the baby’s ankle and monitors the baby’s heart rate, skin temperature and movement, while at the same time taking readings of the baby’s environment: specifically the room’s temperature, humidity and light levels. As a technology, it is indeed very interesting, and also in a way relevant as far as baby monitoring is concerned.

emberify_sproutling_baby_monitor_1

A similar device is seen in the form of Owlet, which comes in the form of a baby boot or a sock in order to track an infant’s vital stats such as heart rate, oxygen levels, temperature and sleep habits. It also features an alert system which notifies the parent whether the baby has turned face down in its crib. Sensors are at work here, and one cannot help but marvel at how similar the technology is to full blown fitness trackers out there.

emberify_quantified_baby_owlet

But as far as unobtrusive wearables are concerned, the Mimo kimono is the clear winner. Designed as a snug onesie, the Mimo Kimono is basically a tracker (in the shape of a turtle, nonetheless) that tracks the baby’s vitals such as respiration, skin temperature, body position, sounds and activity levels. The data that is collected is sent to a base station (called the Lilypad) via Bluetooth, allowing the tracker to process the information and send it to the smartphone application in real time.

emberify_quantified_baby_mimo_kimono

Of course, there are quite a few more trackers out there, some of which don’t even come in the form of  ‘wearables’, per se. Teddy bears and other plush toys with trackers and monitors in them can monitor the baby’s vitals without bringing discomfort to the toddler.

TOO MUCH?

There has been a wide range of criticism regarding the concept of QS being applied for babies, with most protesters claiming that tracking the baby’s vitals and activities on a regular basis takes the joy out of raising a child – in fact, there have been quite a few articles vehemently stating that parents have missed out on milestones, just because they were busy analysing the data generated by the baby trackers.

Back in March 2014, when a concept of baby tracking and monitoring was pitched at SxSW, a judge pointed out that baby trackers would make parents more manic and worried than they already were while raising a child, and it would be going against the point of ‘QS making life better’. Moreover, the data that is generated, along with the online communities which provide suggestions according to the stats, can be quite overwhelming and confusing, specially for a first time parent.

THE NEED: BALANCE

The overall objective of the QS movement is to track data to gather an improved perspective of a particular trait or pattern. The fundamental which applies to fitness trackers for adults will apply here too: the aim is NOT TO REPLACE , BUT TO SUPPLEMENT. Parents can get a clearer understanding of their baby’s health through these trackers, and can accordingly take clear decisions. When used correctly, baby trackers can provide an understanding of the child like never before, and enable parents to improve the growth factors for the baby.

All this being said, it is worthy to note that Baby Trackers and the Quantified Baby, much like its target audience, is in its infancy right now. With the current technology, and the nascency of the concept in general, is making parents more anxious. The need of the hour is an effective mechanism which can supplement parents by generating data that isn’t overwhelming, but informative.

(Cover Image artwork credits: Vicky Leta Illustrations)

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  • Molly Mcdaniel

    “NOT TO REPLACE , BUT TO SUPPLEMENT” You are correct most moms just want to make sure their babies are safe. Trackers are just used when moms have to do other errands while baby sitting it doesn’t mean they’re going to miss any milestones.