Adult life is no cake walk. There’s work, bills, mortgages, car payments, investments, colonoscopies and a ton of other responsibilities that will keep you tossing and turning at night. Add a child to the mix, and you’ll never have to worry about having too much free time again: unless, a recent stream of wearable devices geared towards parents can make good on their promises.
Intel, which is betting big on the wearables market, is promoting the Mimo Baby Monitor—a cute turtle-faced wearable unit that clips onto the Mimo onesie. The device transmits respiratory data, temperature readings and sleeping positions to the parent’s smartphone or tablet. This data can also be sent to a ‘smart mug’ that changes colors based on the baby’s breathing pattern. The cost for three organic-cotton “baby Kimonos” and the turtle clip-on is $199, and the corresponding app is available in both the iOS and Android stores.
If you’d rather skip the hassle of regularly washing onesies, a startup called Sproutling has developed a wearable that fits snuggly around your baby’s ankle. The anklet measures the child’s skin temperature, heart rate and movement, as well as environmental conditions including temperature, humidity and even the amount of light. In an interview with Fast Company, Sproutling’s CEO Chris Bruce noted that the device was designed by the team behind the Fitbit line of wristbands. Let’s just hope Sproutling’s device is more like the Fitbit One and less like the Fitbit Force, which was recently recalled for giving wearers contact dermatitis along with their fitness statistics.
Sproutling also worked with researchers from Xerox PARC to better understand how to develop algorithms that can determine which data is truly “actionable” and which is just “noise.” However, one important piece of data that Sproutling has yet to share is the release date of their product.
Competing with Sproutling for space on your child’s ankle is a startup called Owlet. One major difference between these rivaling companies is the product design. Unlike Sproutling’s sleek single-band prototype, the Owlet looks more like a bootie you’d wrap around a broken foot. Although Sproutling wins in the appearance department, the Owlet has one major advantage—it’s already been released to the first batch of interested buyers.
Like the previously mentioned products, the Owlet bootie monitors the baby’s heart rate, oxygen level, skin temperature and, to some extent, sleep quality. This information is instantly transmitted to the parent’s smartphone for the somewhat steep price of $250. The second batch of Owlets will be shipping this summer, so place your reservation ASAP.
For parents of older children, AT&T offers the FiLIP, a “wearable locator and voice watch.” The FiLIP fits around the child’s wrist and provides location monitoring, voice calling and direct messaging between the child, parents and up to five trusted contacts. Using the smartphone app, parents can also set up “Safe Zones” to notify them immediately if their child strays from approved areas or track their whereabouts with the FiLIP’s GPS functionality.
And for parents concerned with radiation, the company says that only radio energy is emitted from the device, and even that is directed away from the wearer. The cost for FiLIP through AT&T is $200 plus $10 a month for the service, which is a pretty reasonable price for peace of mind.
What started as a puppy tracker has transformed into the BeLuvv Guardian, a monitor similar to the FiLIP. For $30, the bright, colorful Guardian goes around a child’s wrist, or is connected to their clothes so parents can pinpoint the whereabouts of their offspring via smartphone.
Like the FiLIP, BeLuvv’s Guardian app lets parents set a particular “safety perimeter” that alerts the parent if their little darling ventures outside of the area. And if a child does go missing, other nearby Guardian users can send a location-sensitive message to the frantic parent. The hope of this feature is to create a kind of instant AMBER Alert, getting notifications out into the public before the police are even contacted. The Guardian device uses a replaceable battery that the company says allows for continuous service for at least four months, up to 1 year.
Childhood wearables aren’t all about safety areas and constant monitoring. Parents hope their children engage in fun, imaginative play as well. The MOFF band is a snap bracelet designed to turn “everything” your child holds into a toy. The bracelet includes an accelerometer, gyro sensor and Bluetooth transmitter that connects to a smartphone.
With the Moff app, children can download various games and sounds that sync to the Moff device. If it’s a shooter game, for example, the bracelet makes sounds like lasers. For a baseball game, the bracelet adds the sounds of a bat hitting the ball. The hope is that a child can pick up any object—say, a broomstick—and pretend they’re the next Roger Federer, with the Moff device adding sounds and challenges to encourage imaginative play.
Though not yet available, the MOFF device easily surpassed its $20,000 Kickstarter goal, plenty of which came from the $49 donation required for a Moff bracelet once they finally hit the market. As the Moff device reveals, the rise of low-cost sensors, Bluetooth connectivity and low-cost manufacturing is fueling the rise of wearable devices. These, in turn, are leading product makers to re-consider the very notions of play and child development.
Not all wearables marketed to moms and dads are to be worn by their children. Busy parents need to take care of themselves as well, and there are many wearables capable of doing just that. The Lumafit sensor, for example, fits around your ear to monitor workouts, offer suggestions to improve performance and most importantly, lead you in sessions of quiet meditation.
For parents who prefer music therapy to meditation, Bragi is developing wireless smart headphones that fit discreetly inside your ear and store up to 1,000 songs. For $199, the Dash earphones can also tracks steps, pace and distance, heart rate and even oxygen saturation during a nice stress-relieving run. The company set a Kickstarter goal of $260,000 and ended up with nearly $3.5 million from over 15,000 backers.
The potential for wearable devices to make life safer, calmer and more manageable for overworked parents has never been brighter. Whether the device is worn by the child, the overworked adult or both, you can bet that wearbles will become as important to families as their beloved cat or canine.
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