How baby tech is turning nurseries into connected data centres

Young parents are increasingly turning to smart baby technology to help them keep track of their babies’ health.

  • The Owlet Band monitors the health of your unborn baby
  • Nanit Breathing Wear uses computer vision to track your baby’s breathing motion
  • High-tech baby monitor checks your baby’s vital functions as well as the environmental factors in the room
  • A smart pacifier measures the baby’s glucose levels
  • Baby tech is transforming parenting

Although most people will probably agree that it’s ultimately rewarding, becoming a parent can also be a very demanding experience. It presents new parents with a number of challenges most of them are not prepared to deal with. The arrival of a baby can completely upend a person’s life, disrupting their sleep patterns and leaving them very little time for themselves. This can be overwhelming for many new parents, which is why they’re increasingly turning to technology for help.

Technology has become an indispensable part of our everyday lives in recent years. A lot of people use a variety of apps and wearables to track and quantify almost every aspect of their daily routine, including their fitness, diet, sleep cycles, and work habits. And now, technology has also found its way into our children’s nurseries, as a growing number of new parents turn to smart baby technology to help them keep track of their babies’ health. Companies have also recognised the opportunity offered by this emerging trend, flooding the market with all kinds of baby-focused tech, ranging from high-tech baby monitors to smart pacifiers. According to a recent report published by Maximize Market Research, the global baby monitor market is predicted to grow from $945 million in 2017 to $1.35 billion in 2026.

A horizontal bar graph showing the value of the global baby monitor market in 2017 and 2026.
A recent report published by Maximize Market Research estimates that the value of the global baby monitor market will grow from $945 million in 2017 to $1.35 billion in 2026.

The Owlet Band monitors the health of your unborn baby

The Owlet Band is a thin, soft fabric band that wraps around an expectant mother’s abdomen and allows her to monitor her unborn baby’s wellness in real time without having to schedule a doctor’s appointment. It uses passive ECG technology to track the baby’s heart rate, automatically count its kicks, detect contractions, and track the mother’s sleeping position. Sensors in the band record thousands of data points every second and send them to an app on the mother’s smartphone, providing important insights into the child’s health and development through the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The mother will also be able to share the wellness report with friends and family, as well as listen to audio recordings of the baby’s heartbeat, allowing her to form a stronger bond with the baby even before it’s born.

“As a company of parents, it is important to us to bring innovative technology into a family’s everyday life in an easy-to-use form with functionality that is meaningful to the health and wellness of the baby and family,” says Kurt Workman, the CEO of Owlet Baby Care. The Owlet Band is designed to be worn from 24 weeks until the baby reaches full term. Made from stretchable fibre blends, the band hugs the shape of the mother’s body and adapts to it as it changes through pregnancy. The ultra-thin sensors integrate seamlessly into the fabric, offering excellent comfort without compromising the quality of the signal.

In addition to providing worried parents with a little piece of mind, the researchers hope this innovation will also provide valuable insights into what really happens during pregnancy. “Doctors have been wanting a technology to capture accurate readings at home in order to really find out what is happening inside the womb,” says Robert M. Silver, MD, a renowned stillbirth researcher and chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Utah. “By having this data readily available, I believe we can get a better understanding of the physiology of the normal pregnancy.”

Nanit Breathing Wear uses computer vision to track your baby’s breathing motion

The US-based baby tech startup Nanit recently unveiled a new line of infant clothing called Breathing Wear. Designed to be paired with the Nanit Plus smart baby camera, the outfit allows parents to keep track of their baby’s breathing motion, as well as its sleep movement and patterns, without having to put sensors on its skin or inside the crib. “Nanit is the only monitoring solution that puts your baby’s sleep development in your hands,” says Nanit co-founder & CEO Dr. Assaf Glazer. “We are excited to introduce Breathing Wear at CES, as it helps provide parents with a complete picture of their baby’s night and gives them the confidence and assurance they need when they put their baby into the crib.”

The camera is placed above the crib and uses computer vision technology to track the baby’s breathing and sleep patterns from a bird’s-eye view by simply reading the customised patterns printed on its outfit. The Breathing Wear comes in two different varieties: the Breathing Band and Nanit Swaddle. Each style features specific shapes, colours, and ink that the camera can read from any angle and translate into a breathing pattern. All you have to do is put the outfit on and tap on your baby in the Nanit mobile app, after which the camera starts tracking its breathing motion and sleep. Furthermore, if the system detects that the baby has stopped breathing at any point, it will immediately notify parents.

“Nanit is a team of PhD’s [sic] who developed a system to help babies sleep more successfully. Moving beyond the camera, they can now have a comprehensive system help monitor the health and well-being,” says Mark Suster, a managing partner at Upfront Ventures and the first major investor in the company. Both outfits are made of 100 per cent cotton and are available in several different colours, including pebble grey, marshmallow white, and mint green. They also come in multiple sizes, ranging from birth to 24 months.

High-tech baby monitor checks your baby’s vital functions as well as the environmental factors in the room

Developed by the LA-based smart home startup Miku, the Miku Smart Baby Monitor is a revolutionary piece of tech that uses proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning technology called SensorFusion to create a highly detailed picture of your baby’s core health metrics. The device is capable of tracking the baby’s breathing, motion, sound, and sleeping patterns in real time, streaming high-quality video and audio directly to the parents’ smartphones. It can also track the temperature and humidity levels to ensure that the conditions in the nursery are optimal for the baby.

The Miku Smart Baby Monitor is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm processor and is equipped with a tamper-resistant Crypto Chip that safeguards the data. Another important feature is that the device will keep working even if the internet connection is down. The device is also equipped with dual speakers and a two-way microphone, allowing parents to talk to their baby or soothe it by playing sleep sounds and lullabies. There’s also a smartphone app called MikuMind, which can be used to view a detailed analysis of the baby’s sleeping habits and read expert health tips. Parents can also use the app to capture and store unlimited photos and videos on their smartphones and share them with their friends and family.

In the future, the company plans to use the collected data to make health recommendations like check-up reminders and send alerts when the system detects changes in the baby’s vitals or room conditions. The technology could also potentially be used to track the vitals of any other living thing, including the elderly and pets. “The Miku Baby Monitor is only the beginning for us,” says Eric White, Miku’s co-founder and CEO. “As a new father, I know there is a huge need for this level of technology and sophistication in a product people entrust to help care for their loved ones. The applications for Miku’s technology are limitless.”

A smart pacifier measures the baby’s glucose levels

A team of researchers led by Joseph Wang of the University of California-San Diego and Alberto Escarpa from the University of Alcalá in Spain have developed a smart pacifier that can measure glucose levels in the baby’s saliva. The device consists of a silicone nipple from a commercial pacifier attached to a custom 3D-printed back end that contains an electrochemical sensor. The nipple also has a narrow channel with a small PVC tube inserted into it. As the baby sucks on the silicone nipple, the tube leads the saliva from its mouth to a small 3D printed chamber that contains a disposable electrode coated with an enzyme that oxidizes glucose. The resulting reaction changes the current in the electrode and those changes are transmitted to a smartphone app that can determine glucose levels in the saliva based on those readings.

The smart pacifier still hasn’t been tested in babies, though. The researchers used the device to measure glucose levels in four adult volunteers with type 1 diabetes and were able to obtain results similar to those from a glucose sensor using fingertip blood. However, before it’s actually used on babies, the researchers will have to find a way to integrate all of the parts into a single piece so that they don’t become a choking hazard. According to the researchers, the device could also be adapted to measure chemical biomarkers associated with other diseases by simply putting a different enzyme on the electrode tip. “I think this is a highly innovative approach that could impact the personalized healthcare of babies,” says Wei Gao, a medical engineer at the California Institute of Technology.

Baby tech is transforming parenting

Parenthood is often described as one of the most wonderful experiences in life. However, it’s also one of the most challenging, turning new parents’ world upside down with the arrival of a newborn that will occupy most of their time from then on. To help them deal with some of the new challenges associated with parenthood, modern parents are increasingly bringing smart baby technology into their lives. Already accustomed to using apps and wearables to keep track of various aspects of their daily routines, they’re now starting to use technology to monitor their babies’ health as well. From high-tech baby monitors to smart pacifiers, baby tech is becoming an increasingly common sight in nurseries around the world, helping new parents alleviate some of their worries by allowing them to keep tabs on their little ones at all times.

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This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

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