One example of recent innovation is the smart sock device developed by US-based Owlet Care to monitor baby’s heart rate, oxygen levels, position, sleep patterns and skin temperature. Growing up, children will be kept safe when swimming with wearable bands: US product iSwimBand can be put on a child’s wrist or forehead and syncs with Apple devices, sounding an alarm if a child is in the water for too long. Even before birth, mothers can use smart watches to track the movements of their unborn baby, their weight before and during pregnancy and their contractions.
While these babycare-focused developments are undoubtedly innovative, are they just another case in an attempt to tap into the trendy world of technology and providing solutions to problems that consumers were previously unaware of? Reactions to Apple’s smart watch have questioned whether the device will only be used by loyal Apple fans and whether there is a need for it at all, particularly as fewer young people are wearing watches and use their smartphones instead.
Likewise, Google Glass seems unnecessary for most people in their day-to-day lives. Therefore, it is questionable whether wearable tech will be a success in the childcare sector. In addition, there is also likely to be some concern from parents surrounding the use of technology so close in proximity to such young children. This may lead to not only a reduction in its wider use, but also to a more negative backlash specifically against its use.
Humans have been having babies and raising children since the beginning of time without this additional assistance. Although the development of wearable technology can be hugely advantageous in many aspects of life, there is a risk that in the childcare arena – instead of relying on common sense and traditional parenting – baby monitoring wearable tech may make parents more paranoid. First-time parents in particular are often very concerned about their baby while it is sleeping: wearable devices that monitor a baby’s breathing could either reassure parents or cause them significantly more concern. Just as we spend increasingly more time relying on technology to do things for us, perhaps technology developments for children and babies will cause parents to stop relying on their natural instincts.
There are clearly opportunities for further development of wearable tech in the childcare industry but perhaps it will have a limited shelf-life in this sector. First-time parents may be keener to invest in wearable tech for their baby, but as they gain more experience they will perhaps not choose to purchase new devices.
Claire Green is an associate in the technology team at Taylor Vinters LLP.
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