The "baby tracking" revolution or disturbing drift?


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This summer, Pampers announced with fanfare the launch for next January of its first connected layer – the first in history. Purpose of this device, called Lumi: to warn parents that it is time to change their baby (via notifications, as soon as the diaper is wet).

A "revolution", allowing parents to "better understand the needs of their children", thanks to a multitude of data, harvested themselves thanks to a multitude of activity sensors because (probably to double Huggies, which has its own connected layers since 2014), Lumi is not limited to the exchange: it is a connected system that also includes a baby monitor with a night vision camera, a thermometer and a humidity sensor, all connected to a mobile application (iOS or Android) .

First available in the US before being generalized next year, Lumi will observe and "analyze" (automatically) your baby for you, during sleep and beyond, all day long. Thus, you will be able to know, in real time, from your smartphone, if it will soon be necessary to change it, but also to watch it in video and to know how much time it really sleeps during its naps and the night. Because the system, designed with Verily (subsidiary of Google / Alphabet, specializing in life sciences research) and Logitech, is obviously "smart", and records the moments of meals and those dedicated to foreign exchange, to help you to "understand the habits" (of sleep, diet and digestion) of your toddler (from 0 to 3 years), as well as "his next steps" of development.

Of course, like any app of "quantified self" and well-being self-respecting, Lumi will issue "statistical reports" and give you "personalized advice", from "The Wonder Weeks", a printed guide and online written by a couple of Dutch pediatricians, who claims to teach you to "sto timulate the mental development of your baby"but also a team of 3 experts in child development" (who participated in the creation of Lumi).

The juicy market of "baby tracking"

"The Lumi system allows you to see and understand the daily development of your baby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's the world's first all-in-one connected care system, and it's going to revolutionize baby care and surveillance, "said Pampers, a revolution, not necessarily because it's not about of the first experiment of "connected baby care." There has already been a plethora of connected objects for 3 or 4 years, which allow to know the temperature of a room or the ambient humidity, or to detect the movements and the position of a child in bed with "smart" cameras.

The market for "baby tracking" and parenting 2.0 is currently in full development, with many products aimed at collecting data on our babies, "quantified baby" way. By 2024, the global market for "connected baby phones" is expected to exceed € 2.2 billion, ReportLinker predicts. There is also a whole range of "smart toys", nicknamed "guards", which are able to measure the body temperature, heart rate, or oxygen saturation of a child – for that, it is enough to to "hold their paws". Some startups also market temperature-sensitive "nipple thermometers", or "smart socks" that warn parents when their baby's heart rate is "abnormal".

Reassure, or worry parents

But do you really need all these connected objects to take care of your offspring? Just like GPS tags and geolocation / tracking apps that can monitor kids and teens when they're out of the home (or they use their smartphones), and that can make some parents paranoid, these tools of "baby tracking" will not they worry you unnecessarily? The drift is never far away.

Pampers and the designers of these systems promise to "reassure" parents. A laudable goal, certainly. But to work, an army of sensors collects a mass of data, which finally "have little to teach us", notes the British chronicler James Temperton. In Wired UK, he tested for several months Famly, a platform for monitoring the child when he is kept at the nursery. "My daily ritual was to check on my smartphone how often my baby had pooped, at what time, but also when and how many bottles he had drunk. There is even a chart to follow the duration of the naps. It's both great (in a few clicks, I knew everything) and terrifying", says the young dad, who explains having used this system after having succumbed, as number of parents anxious, to" the attraction of 'quantified baby' ".

"When a baby is born, it seems perfectly normal to start entering data about it in a series of applications. It's a way to streamline things. At first, it's reassuring, like a crutch. My wife and I were so used to diligently capturing data about our own lives, in other applications, that it seemed self-evident. But after months of using Famly, we realized that all the data we collected – the length of naps, the ease with which our baby fell asleep, where he slept, the mood in which he woke – were totally meaningless"he explains.

And explain having, too, used a smart baby monitor, Arlo Baby, which monitors the temperature, humidity, but also the levels of methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and ethanol in the air. "Soon after the birth of our child, we spent weeks worrying about the abnormal quality of the air in his room. Before I understood that it came from her pets, and that our baby was doing very well despite these alarming but misleading warningsJames Temperton, a study published in the British Medical Journal and conducted by a team of British pediatricians, says data from such devices may give parents afalse sense of security", be a" fto the sense of alarm".

Data for the giants of the Web?

Finally, it is necessary to consider the possible use of all these data (intimate and personal) by the companies that market connected diapers, baby phones and cuddly toys, as well as by their partners. Thus, the fact that Lumi was developed with Verily, subsidiary of Alphabet / Google, a Web giant who likes to cross data and use it to personalize its products and services, but also offer targeted ads, is questionable. "Right now, Google's growing interest in stool tracing for your newborn comes down to a footnote. But for how long ?", notes James Temperton.

Pampers ensures that it will protect the confidentiality of the data collected, but that it can still be used to "improve" the system. "With your consent, we may share your information with selected partners so that they may send you offers, promotions, or advertisements for products or services that may be of interest to you.", further indicates the company's" privacy notice ".

All this data, not necessarily useful for caring for your child, are potentially of great value to a company like Google, which could by this means offer products or provide advice to parents in distress – parents who remain in his eyes consumers.

Should we fear, tomorrow, to see an armada of worried parents, stress unnecessarily, while buying as ever the latest connected devices of "baby tracking" in fashion? Time will tell…