Health 2.0 for babies

June 28, 2012

We have already talked on the blog about connected health innovations for the elderly. Today, let’s take a look at the other end of the age range and see what sort of futuristic devices are available (or will be available) for babies.

Premature babies have a range of special needs that must be addressed in the weeks and months following their birth. One of those is teaching them how to suck and feed because premature babies are born without the ability to coordinate the actions of sucking, swallowing and breathing. It is a skill they need to learn, with all the difficulties you can imagine when it comes to infants barely a few days old.

To try to solve this issue, Jayne Standley, professor of music therapy at Florida State University developed a “Pacifier Activated Lullaby” device. It consists of a pacifier filled with various sensors and linked to a speaker. When the baby is sucking on the pacifier, the sensors detects whether or not they are doing it the right way and will play a soothing lullaby when that is the case. The results so far are encouraging, with infants using the device learning to suck properly faster and therefore able to reduce their hospital stay;

 

Beyond the benefits for premature babies, this device also shows the interest in some cases of therapies based on music.

We mentioned the Exmobaby Smart Garments in a previous mash-up, but it’s worth developing a bit about the concept behind the device. As a reminder, the Exmobaby pajama is full of sensors that track the baby’s health signs with a thermometer, a heart rate sensor and a movement detector among others. All of those are wirelessly connected to let parents monitor their baby’s health in real time.

This product demonstrates well why smart and connected technology can be especially useful for babies. As it is often hard for adults to understand the signals of babies and respond to their needs accordingly (the question that many parents will ask themselves the most is: “why is my baby crying? Is he scared? Hungry? In pain?”), having the means to monitor their vital signs closely could go a long way toward easing the parents’ anxiety and helping them make baby comfortable again more swiftly.

When it comes to babies however, almost any smart piece of clothes has one fatal flaw: babies grow up so fast that most garments will not fit them for more than a few weeks, greatly limiting their interest, especially considering that “smart” clothing in general remains fairly expensive.

Beyond connected devices though, simple tracking tools showing, for instance, when baby had his last feeding or how well he slept on different night are already precious to help parents care for their infant. Several apps are available to do that, such as Total Baby for iOS or Baby Connect for iOS and Android.

Baby Connect lets you track Baby’s sleep, mood, food and more.

What about you? What devices or apps do you think would be helpful to care about babies?