Standard baby monitors are way too traditional, and they don’t even give you that much information. All a video monitor or audio monitor can really tell you is if your kid is awake—and even that is kind of a stretch. In reality, it’s closer to “Is my kid making noise?” But parents want to know a lot more than that. A new smart baby monitor from Sproutling can not only clue you in about your baby’s temperature, heart rate, and sleeping position, but also learn the baby’s unique patterns, helping you more easily attune to her own individual needs.
Sproutling is a soft, flexible sensor that you strap around your baby’s ankle. From the very beginning, a lot of thought went into this—constructed of medical-grade materials, it’s not a chocking hazard. The soft hypoallergetic band is welded plastic, using no glue, and even the battery inside of the sensor is enclosed in a protective resin-like material, because they know your baby will try to eat the ankle strap, or at least pee on it. I would feel safe strapping this onto a newborn, especially considering what it does.
The sensor uses Bluetooth to send data to a smart charger, which lives in the baby’s room and is connected to your home Wi-Fi network. If your phone is within Bluetooth range of the smart charger, it can send notifications directly to the Sproutling smartphone app. Otherwise, the data goes up to the cloud and then back to the app wherever you are. But you don’t just get a bunch of raw data. With algorithms and machine learning, Sproutling tells you in plain language how your baby is sleeping—and even predicts when she’ll wake up.
Insights, not just raw data
Every new parent’s questions boil down to “Is my kid OK? Is this normal?” Sproutling uses machine learning to crunch all the data it gets—1,000 data points a minute—and create three statistical models: One is based on research, what science knows right now about how babies develop, based on their age. The second model is based on just your baby’s own data, since each kid develops at his or her own pace. The third model looks for clusters of Sproutling babies who show the same sleeping patterns, so the more babies who wear Sproutling, the better it’ll be able to predict how long she’ll sleep, and even when you should put her down.
The strap has sensors for temperature, position, heart rate, and motion. The smart charger also has sensors for ambient temperature, light, and noise. Together they provide data to the cloud, which provides insights to the app. You can be notified if your baby has flipped from her back to her stomach, for example, or if she’s too warm or cool.
Once Sproutling learns how much light or sound will wake your baby up, you can even get a push notification if you’ve got the TV on too loud and it’s in danger of rousing your sleeping angel. Based on your baby’s patterns, every nap comes with a prediction of when she’ll wake up—10 minutes, 45 minutes, 2 hours, whatever—so you can try to gauge if you have enough time to take a shower, get dinner started, or start another episode of Orange Is the New Black.
Easy for tired parents to use
While the smart charger acts as the Sproutling’s hub, it’s also a charger (duh). But in your sleep-addled new-parent state, you won’t have to bother with cables or dongles—thanks to wireless, AW4P resonance charging, all you have to do is drop the ankle strap onto the charger, in any orientation. It has no charging pins or ports, to make it more comfortable for your kid and also a no-brainer for you to charge, even if you yourself haven’t slept in days.
Even the initial setup is a cinch—the Made for iPhone smart charger automatically connects to the same Wi-Fi network your phone is using, so you won’t even have to type in a password. (An Android app is in development, but Sproutling will launch on iOS first.)
Multiple caregivers can use the app and get notifications, and if nobody responds to an important notification, an alarm on the smart charger can sound. (Maybe you fell asleep too!)
Sproutling’s cofounders told me the whole idea is to get first-time parents to feel as confident as second-time parents, with data-based insights on things like switching from three naps a day to two, or when your baby might be starting teething. Sproutling tracks your baby’s total sleeping time per day, and can even let you know when you should put her down, in case she’s not an obvious yawner and eye-rubber like my sleep-loving son was as a baby.
While the sensors currently can’t detect moisture, to let you know if a diaper leak has made it all the way down to your kid’s ankles (trust me, it happens), Sproutling plans to add more features over time. More products are in the pipeline, too, for the next stages of your child’s development. I’ve got my fingers crossed it’s some kind of anti-tantrum cloak for toddlers, but I’m not sure machine learning and data science is up to that task!
Sproutling is taking preorders now, expecting to ship in March 2015. The system is $249 during preorders, and will cost $299 at retail. After seeing it work, I think it ought to be on every first time parent’s baby registry, because its plain-language insights and promise of helping everyone in the house sleep better are pretty darn priceless.