How connected should your baby be? Rest Devices ponders open data dilemma


Credit: Jordan Novet

A forthcoming connected device — a onesie shirt that monitors a baby’s position, breathing, temperature and sound — poses the dilemma of how to make one’s little data open to collaboration with other systems developed for the internet of things.

Each washable Peeko Monitor shirt from Rest Devices contains a strip that detects information and then connects to a thumb-sized data logger, which wirelessly sends data to a Wi-Fi Station. From that point, it’s relayed to Amazon (s amzn) Web Services, which normalizes the data and directs it to smartphone apps.

A package of three shirts, the logger, the Wi-Fi station and the smartphone app will be available in stores for $199 following a planned July launch, Rest Co-founder and CEO Carson Darling told me at the Strata conference in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday. The company is also testing a shirt for adults that can monitor for sleep apnea.

The Boston-based company, which has taken on around $500,000 in seed funding, has a few interesting question to wrestle with, including:

  • How can Rest minimize incorrect alerts that unnecessarily wake up parents if a baby’s breathing changes in a normal way while also giving alerts that prove the device is working? The company is already getting feedback from parents using the product in beta tests to improve algorithms.
  • Should Rest partner with health systems to make sure babies can continue to be monitored even after they leave hospitals? Customers might be able to compare their babies’ live patterns with aggregate normal information or the babies’ individual tendencies, depending on how the product evolves.
  • Should Rest set off on the journey of getting regulatory approval as a medical device that can help diagnosis and treatment? For now, Rest will release the Peeko Monitor as a non-regulated product such as a camera and microphone for baby-watching. But perhaps the Food and Drug Administration might want to regulate it, as it did for a connected toothbrush.
  • Perhaps most importantly, how open should the data gathered about babies be? Darling recognized the value of tying such data in with other connected devices, such as a thermostat, which could be automatically lowered should that help parents and their baby get some sleep. And he knows the data could help people learn more about babies’ sleeping patterns, which could be valuable for the medical community. But Darling also said he wants to provide data where it’s useful.

Whether or not the product will be able to push data into a larger system for many connected devices, such as Qualcomm’s (s qcom) AllJoyn peer-to-peer network, appears to be an important issue as more such devices are emerging, and managing all the data could become a hassle. My colleague Stacey Higginbotham has noted that as people adopt more and more connected devices, developers would be wise to think about ways for computers to make decisions on all the incoming data, rather than relying on humans to do it all on their own. And that means it would be best for the data to be open.

Those questions aside, selling the Peeko Monitor to parents who are nervous as it is could be a challenge in itself.

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