MobiHealthNews reports this week that iHealth Labs (the company that launched the iOS connected BP monitors at CES – read here for my thoughts on the potential of these) will be joining Withings (another mHealth gadget builder) with plans to launch the iBaby Monitor a “wireless baby video monitor”. Here’s a look at the Withings prototype:
These differ from the wide range of video baby monitors already available on the market today in that the screen of the mothers mobile phone is what’s used to view the video stream. This is a step change from the dedicated video viewer devices we’ve had around for some time (as you can see in the picture on the top of this post) as it will allow a much greater distance from which a mother can watch from (ie. you can now view a baby from work on your iOS device). It’s also quite obvious that these design focused startups are likely to transform the packaging of the technology, although looking at competitive products I can’t imagine this will be too difficult:
As with most opportunities to use technology in child care I imagine this will encounter a few new problems:
> The device gives a false sense of security to a mother regarding a child minder (after all they can now see much more of what’s going on in the home)
> Parents may feel inclined to use the devices much more than they would normally eg. why not prop an iPad up on your desk at work and have your own big brother style baby tv show running all day?
I also remain a little skeptical of the benefits of such radio technologies outside of a few specific circumstances (eg. babies who are at high risk of SIDS – for whom there’s probably better although perhaps more expensive technologies already on the market) and personally think the risks of radio exposure are far too high.
I’m not a member of the anti-EMF brigade but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to presume that placing a child in the proximity of powerful active radio broadcasting devices for prolonged sleeping periods could present health risks because the cells in a growing infant are developing so quickly.
I also think that there is a proximity issue that needs to be better considered. The inverse square law means that the magnitude of exposure increases dramatically with proximity effectively meaning that even a very low power bedside radio broadcast would be subjecting a baby to more radiation exposure than a mobile phone mast located outside the front door of the house, and I think we’re all familiar with the very vocal public opposition to these:
I also think that the lower quality radios used on inexpensive devices could also have varying radio power levels (as we see with the fake nokias sold throughout emerging markets) that the parents of a monitored child would have no way of knowing (cell tower engineers on the other hand work on highly regulated and licensed equipment and face continual pressure to reduce power waste and better design their broadcast signals).
I’m also a little surprised that the companies with these technologies don’t focus on the more immediate security and veterinary mHealth applications that don’t present the same risk profiles:
What do you think?