Imagine you are a newly minted business school graduate who managed to score that high speed consulting job you’ve always wanted. Simultaneously, you’ve also started the next phase of your life with your partner and a new bundle of joy: your first child! Like every doting parent, you can’t help but constantly check that your child is safe throughout the night, and are always the first to jump out of bed if she wakes up for a feeding. You have it all, except that the constant travel keeps you away from your new baby more than you’d like. You wish you had some way to check in even when you are away. Enter Rest Devices, a company that seeks to harness the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) to lead us towards Nursery 2.0. Their business model seeks to empower parents to monitor their baby’s wellbeing at all moments, through technology that differentiates its offerings from traditional analog baby products. They started on this quest with Mimo, a suite of movement and breathing monitors.  Forget the outdated cotton onesie. Forget having to get out of bed to make sure your baby’s airway is clear. Mimo turns these ancient traditions on their head by linking your baby itself, through the internet, to any connected device.
Rest Devices’ operating model appears to be grounded in making incremental improvements to standard baby products, as opposed to completely redesigning the nursery in one fell swoop. Its Mimo product line complements traditional audio – and now video – baby monitoring products that sometimes include motion sensors. But the information you get from these camera systems is lacking in detail. If you are out on a date with your partner, and you want to check in on your little one via video, you’re missing granularity of detail about your baby’s status. Similar to a FitBit, the Mimo allows you to monitor “breathing, sleeping temperature, body position…and whether [the baby is] awake and asleep, [on] your smartphone.”  Its next product appears to be “a ‘smart bottle warmer,’ that will be able to tell parents exactly how much milk their babies have consumed at a given feeding.”  These improvements to standard products definitely deliver some value to parents, but is it enough? Is incremental innovation sustainable, or should Rest Devices consider broader strokes?
The opportunities for growth when applying IoT concepts to baby products seem endless, and I would argue that there is a huge amount of existing and new market share to be gained through bolder innovation. Imagine if an internet connected robot attached to the crib could actively monitor for signs of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and then automatically intervene when trouble arose by lifting your baby off the mattress to open its airway, simultaneously alerting the parents? Or if a smart-car seat could check for signs that your child had wriggled out of her seatbelt, or deploy baby airbags in the event of a high speed crash? If they could quickly develop these or other revolutionary products, Rest Devices could presumably move towards creating its own baby product ecosystem. Complementary Rest Devices branded smart cribs, smart mattresses, smart baby swings, and smart clothing could operate in unison to create the ideal safety environment for your child. Imagine the network effects that would result if Rest Devices had these complementary products and could create brand loyalty around its dedication to revolutionizing baby safety and security!
Of course, this revolution will come with several challenges:
1) Privacy issues abound in any suite of internet-connected devices. For example, there are already concerns about network security on baby video monitors, that are vulnerable to hacking exploits. It is disconcerting that a hacker could monitor your child’s every move, and so Rest Devices will need to ensure its products support end-to-end encryption and employ rigorous security measures.
2) Though AI and machine learning have enabled huge advances in the ability to beat humans at games such as Go , it will still likely be several years before computers can accurately understand the nuances of human emotion and signaling. While pulse and oxygen levels can be easily monitored with Mimo, these objective measures are just two data points in a sea of subjectivity that could enable machines to better interact with a baby in Nursery 2.0.
Rest Devices’ focus on bringing FitBit type products into the nursery is a worthy endeavor, but in order to truly harness the power of the IoT it must introduce new and innovative products into the market. By expanding its ecosystem of internet-enabled products, Rest Devices could position itself on the leading edge of baby safety. But it isn’t going to get there without winning over the parents who will do anything, and pay anything, to keep their children safe. (800 words)