- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has filed for a patent via its Verily division that will tell parents, by way of technology, when their diapered babies have gone to the bathroom.

This is a solid example of When Technology Goes Overboard.

The world of parenting already has a notification procedure to alert when babies have gone poop. It’s called — crying. And on that, babies are generally pretty good at it. They cry when they’re wet; they cry when their diapers are soiled; they cry when they can’t sleep because their little bottoms have turned cold and uncomfortable from dried urine.

As for the hard of hearing? There’s a backup system. It’s called Strange Smells and Odors.

But babies even let parents know when their diapers aren’t being changed frequently enough. Parents, diaper rash; diaper rash, parents. The store shelves are filled with solutions for that — and get this: None require batteries or special hook-ups and plug-ins, or sensors and technological gadgetry.

Alphabet’s would.

Its parent company’s patent lays out a design that alerts parents to a dirty diaper via electrodes and moisture sensors that are advanced enough to tell the difference between the ways of dirtying diapers.

Once detected?

The oh-so-oblivious parent receives a smartphone alert.

“The diaper sensor may include at least one pair of conductive elements positioned within an absorbent region of the diaper,” Alphabet’s patent reads. “The diaper sensor may also include a transmitter and a control circuit operatively connected to the at least one pair of conductive elements and the transmitter.”

In the end, the sensors tie with a control circuit, which is the part of the patented device that would determine the existence of Number One and Number Two within the diaper. Artificial intelligence, at its finest?

It’s not clear if Alphabet is actually going to pursue plans to develop its smart nappy. But here’s a thought: Don’t.

One of the crucial elements of early parenting is to bond with the babies. For good and for bad, for better and for worse, for poopy diaper and dry. And while Alphabet’s idea seems on surface to provide a valuable tool for parents, especially first-timers who aren’t accustomed to the reading and interpreting of the many and varied cries of their babies, the fact is, the chance for over-reliance on the technology and under-bonding with the baby is too risky.

Parents may listen to the technology at the expense of their own babies’ voices — at the expense of their own parenting instincts. And Lord knows, parents have a hard enough time keeping the bonds strong night after sleepless night, and yet again, sleepless night. The diaper cry really isn’t that difficult to gauge — or feel, or smell, for that matter. Let’s not set technology as the arbiter. Sensors in baby diapers to alert of wetness aren’t truly needed and in fact, could hamper the parents’ ability to bond with baby. Now if Alphabet has an idea to give parents of newborns superhuman energy — that might really be something worth considering.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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