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Diapers go high tech: yet another app in search of a reason for being

My kids are all grown, so I’ve been out of the game for a good long while. And there are no grandkids on the immediate horizon, so it may be a while before I’m on diaper duty. But with three children, I did my share of diaper changing over the years – back in the days when it was the parents who were smart about what was going on, not the diapers themselves.

Smart diapers, you may well be asking yourself? Yes, smart diapers.

In July, Pampers announced Lumi:

…an all-in-one connected system that includes two activity sensors for diapers, a Logitech camera fashioned into a Wi-Fi baby monitor and an app that wraps everything together… Lumi builds on the company’s popular Swaddler line — the sensor keeps an eye on the blue wetness strip outside of the diaper to determine how soaked it is. Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy Lumi-optimized version of the diapers to use the sensor, as they have larger and more visible wetness strips.  (Source: Engadget)

The entire system pulls together pretty much everything you want to know about your baby once you’ve put them down for the night in their crib. The video monitor lets you take a peek at your little sleeper and monitor their sleep patterns; you can track the temperature and humidity of the nursery; and, of course, check those sensor-equipped diapers to see whether it’s time for a change.


The way we handled it back in the day was a) listen for the baby to cry; b) respond (or not, depending on what phase in “get your baby to sleep” you were in); c) figure out the old fashioned way whether your baby needed changing; d) change diaper as needed.  Call me old-fashioned, but this seemed to work out just fine.

I can’t help but think that this is yet another “application in search of a market” product.

As with many apps – even the ones that seem the most frivolous and unnecessary for the consumer market; as, for example, smart diapers – there are health and assistive-related situations where, the smarter the better. I’m not sure whether the Lumi can measure output, but for someone with an ill baby, being able to measure whether the baby is peeing too much or too little could be a critical piece of information to have. Other than that…

There’s no pricing available yet on the Lumi, but the guess is the system will cost in the $200’s. Plus you have to purchase special Lumi-ready diapers. (P&G says that the price of the Lumi diapers won’t be out of whack with the cost for regular, unsmart pampers.)

Pampers isn’t first to market with a smart diaper. Huggies has a variation of its own. (Huggies has a couple of advantages. The sensors work with any diaper, plus the sensors can detect just what sort of diaper-changing experience you’re in for. With the first version of Lumi, parents will have to rely on the tried and true sniff test.

Maybe I’ll change my tune, and when our first grandchild arrives, my wife and I will be out there buying a diaper system that’s more elaborate than a box of diapers, a Diaper Genie, and some baby wipes. But I mostly think that a smart diaper is not something that anyone needs.

There’s not only the cost, and the over-the-top-ness about it. Isn’t becoming aware that you’re wet one of the ways that your child learns how to manage their plumbing and figure out when they’ve got to go? After all, one of the raps on modern day diapers is that your toddlers get too comfortable in them. And I’d worry about the sensor. You have to attach it to the diaper, which means it’s detachable, which means that before you know it, your baby will figure out how to detach it. And we all know that there’s not that much distance between object in hand and object in mouth.

I love technology and the many ways in which smart tech can and does improve our lives in terms of health, safety, time-savings and convenience. But this doesn’t seem to be an especially useful application area. Not-so-smarty-pants diapers seem to work just fine