By Lisa Suennen
First Posted at Venture Valkyrie on 7/16/2013
I love the phrase “Jumped the Shark.” The term refers to something that has just gone too far over the top to retain it’s relevance. It originated in reference to the Happy Days TV show when Fonzie literally water-ski jumped over a shark in an episode, signaling to the world that the show had run out of legitimate ideas for further plot development. But the phrase has moved beyond TV and become part of the general vernacular, evolving to mean (and I quote from the all-seeing, all-knowing Wikipedia here) “the moment when a brand, design, or creative effort’s evolution loses the essential qualities that initially defined its success and declines, ultimately, into irrelevance.”
God help me, but digital diapers may just be the digital health movement’s jump the shark moment. I have been known to publicly refer to questionable digital health products as CRapps, but this is closer to reality than even I had previously thought.
If you have not already seen the barrage of stories about the so-called Smart Diaper, brace yourself. They are real and might just be coming to a baby’s butt near you. And lest you mistakenly think that this is a product designed to let you know when your kid has wet his or her diaper, stop right there. That’s a completely different product. Really. Apparently Huggies has already begun piloting a product called TweetPee that conveniently sends you a tweet when baby needs a new diaper, thus confirming for many that Twitter is loaded with meaningless, uh, waste. I think this might just be the next generation’s version of embarrassing baby pictures: a Twitter stream (pun intended) telling your parents and their followers that you have just wet your pants. Again. Won’t it be fun when your parents whip out their Twitter archive to show your first boyfriend? Awwwww Mom!
Is my diaper trending?
In any event, the new and completely different Smart Diaper is not just a notification product meant to replace the old school low tech method of peeking or sticking a finger in there. Instead this new example of digital health in action is a diagnostic product allowing parents to turn their baby’s bodily functions into big data for longitudinal health analysis. According to the article I read it works like this:
A dry-reagent panel, just like those colorful sticks you pee on at the doctor, sits on the front of the diaper. It works a lot like a QR code. Using the Smart Diapers iOS and Android app, a parent can scan the panel and see information about the urine. [The inventors] explain that parents would do this once a day, and the information about their child’s urine would be stored in the app. The goal is to accumulate data about urination patterns and then use that data to spot urinary tract infections, dehydration or developing kidney problems. The app will fire off an alert if something peculiar is found.
So, parents, consider this: you will open the diaper, having theoretically received your Tweet that it is time to do so; you will remove said diaper and scan it with your iPhone; hoping desperately you don’t drop it into the sample; and then you will spend your evening cuddling with your spouse on the couch watching tinkle trends, which I suspect you could Tweet out if you wanted. And people say having kids is bad for romance.
Having been a new mom once upon a time back in the olden days when fever and crying were how you found out the kid had a health problem, I do recall that there wasn’t a whole lot of time left for big data. I am not sure this kind of longitudinal analysis will fit into the new parent work-flow, although it feeds nicely into new parent paranoia syndrome. On the plus side, the product does fit right into the baby’s work “flow,” as it were.
And just think how much fun the NSA will have tracking your cell phone activity as it wanders into potty territory. The digital diaper gives a whole new meaning to the concept of WikiLeaks.