Tech-Savvy Onesie Aims to Help Parents Rest Easy
Rest Devices Inc.
Health & Fitness
It’s not every week that I get to test a technology product that reminds me of The Police song “Every Breath You Take,” but this week’s gadget did just that. With help from my ten-month-old son, I tested a device called the Mimo Baby Monitor, which tracks every breath he takes and every move he makes while sleeping.
How? By using a tricked-out onesie, of course.
The Mimo (pronounced mee-mo) is sold in a $200 kit that includes three one-piece, machine-washable, kimono-style outfits. Respiration sensors disguised as green stripes run across its organic-cotton front; these measure breath and can tell if your child stops breathing, as well as when baby is awake or asleep. A small, green turtle magnetically sticks to the front of the outfit. It encases an accelerometer, which determines your baby’s position (like on his side or on his back) and a chip that gives a rough approximation of the child’s body temperature.
Data about your kid’s breathing, positioning and body temperature are wirelessly sent from baby to a corresponding plastic lily pad in the room. The lily pad plugs into the wall and serves as a charging station for the turtle. (Battery life for the turtle lasts three to five days.) The lily pad also has a microphone for listening in on sounds in the nursery and a thermometer to measure room temperature.
A parent downloads Mimo’s free app for iOS or Android, connects that app to Mimo’s lily pad and turtle using special codes and can check in on baby’s status whenever the spirit moves.
Despite Mimo’s “Wow, This Can Be Done?” factor, I can’t figure out how it fits into our baby-monitoring routine.
Time after time, our basic audio monitor heard my son crying before Mimo’s app alerted me that he was awake. On the other hand, the app alerted me too often when my son woke up — but wasn’t awake enough to cry — and fell right back to sleep. Meanwhile, my audio monitor never went off, which was fine by me.I liked occasionally opening the app and seeing my son’s sleep position and breathing patterns, but the app couldn’t tell me anything more about that information.
What’s worse, Mimo doesn’t save sleep data after 24 hours, so I couldn’t compare one night’s sleep with the night or week before to try to figure out my son’s patterns.
Thankfully, Mimo is working on improving its app. Dulcie Madden, co-founder and CEO, explained that future iterations of the app will let users add a baby’s age, height and weight for more accurate readouts. Another feature will give users more insightful feedback to go along with all of the data they see in the app. This could teach them things like how the baby sleeps better after being in a rocker versus a bouncer. And the company plans to create a way to let people look back at sleep history to identify patterns related to behavior.
For now, the app’s most useful feature is its ability to alert you if your baby stops breathing, which is no small feat and could be a real comfort to parents.
But for $200, this product and its corresponding app need to do a lot more.
Mimo comes from Rest Devices Inc., a Boston-based company. It was developed by M.I.T. engineers and tested at Massachusetts General Hospital — both comforting thoughts for skeptical parents. One of my first reactions to Mimo was that I wasn’t thrilled about putting my baby to sleep with a device attached to his chest every night — even a cute turtle.
Madden said that the turtle, which sends Mimo data to the lily pad via Bluetooth low energy, gives off the same amount of power as an audio monitor eight feet away, and less power than a laptop.
Another issue with the Mimo is that it only works with its own onesies, which is limiting. Currently, these only come in a short-sleeve model, which isn’t ideal for sleeping. We normally put our son in one-piece pajamas with feet, so he was a little chilly for the past week. Mimo’s app even confirmed this, noting his unusually low temperature. Parents can layer the onesies with additional clothing, but it’s hard enough getting a wriggly kid in one set of clothing, much less two.
And the lily pad’s microphone, which I tried to use for listening to my son, didn’t work half as well as my audio monitor.
Mimo did offer some comic relief in moments of exhaustion, which are all too common for new parents like me and my husband. In one instance when my husband came downstairs after a particularly tough time getting my son to sleep, he raised his arms triumphantly to signal his success. I opened the Mimo app and shook my head. According to it, our son was still awake, albeit quiet.
Another smile-inducing Mimo moment occurred when I checked the app and it told me my son was asleep and upright. I poked my head into the room and found him in his crib, asleep, with his bottom in the air. At least one body part was upright.
Mimo has plans for a video monitor that will plug into the lily pad, giving obsessive parents even more information about their sleeping children. But that won’t be out until at least spring of 2015.
Tools like Mimo might help put parents at ease, but the cost and limitations of this product are too steep for now.
Sweet dreams, baby.