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Sproutling Baby Monitor Lets You Watch Your Baby’s Heartbeat on Your Phone

Dan Tynan
August 7, 2014

If you’re a digitally savvy adult, you’re probably wearing something like a Jawbone UP or a Misfit Shine to record how much exercise you get. Your kids might have an activity tracker like the LeapBand strapped to their wrists. Even your dog may sport a Tagg tracker or a Whistle monitor (review) on its collar.

What’s left to measure?

Babies, of course.

Smiling woman holding baby
Smiling woman holding baby

(All images courtesy of Sproutling)

This morning, a San Francisco startup unveiled a baby monitor for the quantified age. This is not your mom’s one-way radio transmitter or even your best friend’s 24/7 babycam. The Sproutling Baby Monitor straps gently to your baby’s ankle and delivers a steady stream of data about the little squib’s vitals directly to an app on your phone.

The flexible monitor Velcros around the infant’s ankle and uses Bluetooth to send data to a puck-shaped wireless hub and charger. The charger also has sensors that measure environmental factors like the amount of light and sound in the room, and then transmits all that data to the app.

All told, the Sproutling monitor transmits 16 measurements per second — everything from the baby’s heartbeat and body position to how noisy the room is. That’s more than 1,000 data points each minute. It’s an overwhelming amount of information, even for the most obsessive new parent, says Sproutling co-founder Mathew Spolin. So the app translates that data into a few key metrics.

Sproutling screenshot reading 'Austin: Unusually high temperature'
Sproutling screenshot reading 'Austin: Unusually high temperature'

For example, Sproutling gauges what your child’s normal skin temperature is and then sends you an alert if it suddenly spikes or drops. Using an internal gyroscope, it can determine if your baby is sleeping on her back or stomach, and alert you when she rolls over. The app will factor in the baby’s movements, normal sleep patterns, and the amount of light or noise in the environment, and then use that data to predict when your child will wake up and whether she’ll be a gurgling bundle of joy or a screaming hellion.

Parents can also set up a second charger in their bedroom and receive ambient color-coded alerts: It glows green when all is well, red for trouble ahead, and yellow if the device gets detached.

Sproutline ankle strap
Sproutline ankle strap

All of that technology is wrapped in a hypoallergenic, silicone-shielded package made from non-swallowable parts that emit minimal amounts of cellular radiation far from your babe's bod — in other words avoiding pretty much all the things that terrify new parents.

Oh, baby
No babies were available to me for testing the device, but I was able to see the monitor in action at Sproutling’s offices. Using the app, you can literally watch a child’s heartbeat throbbing on your phone’s screen. It’s both mesmerizing and a little unnerving.

Sproutling screenshot reading 'Austin is sleeping'
Sproutling screenshot reading 'Austin is sleeping'

The dot at the 12 o’clock position above the sleeping face throbs in rhythm with your baby’s heart.

Co-founder Chris Bruce emphasizes that the monitor is not a Fitbit for babies. It won’t measure the number of steps your infant isn’t taking, nor does it display your rugrat’s crawling patterns on a map. Instead, it gathers vast amounts of information about how her body normally operates, and then employs machine learning to determine when things deviate from the norm and to predict future behavior.

Bruce argues that the Sproutling monitor is the antidote to helicopter parenting; the goal is to give new parents peace of mind without having to constantly hover over the crib. Personally, I suspect the Sproutling app will give Millennials yet another excuse to spend all day staring at their phones — only instead of playing Candy Crush they’ll be watching their kids’ heartbeats.

Sproutling will sell the monitor direct to consumers for $299; to celebrate the launch, an unspecified number of units will be available for $249. The app is currently available only for iOS, though the company says an Android version is coming soon.

Live free or diaper
Does the Sproutling Baby Monitor make your new bundle of joy look a little like a recent parolee? Perhaps.

Baby wearing ankle monitor
Baby wearing ankle monitor

But as someone who got up every night at 3 a.m. for years just to confirm that his children were still breathing, I can appreciate what Sproutling is trying to do. This kind of data-driven monitor makes more sense than using a crippled walkie-talkie for someone who can neither walk nor talk, or a fuzzy video feed you have to watch constantly. On the other hand, you could use the $300 to buy a stroller, car seat, and traditional baby monitor and still have money left over for Pampers.

There’s also the question of when your baby will outgrow it. Bruce says the monitor is designed to be used by kids ages zero to 2, “or until he figures out how to take it off.” With my son, that would probably have been around month six or so. My daughter, who is now 15 (years, not months) would probably still be wearing one, but ironically.

Do you really need to quantify every moment of your newborn’s existence? No. You also don’t need to record video of every adorable thing they do. But odds are you will.

Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.