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CES Trend Report: Tech-Enabled Parenting

Seen at CES: Next generation tech is fueling the conception and care of the next generation. 

One of the hot topics of CES 2016 was Millennial parents and families—especially how the tech use of the new generation of parents will be impacting families and kids. From conception to the nursery, technology is changing the way that today’s parents are having and raising their children. In 2014, 83% of the children born in the U.S. had Millennial moms, so this generation is the target market for a plethora of new digital tools to help them navigate their new role as parents. Navigating 3,800 exhibits alongside 170,000 other attendees, we visited the Baby Tech zone at CES Tech West to speak directly to those who are making those Baby Tech products, and ask how and why tech is changing parenting.

The first step in the parenting process is pregnancy, and Glow is looking to empower women with a suite of apps that center around demystifying womanhood. Glow (which we called out last year as a mobile, modern parent tool) covers the entire reproductive journey, beginning with Eve, an app that aims to empower, inform and educate women regarding sexual health, Glow, an app that tracks fertility & ovulation, and Nurture, an app to track and manage a pregnancy to term. Simple and data-driven, these apps help women obtain an accurate and individualized understanding of what’s going on with their bodies and how to either avoid or embrace pregnancy.

For those who struggle with conception there’s Univfy, winner of the Fertility & Pregnancy category in the Best of Baby Tech award, sponsored by the Bump. As experts in fertility analytics, Univfy’s Interactive Fertility Tour takes a read on your fertility situations, offering resources and recommendations via a personalized Fertility Guide. Given the financial and emotional toll of IVF treatment, having someone to help navigate the process with personalized data, normative comparisons and analysis would calm frayed nerves. As digital natives, concrete data is the security blanket to calm the Millennial mind.

For those who have managed to bring a pregnancy to third term, Bloom has produced Belli, “a lightweight wearable sensor that mothers wear in their third term to detect and track contractions.” The sensor sends information to the accompanying app, where they can track their own data, and send it to their medical team when ready. Dubbed a ‘pregnancy coach’, and “part digital doula, part gestational guru,” the goal of Belli is to provide peace of mind to moms who are understandably nervous as they approach their due date.

Once your bundle of joy is at home the real pressure begins, with a fragile life depending on amateur parents to help them thrive to the point where each and every day isn’t filled with worry. But there’s an app or two (or ten) for that as well… 

Before babies are strong enough to lift their heads or adjust body position, the risk of SIDs looms in the mind of every parent. The winner of not only the Best of Baby Tech Award for the Baby Safety category but also the Best Startup award for the entire CES 2016 event was Owlet, a system designed to protect families from that tragedy. You may not have heard of pulse oximetry, but it’s the technology that you see on emergency room patients that clips a red light sensor onto a finger in order to accurately read blood oxygen levels. The team at Owlet has used this same technology to create a ‘Smart Sock’ that will alert parents immediately if their baby’s blood oxygen level begins to drop. A quick visit to the Owlet site will have you in tears as one parent after another relates their frightening respiratory experiences and how Owlet allowed them to intervene in time.

After asking each of the exhibitors to describe the benefits of their respective innovations, the words ‘peace of mind’ and ‘empowerment’ were used frequently. Parenting has always been stressful, and becoming responsible for the health and welfare of another human being is more than a little daunting. While billions of children have joined the human race without the benefit of baby tech, surrounding one’s self with tools that reduce worry, enable a peaceful night’s sleep, or save a life seems like progress indeed. Millennial parents are entering this new phase of their lives armed with tools that could potentially ease some of the fears and struggles that previous generations took for granted. It’s a new era of parenting, with technology acting as a partner to safeguard you. 

At the same time, these devices are continuing a trend we began to see back in 2013: today’s children are growing up with hyper-monitored childhoods. Growing up will increasingly become a tech-supervised, quantified experience—and because Millennial parents see data as a safety net, they’re all the more likely to continue tracking and censoring their little ones. They’re being sold peace of mind, so how can they resist?