Rest Devices Inc. – Will They Deliver Nursery 2.0?
Rest Devices Inc. is an early stage startup, founded by three former MIT students, that seeks to revolutionize the baby nursery through the Internet of (Baby) Things. Can they transform the baby products industry, steal market share from baby industry conglomerates, and deliver on their value proposition?
Imagine you are a newly minted business school graduate who managed to score that high speed consulting job you’ve always wanted. Simultaneously, you’ve also started the next phase of your life with your partner and a new bundle of joy: your first child! Like every doting parent, you can’t help but constantly check that your child is safe throughout the night, and are always the first to jump out of bed if she wakes up for a feeding. You have it all, except that the constant travel keeps you away from your new baby more than you’d like. You wish you had some way to check in even when you are away. Enter Rest Devices, a company that seeks to harness the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) to lead us towards Nursery 2.0. Their business model seeks to empower parents to monitor their baby’s wellbeing at all moments, through technology that differentiates its offerings from traditional analog baby products. They started on this quest with Mimo, a suite of movement and breathing monitors.  Forget the outdated cotton onesie. Forget having to get out of bed to make sure your baby’s airway is clear. Mimo turns these ancient traditions on their head by linking your baby itself, through the internet, to any connected device.
Rest Devices’ operating model appears to be grounded in making incremental improvements to standard baby products, as opposed to completely redesigning the nursery in one fell swoop. Its Mimo product line complements traditional audio – and now video – baby monitoring products that sometimes include motion sensors. But the information you get from these camera systems is lacking in detail. If you are out on a date with your partner, and you want to check in on your little one via video, you’re missing granularity of detail about your baby’s status. Similar to a FitBit, the Mimo allows you to monitor “breathing, sleeping temperature, body position…and whether [the baby is] awake and asleep, [on] your smartphone.”  Its next product appears to be “a ‘smart bottle warmer,’ that will be able to tell parents exactly how much milk their babies have consumed at a given feeding.”  These improvements to standard products definitely deliver some value to parents, but is it enough? Is incremental innovation sustainable, or should Rest Devices consider broader strokes?
The opportunities for growth when applying IoT concepts to baby products seem endless, and I would argue that there is a huge amount of existing and new market share to be gained through bolder innovation. Imagine if an internet connected robot attached to the crib could actively monitor for signs of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and then automatically intervene when trouble arose by lifting your baby off the mattress to open its airway, simultaneously alerting the parents? Or if a smart-car seat could check for signs that your child had wriggled out of her seatbelt, or deploy baby airbags in the event of a high speed crash? If they could quickly develop these or other revolutionary products, Rest Devices could presumably move towards creating its own baby product ecosystem. Complementary Rest Devices branded smart cribs, smart mattresses, smart baby swings, and smart clothing could operate in unison to create the ideal safety environment for your child. Imagine the network effects that would result if Rest Devices had these complementary products and could create brand loyalty around its dedication to revolutionizing baby safety and security!
Of course, this revolution will come with several challenges:
1) Privacy issues abound in any suite of internet-connected devices. For example, there are already concerns about network security on baby video monitors, that are vulnerable to hacking exploits. It is disconcerting that a hacker could monitor your child’s every move, and so Rest Devices will need to ensure its products support end-to-end encryption and employ rigorous security measures.
2) Though AI and machine learning have enabled huge advances in the ability to beat humans at games such as Go , it will still likely be several years before computers can accurately understand the nuances of human emotion and signaling. While pulse and oxygen levels can be easily monitored with Mimo, these objective measures are just two data points in a sea of subjectivity that could enable machines to better interact with a baby in Nursery 2.0.
Rest Devices’ focus on bringing FitBit type products into the nursery is a worthy endeavor, but in order to truly harness the power of the IoT it must introduce new and innovative products into the market. By expanding its ecosystem of internet-enabled products, Rest Devices could position itself on the leading edge of baby safety. But it isn’t going to get there without winning over the parents who will do anything, and pay anything, to keep their children safe. (800 words)
Student comments on Rest Devices Inc. – Will They Deliver Nursery 2.0?
Very cool post! Potential applications of IoT in baby products are huge, especially since this is such a pain point for new parents and technology with its monitoring and detection capabilities can help make the early parenting experience to be less stressful. Another MIT project that has gained some publicity is the “smart crib” called SNOO to help simulate the sounds and motions that babies experience in wombs and that helps them sleep better: http://www.businessinsider.com/smart-crib-babies-sleep-snoo-video-2016-10
Great post, ConcernedCitizen. I think Rest Devices has created some outstanding ideas for new products, but I wonder how its business model will survive against the competition of larger, more established competitors with greater resources for investment in R&D. For example, IoT-enabled sensors in a nursery are probably rather simple and easy to replicate, which could mean stiff competition for similar products. One way around this might be to offer a suite of products that work on a proprietary, common system. It could be harder for a consumer to switch brands if they have to replace all of their tech, sort of like Apple homes vs. PC homes.
Great post and very interesting technology! As I was reading, I also thought about how vital this could be for protecting infants against such tragedies as SIDS, as well as harm due to poorly designed bedding and cribs. However, I also have concerns about privacy, especially if video and breathing/heart monitoring data will be analyzed and stored online. I hope the company can continue to innovate to design more breakthrough technologies while keeping data security a top priority!
ConcernedCitizen, I’m concerned about a number of problems with Rest Devices’ product line and value proposition. As we learn more about the impact of wireless networks on human health (or at least wait for the longitudinal studies to come out), attaching a wireless device to a baby’s abdomen 24×7 seems risky if not downright irresponsible of parents. Furthermore, under incredible stress with the arrival of a new baby, they are in a unique position to channel primal instincts to read baby’s cues and protect their little one at all costs. Does adding a stream of data to this equation help or hinder the bonding process? Certainly, there is a desire to reduce SIDS risk and monitor baby when she’s sick, but does Mimo actually reduce the risk or create a false sense of security? Rest Devices will have fine line to walk between easing the burden of early parenting and interfering with the ambiguous dance of parent-baby bonding.
Thanks for the insightful post, ConcernedCitizen. I wonder how much this technology goes towards actually solving the issue you describe? The main reason parents need to know their baby’s movement and breathing is to avoid the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but given the nature of SIDS I’m not yet convinced that this is enough of a solution to reach commercial viability.
Firstly, SIDS is rare. You would need to sell thousands of these devices to prevent one death from SIDS, assuming this device was 100% effective in prevention. Convincing parents of this need might be tricky, particularly when there are many more low-cost, common-sense interventions to prevent causes of childhood death that are far more likely (e.g. drowning in a bathtub, when children won’t be wearing their sensors!).
Second, SIDS is overwhelmingly concentrated in people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Risk factors are alcohol and drug use during pregnancy, poor prenatal care, tobacco exposure after birth and mothers younger than 20. I’m not sure this target market would have the means or awareness to purchase an IoT solution.
Third, SIDS usually occurs at night when parents are asleep. Does the hardware you describe sound an alarm loud enough to wake parents up, if the sensors say that the baby is no longer moving? If, on the other hand, it behaves like a FitBit as a recording device, I don’t think it would do much to prevent SIDS if it did occur.
That said, I’m confident that if not this technology, then future iterations of technology, will provide value to parents and make a real difference in reducing SIDS and causes of early childhood death.
Thanks for an fascinating post! I’m a bit concerned, like Joanna, that these innovation may encourage some parents to depend too much on technology rather than taking care of their baby on their own. I think the possibilities are infinite what IoT could do in terms of monitoring babies when parents have to be away, but I hope that there would be regulations (and strong suggestions from these companies) for parents to use these only as an aid to their parenting responsibilities, rather than seeing it as a form of digital nannies that they could trust fully.
This is a cool concept. We actually have a nest camera in our kitchen and love that I can see that the cats are eating when I’m away. I think that this type of home automation and monitoring is very exciting and will definitely change the way we live in the near future. I agree that the hacking concern will grow as more and more devices that we depend on are connected to the internet. This will always be a risk, but hopefully it will stay a small risk thanks to advances in security that nearly keep pace with the innovation of hackers.
This seems like a massive business opportunity – I’ve read that the baby industry is an over $20 Billion industry, and people are far less price elastic when it comes to items for their newborns. In particular, this seems an especially good application of IoT because it’s a context in which real-time, adaptive monitoring systems have significant benefits over “dumber” monitoring systems. Also, given that baby products have not transformed dramatically over the past decades, it’s an industry ripe for innovation.
I love the idea of taking these monitoring devises to the next level by having them actually intervene to solve the issue arising. Beyond issues of parent-baby bonding brought up, the huge risk when these monitoring devices or intervention devices fail to deliver makes me incredibly nervous. I wonder if this device and monitoring might fit best for a pet vs. a human baby. Parents cannot leave their babies alone at home without someone watching over them, but do leave their pets at home when they go to work or even go out of town for a day. We love our pets and some spend even more on caring for their dogs than caring for their babies! Expanding control in pet care, and having a device on your dog tell you how much they ate or drank and be able to react in providing more water or food as needed while the adults are not around could be a very lucrative application of this technology.