Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Advances (?) in data-driven parenting

I don't have a lot to say about two items that appeared today on data-driven parenting. Suffice it to say, they say more about the parents than the child. That said, how can I, as an academic economist, be adverse to gathering more data.

First, there is this article in Slate about obsessively keeping data on your child. The point is (a) you can do it and (b) it is nice to get to know your child. The classic quote:
It occurred to us that while our baby daughter couldn’t communicate directly beyond crying, we could have a deeply intimate, beneficial conversation with her through data. We realized that we could quantify and study her in an attempt to optimize all of her development.
It also has the point that the primary driver of parenting behaviour is the ability to judge over parents and this article has that in spades.

Second, and I am not making this up (click here) the New York Times reports on a new innovation to help data-driven parents out; a digital diaper. Apparently, the idea literally came to him:
“I was driving with my wife and daughter one day, when my wife asked if the baby had wet herself,” said Yaroslav Faybishenko, Pixie’s founder. “I realized she was sitting in data.”
And here it is:
In contrast to those things, the technology behind the diaper is relatively simple, and it owes as much to the quality of smartphone cameras as it does to clever chemistry. 
At the front of the diaper is a patch with several colored squares. Each square represents a different interaction with a protein, water content or bacteria, and changes color if it detects something is outside of normal parameters. There is also a neutral white square, to more easily check for color changes in the other squares. 
A smartphone app takes a picture and can make precise readings of the chemical data based on  color changes. The data is uploaded to a central location, where physicians can get information about how the child is doing and whether the baby needs further testing.
Suffice it to say, if you aren't doing this you aren't really data-driven. If course, if you are doing this, then good luck to you. My personal opinion is that even with this it is pretty hard to get data. In the future, we need a sensor in the diaper along with a bluetooth connection and we will get some results. It may also forecast the "rate of smell explosion" so that you can work out how urgently you need to change the diaper.

Anyhow, I have written about "data-driven" parenting before and probably will do so again.