Digital diapers: Too smart for comfort?

The new invention alerts parents when it's time to change baby's diaper. Is it safe? And will it make parents' lives easier—or lazier?

Photo: iStockphoto Photo: iStockphoto

How about a smart diaper to go with your smartphone? It's the latest invention straight out of the land of the rising sun, and it's got me drowning in questions. The promise? A thin, organic, wireless plastic film embedded in your wee one's diaper. Once your baby pees, a sensor detects it and a text is sent directly to your phone letting you know it's time to change a diaper.

I'm a bit Switzerland on this one.

I'll be the first to admit, taking the guessing game out of changing diapers is a tempting proposition. I mean, how many times have you changed a diaper without knowing if you really needed to—especially in the early days of parenthood? And how many innocent diapers were destroyed in the process?

Read more: Ultimate guide to diapers>

Another bonus: The inventors tell me the disposable part of the sensor will cost mere pennies. Since the invention is still a prototype, it's not clear how much a box of the diapers will go for. You can bet though, like anything that's brand new, it'll have a matching price tag.

But I'm still not sold on it. As a mom, I want to know how safe it is. Note the placement of the sensor—a little too close for comfort, if you ask me. I don't want anything remotely technological anywhere near my baby's privates. Frankly, no matter how many studies are conducted to ensure the safety of this product, I believe it will take years before we know the real consequences of a child wearing a diaper with one of these embedded in it.


I reached out to University of Tokyo professor Takao Someya, one of the brains behind this technology. He tells me parents have nothing to worry about. "Our wet sensor works with low voltage and low power, which is safe enough to be embedded in a baby's private pants. Even if a leakage of electricity occurs, it is harmless to human bodies. Simultaneously, the soft material with which the sensor is made of is soft enough not to hurt babies."

Read more: Should your family use cloth diapers?

Hmm, is it just me, or do you believe the words "voltage," "power" (no matter how low) and "leakage of electricity" should never be used in the same sentence as "baby's private parts"? So, I asked for further clarification on the low voltage. “The sensor's driving voltage is two volt," Someya explains. "You can compare it with a two-volt watch battery.”

A final thought: If the prototype passes through all the stages it needs to and becomes available to the masses, I don't doubt it has the potential to become the holy grail of diapers. But, something about this whole concept screams lazy to me. Do we really need a text to remind us it may be time to check Junior's diaper? After all, isn't part of caring for your baby...caring for your baby?

What do you think? Would you put smart diapers on your baby?

This article was originally published on Feb 18, 2014

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