Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Sen.se Mother: Electronic Manager for Family Life

Mother with 4 Cookies
Sen.se have announced a new product that aims to help with the management of family life. Mother is a Russian-doll shaped base unit with remote sensors called Cookies that can can be deployed to let 'her' keep track of activities and situations like tooth brushing or the taking of medication. She can also send alerts and notifications when family members need to be reminded or notified of something like an older child returning home from school. There are also apps and a SenseBoard so you can check and analyze data from a phone or tablet.

Sen.se is part of the Internet of Things movement where everyday objects become electronically connected. It also taps into the Quantified Self and wearable device trend that is very popular. Do families need an electronic device to manage their lives? Clearly some will be against this, but personally, I'm all for it. (Assuming that Sen.se have dealt with security concerns adequately which is something they do focus on.) I like to have more information and for it to be easier to do the right thing.

Most families these days have lots going on with both parents working, kids having after school activities and the need for everyone to manage to stay fit and healthy. Nagging kids to do things isn't much fun, sometimes an electronic device can smooth the path. 

The idea is that you attach Cookie to physical objects like a toothbrush, pill container or coffee machine, or use a Cookie as a wearable device. The Cookie then tracks motion or temperature and can be used to detect proximity to the Mother.

My older son is learning to play the violin, he enjoys it but sometimes needs a reminder and a bit of encouragement to practice. I think he would quite enjoy it if we could attach a Cookie to his violin so he could easily track how much he had played and get electronic reminders to practice. (This isn't one of the supported apps, but it's quite similar to the Teeth brushing app.)

This year we're going to see more devices that start to combine multiple functions, rather than just having a connected pedometer or a sleep alarm and monitor, we're going to see systems like Mother that combine these features. This is a good thing. There are only so many single-purpose gadgets that a household can cope with!

I'm not convinced by the reliance on a Mother base unit though. Much of life takes place outside the home, parents go on business trips and families go on vacation. To be really useful, the Cookies need to be able to sync with mobile devices. The Cookies can store data for up to 10 days, but you won't want to wait 10 days until you can use your data.

Mother is an interesting concept that will appeal to early adopters who want the functionality without having to implement it themselves. In our house we already automate some of these functions - such as having temperature sensors around the house and do find it useful. We'll certainly be doing more of this in the future.

More Information / Pre-Order: Sen.se

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