The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are a tech-friendly family. In April they launched the Official Instagram for their Royal Highnesses, gaining more than 1 million followers in six hours. They’re expecting a baby and building out a high-tech nursery with lots of smart devices.
Meghan Markle promises “top-of-the-line cameras, security windows and a state-of-the-art stereo system” while Prince Harry is said to be “geeking out” over the tech.
In a baby tech market on track to hit $16.78 billion by 2025, there’s a lot to choose from. Today, parents with a cranky baby can use a smart pacifier to take and track their temperature and get a ping when the fever breaks. New parents can also use tools powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) for things like tracking bottle feedings and sleep patterns and ship that data directly to the doctor.
“As a new mom, I am gaga over gadgets that will help make parenting easier, and a lot of these modern daily devices do more than just monitor babies,” said Jessica Naziri, an on-air digital lifestyle expert and founder of TechSesh. “They come with a long list of high-tech features that are great.”
Like England’s royal family, Naziri is expecting her first baby and looks at all baby tech products with the eye of a tech and digital lifestyle expert. Unsecured Wi-Fi, default passwords and weak code are vulnerabilities hackers love to exploit, creating a direct path to the whole family’s personally identifiable information. Whatever technology monitors the royal baby, it needs to be sleek and secure, she said.
The Importance of Securing IoT
CompTIA Senior Director, Technology Analysis, Seth Robinson’s kids were born before GPS-embedded strollers were a thing, and he’s seen the merging of the digital and physical worlds open a host of potential security issues.
“The Internet of Things (IoT) has opened up a lot of doors to hackers and more work for cybersecurity teams,” Robinson said.
Cybersecurity tops the list of people’s fears related to IoT, according to CompTIA’s research report, 2019 Trends in the Internet of Things.
What’s interesting, Naziri said, is that even though all these technologies seem new and vulnerable, most are as hackable as baby monitors ever were. The difference now is that smart devices are patched into local servers, giving hackers access to spy and steal data from the entire home network.
“Hackers can take control of your baby monitor or camera to spy on the baby and the parent,” she said.
Some companies also rush products to market without addressing cybersecurity concerns. “There are a slew of new companies jumping into the high-tech baby category, but they don’t yet know the cybersecurity repercussions,” Naziri said. “Protect yourself, know what features make certain devices more secure and know which companies are reputable.”
Smart Devices for New Parents
When everything is secured, there are a lot of gadgets to help expecting and new parents. From sleeping to pumping to calming a crying newborn, tech can help make parenting a little bit easier. Naziri said she’s already found a solution to the sleep challenges that come with being pregnant.
“The Dux bed is getting me through the sleepless nights with its tech-infused luxury that helps me stay asleep,” she said. It works like an “active” suspension system, with 4,000 springs. And as expecting moms get closer to their delivery date, Bloomlife monitors contractions so expecting parents feel more confident when it’s time to go to the hospital.
After baby arrives, a multitude of devices help new parents maintain their sanity.
“The mamaRoo mimics the swing of a mom and it swings like you do, so you can get five minutes of coffee time,” she said. Same with the smart bot bassinet called SNOO.
“It’s like the Tesla of baby smart cribs loaded with tech that puts baby to sleep in seconds,” Naziri said. This baby bed swaddles, rocks, and shushes newborns so parents can get some much-needed sleep. And for babies who have trouble developing sleep habits, the Nanit smart baby monitor gives parents insights into the baby’s sleep patterns and gives feedback and personalized plans to help kids sleep through the night.
Naziri also gave a huge thank you to whomever invented electric breast pumps.
“For moms who want to transition back to work, it’s really difficult if you’re still breastfeeding. A lot of these devices are discreet, and it makes it so much easier.” Pumps like Willow have sensors to indicate let-down and switch phases automatically from stimulation to expression. Willow also comes with an app to track milk volume, pump time and past sessions.
“In this digital age we have so much information, and having the data gives parents confidence in what they’re doing,” Naziri said. Whether it’s a fertility monitor or an interactive nursery, address each piece of baby tech thinking about your security. “Someone can Google a default password, get this data online and get into your entire home network. There are a lot of vulnerabilities.”
How to Secure Baby Devices
Naziri offered her own tips on how to secure new baby tech.
- Update Software Regularly. Before you buy a monitor, do research. “Some manufacturers are very vigilant about security measures, and others don’t have updates or security patches,” she said. “Make sure you’re buying from a company that cares about the security aspect and puts out regular updates and patches.”
- Change the Default Name and Password. “IoT devices have preset default usernames and passwords, and because they are all the same for everyone, I can do a simple Google search to get that password and log in,” she said. “Choose a unique password and that’s long and complex, not just password1234.”
- Segment Your Wi-Fi. “It’s good to have a separate network for all the baby stuff so you can control who has access to it,” she said. The first step to improving the security of your wireless local area network (WLAN) is to change the preset service set identifier (SSID).
If your home is Wi-Fi and IoT enabled, you can be the cybersecurity expert in your family.
Read more about IoT and cybersecurity.
Michelle Lange is a writer and designer living in Chicago.