Wearables (not so Enterprise)-Pt. III

Steven Brykman | March 4, 2014 | In the News Mobile App Development Mobile Strategy

On the eve of Ellen’s monster Oscar Tweet, I’d like to conclude our Wearables blog series by discussing a new, innovative (in a manner of speaking) use of wearable nano-technology that had me wondering, “When is any technology too much?” When is it simply an inappropriate replacement for good ol’ face-to-face (or in this case, face-to-tushie) communication?

tweetpeeScreen2The device in question is the brainchild of personal-care corporation, Kimberly-Clark, and is affectionately named the “Huggies TweetPee.” Attach it to your baby’s diaper and it literally texts you when the diaper is wet (currently test-marketed only in Brazil). And no, it’s not a hoax.

At first this technology might seem ludicrous at best, like installing a fireplace in your bathroom. After all, we’re talking about a baby here! And if you’re far enough away from your infant—and for so long—that you need to get a text message to let you know when she’s taken a leak, I’m guessing a wet diaper is the least of your problems. Where’d you go off to—the track? For Pete’s sake, you’ve got a baby to take care of! Put down your damn Facebook and get paddy-caking, already!!

Until you stop and think about it in terms of marketing, when it suddenly sounds brilliant. I can just see the boardroom meeting now:

CEO: “Sales this quarter are down 20%. Our customers simply aren’t using enough diapers! What do we do? Jones?”

Jones: “We increase the rate of diaper changes.”

CEO: “Great! Great! Now, how do we do that?”

Smith: “By making our diapers less absorbent, sir?”

CEO: “Oookayyy. Anyone else?”

Johnson: “How’s about we build a campaign around the hazards of long-term urine exposure? I can see it now, ‘Your baby’s pee may be putting your whole family at risk!’”

CEO: “Not bad..but you think anyone’s really going to swallow that?”

Jones: “I got it! We build a little WiFi device that sticks to the diaper and alerts the parents the very second it senses the slightest bit of moisture! I ask you, gentlemen, what mom wouldn’t want to get a tweet from her baby?? This thing will literally say, ‘Time to change my diaper!’ on her Facebook page! Right there where the whole world can see it!!”

CEO: “I love it! It’s so simple it’s a wonder nobody’s thought of it before. The Pampers people will crap their pants!”

Jones: “Right. Of course we’ll have to put a little circuit in the diaper so the device only works with Huggies!”

[note: as far as I know, they’re not actually doing this].

This is just the sort of thing that happens when you make a product that’s too good—diapers so absorbent babies no longer notice when they’re full of pee. You have to start thinking (way) outside the box and invent a whole new solution to a problem that no longer exists because your original product (the diaper itself) already solved it!

tweetpee1

tweetpeeScreen1Not surprisingly, the app that comes bundled with the device also tells you when you’re almost out of diapers (it knows this how??) and lets you order more Huggies right from the app. Sound a little creepy? Well, when you Google-translate the website’s bullet-points from the original Portuguese the feature-set sounds even more Orwellian:
“The sensor monitors the diaper moisture and sends a signal when the baby pees”
“The application notifies the parents that the baby peed by text message or social networking”
“The application controls the capacity of the diaper and alert the right time to change”
“The historical diapering baby, you came with the amount used per day”
“Control the stock of domestic diapers and predict the future purchases”

Funny thing is, aside from the obvious fact you can tell when a baby’s diaper is wet simply by touching it (or in some cases just by looking at it), there is literally no reason why you would ever need to change a wet diaper this quickly, particularly given the insane chemical technology they put into these things. I have personally let my kid’s wet diaper go until it became so engorged the velcro tabs could no longer hold it together.

But I digress.

What does this have to do with enterprise apps, you’re wondering? What lessons can we take away from all this?

First off, one problem is that when we focus on creating technology for technology’s sake, we often miss an opportunity to use it for something that’s actually important. Why wouldn’t Kimberly-Clark want to use its massive marketing muscle to help reduce the incidence of SIDS? Build a device with an O2 sensor instead of an H2O sensor? Two reasons. A. This wouldn’t sell diapers, and B. When it comes to SIDS, there’s always the potential for a lawsuit, whereas nobody’s going to get litigious over an unreported wet diaper. The irony being: aren’t there some inherent health risks here? Or at least the perception of possible health risks? Kimberly-Clark claims the product is safe, but tell me. How much do we really know about long-term exposure to low-level microwave radiation on a baby’s genitals? I’m guessing not that much.

The lesson is, when it comes to Enterprise apps, best to not let marketing run the show. They just might miss the mark and go for style over substance—wet diapers over SIDS prevention. Or else try to reinvent the wheel by constructing a redundant (albeit high-tech) solution to a problem already solved years, even centuries, ago.

Steven Brykman

Steven is a Digital Strategist and UX Architect focusing on Mobile Products with a diverse background in writing and literature. He spent much of the last decade as Creative Technologist/Lead Strategist of his own design company, helping Fortune 500 companies define the direction of their digital campaigns, websites and mobile applications. Additionally, he co-founded Apperian, a Boston-based mobile technology startup.

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