Two dads create device to prevent kid deaths in hot cars
I'm sad to report scanning our site shows a remarkable collection of heartbreaking stories of people being confronted or arrested for this very thing. A child in a Costco parking lot; a pediatrician who left kids in the car while she treated patients; a serial offender. These are just a few.
Sense-A-Life is a simple device built around the premise that a reminder, sent by the device to a parent's smartphone, will prevent the issue from happening. Two pressure sensitive pads are installed, one in the driver's seat, and one in the baby's car seat. If the pads sense the driver leave the car, but the baby hasn't, it'll alert the parent first. If there's no response, it can also alert someone else, like the other parent or a relative. At this point, it doesn't seem like it'll alert police or paramedics, but there doesn't seem to be any technical reason it couldn't.
If there's any criticism to be leveled at this device, which is an admirable attempt at ending a serious problem, it's that it requires some investment and attention up front. Common sense and human nature lead me to posit that the pool of Sense-A-Life customers and the pool of people at risk for leaving their children in the car might not have much overlap. That being said, a little bit of extra protection and peace of mind is probably worth it to many parents.
NASA (yes, the space agency) may have a better solution, which carries the Sense-A-Life concept to a more logical conclusion. In 2002, NASA engineers developed a pressure sensor for child seats, which sends a signal to the driver's key fob if the driver moves too far away from the vehicle. In 2002, keyless entry was less common than it is now; in 2016, there's reason to think that an OEM standard could be developed so the connected car seat could integrate natively with the proximity fob that comes standard on most cars.
For those with older cars, NASA estimated they could sell an aftermarket fob for $20-30 at the time, which would include the device that attached to a key ring and the sensor for the child seat. Here, Sense-A-Life and the NASA device have some overlap in concept as add-on measures. NASA's idea never went anywhere, but that wasn't because it was a bad idea. Other companies have implemented similar products; some car seats offer smartphone integration, but the sensor is integrated in the seat and it is generally expensive. Some have been discontinued after much-hyped introductions.
Sense-A-Life isn't on sale yet. The company will start a Kickstarter campaign in April. Provided they can sell the device as an economical price point, it may be offer some sense of relief to parents in hot climates. More importantly, perhaps it'll put some pressure on automakers to find out a way to integrate child car seat safety measures in new cars.
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