United States: NAD Praises Baby Tech Manufacturer, Makes Small Tweaks

NAD Praises Baby Tech Manufacturer, Makes Small Tweaks

But what makes the product special? Is it more than data?

"Back in My Day ..."

The following gripe has nothing to do with age.

It has everything to do with life experience.

It's the right of anyone – anyone who has taken care of a child for more than a short stretch – to complain in the presence of a new parent, loudly and obviously, about how difficult child care was back when they did it.

As in relating the fabled "uphill both ways walk" of school commutes past, newfangled baby-tech is the perfect occasion to roll one's eyes at the wimpy decadence of today's parents. Perfect baby-bottle prep machines? Self-rocking cribs? High-tech baby monitors with app-controlled cameras?

Please. I had to do [NAME OF TASK] all on my own. "eyeroll"

Sock It to Me

Indulging in new-parent mockery is one of the pleasures of battle-scarred parenthood. And with that territory staked out, here's the latest improvement to mock: the Owlet Baby Care Smart Sock Baby Monitor.

The Smart Sock is meant to allow anyone who obsessively checks on their baby to get some rest. Controlled by a remote app, the product – a tiny wraparound sock – monitors a baby's heart rate and oxygen levels. A base station glows green or red depending on how far the measurements stray from a defined baseline.

So, it seems to be the perfect product – alleviating the anxiety of new parents, and letting the veterans remind everyone of how difficult things were for them.

Not so fast, says the National Advertising Division (NAD). In the course of its routine monitoring work, the NAD came across Owlet Baby Care Inc.'s product lines, and started asking questions. The NAD requested substantiation for several of Owlet's claims, including whether the Smart Sock device accurately gathered the information it purported to gather. The NAD's decision noted that the NAD was concerned that Owlet's advertising conveyed unsupported messages about the capability of the Smart Sock – such as the product would reassure parents and help them achieve "peace of mind," that it can prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and that it can save a baby's life – because the device only gathers information and does not dispense testable advice. Using the sock and monitoring the data are not substitutes, for instance, for medically approved sleeping guidelines.

With regard to Owlet's testimonial stories of its products, including "So thankful we were able to catch this early," the NAD found that they "accurately reflect how the Smart Sock is meant to be used and did not overstate [its] capabilities ...."

The Takeaway

The NAD urges Owlet to not only change its disclosures so that the company expressly limits the use of the Smart Sock for information-gathering purposes but also add warnings to follow established sleep advice. The NAD has also asked the company to limit the Smart Sock's use for sick babies because it does not replace standard medical monitors. Finally, the NAD has suggested that the company remove the offending "peace of mind" claims.

Owlet gave a hoot and agreed to make the changes.

This inquiry perfectly encapsulates our modern confusion about the differences between knowledge and wisdom. You can gather data, really get to know it, but offering sound interpretations of that data is an entirely different thing. When you're advertising tech products, be especially wary that qualitative judgments – "peace of mind" – are justified separately from quantitative claims. Companies should be mindful not to make unsupported claims in advertising their products and not to overstate the capabilities of their products, but rather to accurately reflect how the product is intended to function and be used.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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