Starfish Aims To Prevent Accidental Heatstroke Deaths By Alerting Parents To Children Left In Cars

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New, first-time parents are terrified that they’re going to somehow accidentally hurt their baby – they will drop the child, or hit that weird soft spot on the baby’s head. Or maybe they’ll forget to put the baby on their back to sleep, and they will die of SIDS. A new breed of startups and “baby tech” gadgetry now caters to these fears, selling everything from baby wearables and bed sensors to fancy monitors that treat baby as just another device to be analyzed and optimized.

The latest geegaw aimed at parting concerned parents with their money is Starfish, a smart car seat sensor that connects with your smartphone to alert you if you’ve forgotten your baby in the car.

We’ve all heard the horror stories: the overworked parents who forget to drop off their children at daycare, sometimes simply because of a change in routine.

These babies perish due to heatstroke, trapped in cars for hours on end as temperatures soar.

It is truly the stuff of the nightmares.

Starfish, now on Kickstarter where it’s raised $13,000+ of a $15,000 goal, wants to offer a “safety net” of sorts.

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The device is a small, round, weight-activated sensor that notifies your smartphone when you’ve left your car without your child. It’s meant to fit under the child’s car seat with self-adhesive tape. It then sets up a “geo-fence” around the vehicle of roughly 20 feet. If you exit that geo-fence with baby still in the seat, you’re notified via your iPhone or Android.

If you don’t respond after 5 minutes, your emergency contacts are then notified as well.

The goal is to prevent these accidental deaths that come not from intentional parental negligence, but those caused by otherwise good parents who make a mistake.

“As you well know, this is something that has been a hot topic lately, as on average 40 children perish each year in the U.S. from hyperthermia in a car,” explains founder Matthew Sheets, (hopefully pun not intended). Sheets, an enterprise software developer at an academic medical center in Alabama, says his experiences have taught him how technology can improve lives, and even save them.

“To me, that was something I could not stand by and watch. I also realize that this tragedy can and does happen to anyone,” he continues. “Everyone intends to be a good parent, but our product serves as a great back up.”

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That may be true, but it’s worth also pointing out that the chances of it actually happening are very low. Of those 40 children (technically, 38, according to non-profit KidsAndCars.org), only some percentage – roughly half, it appears – are left accidentally by parents. In other cases, it may be intentional negligence, murder, or, as NHTSA once pointed out, a case where children climb into unlocked vehicles without parents’ knowledge, then accidentally lock the doors and can’t get out.

Or to put it in different terms, a person has a better shot at getting struck by lightning, which accounts for over 200 injuries per year.

That’s not to downplay the issue or minimize the tragedy that occurs when this mistake results in a child’s death, of course. However, a gadget-based solution may not be necessary. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services instead is encouraging parents to “Look Before You Lock.”

A related awareness campaign is working to offer safety tips, run PSAs, distribute materials to daycares, and even provide window decals. The root of the campaign is about getting parents to make looking for baby a part of their routine when exiting the car, along with other normal tasks like grabbing your belongings and locking your doors.

But for those who prefer a technological solution to quelling their fears, the Starfish is selling for $40 on the Kickstarter page.