Big Mother’s watching: should we trust a connected device to manage our lives?

In American TV series, mums never forget to give their little cherubs cookies – and this device is no different. The 2.0 “mum”, designed by a company called Sen.se, watches over an entire family of connected objects and processes data gleaned by small connected sensors called motion cookies. It is simply called Mother, and its benevolence is instantly visible from its smooth, round and attractive design, which recalls both Russian dolls and, with its soft colours and cuddly contours, children’s TV characters.“These connected devices are interesting from a long-term perspective, because they end up knowing your habits.” – Rafi Haladjian
Mother’s mission is to quantify our (bad?) habits and help us take care of ourselves. It’s like a digital nanny. It works by interpreting the data collected by the cookies to understand the activity going on in the house as well as possible and identify any behaviour that is out of the ordinary. Developed by Rafi Haladjian, inventor of one of the first connected objects, the Nabaztag rabbit, Mother won the “Technology for a better world” award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Multi-tasking, customizable sensorsMother is formed of a mother ship shaped like a Russian doll that commands a squadron of little cookies (up to a maximum of 24). The cookies, which weigh just a few grams each, have built-in accelerometers, thermometers and processors. Each cookie has the same functions – it’s up to the users to assign their chosen tasks to the cookie. Want to know if your youngest is keeping his pearly whites clean? Attach a cookie to his toothbrush. Is the nanny going AWOL on duty or raiding your fridge? Attach other cookies to the front door or pantry. 15 uses have been developed so far. “Walk” indicates the number of steps taken and the number of calories burned during the day (the sensors’ memory enables them to record data when they’re away from Mother), while “Espresso” tells you about your caffeine intake. A sensor can even be installed between your mattress and the sheet on your bed to monitor sleep cycles.All this data is recovered using a radio-transmission system specially developed by Sen.se. It is centralized, formatted, and then made available on a dedicated digital platform.There to be forgottenIs Mother just another super-connected gadget? “I don’t see any use that really makes life easier, unless you have a family that never meets or talks to each other,” says Norédine Benazdia on Gizmodo.com. Is it an intrusive, malevolent presence the likes of which we haven’t seen before? Rafi Haladjian argues the flexibility of his all-in-one, modular solution: “In the future, our homes will be the same as they are today: we won’t be living with 50 machines that we have to learn to use and charge! When you start using a connected device, you check it constantly. But after a certain period of time – between a week and three months – you get sick of it,” he explained in an interview with the newspaper L’Opinion. “Yet these connected devices are interesting from a long-term perspective – for a period of a year, for example – because they end up knowing your habits. They get on with their job in the background and only alert you when something out of the ordinary occurs.” So Mother’s aim is therefore to be forgotten in order to infiltrate our everyday lives. It’s for our own good, after all!To go furtherTaking care of your own well-being, via the “quantified self”
Bidgely helps keep track of your energy use
Mother’s website

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