While Google is best known for its search engine, Alphabet, the brand’s holding company, has also been investing heavily in developing and exploring the latest technology in the world. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data and smart technology that utilizes them are among the areas that Google has poured significant resources into over the years. Driverless cars are perhaps the most headline grabbing applications of these technologies. However, the same kind of smart technology involving cameras, motion detectors and touch sensors has also led to Google recently patenting a remote babysitting service.
The patent covers a range of “devices and methods for protecting unattended children in the home”. The system would recognise if a child has been left unattended for longer than 10 minutes, notifying parents by either a message or email. Additional functionalities and applications of the latest smart technology would include the system being able to shut down the electricity supply to a plug socket if a child approaches it or to digitally lock doors.
The system isn’t considered as a potential alternative to parental supervision or the requirement to hire a babysitter. Rather its use would be as an emergency measure to be employed in unforeseen circumstances such as an accident or emergency that necessitates a child being left alone for a short time. It could also be used as an extra safety net, providing additional piece of mind when a child is left with a baby sitter.
However, the patent doesn’t necessarily mean that Alphabet will release a commercial product based on the system anytime soon, or necessarily ever. The company, and other tech giants, regularly patent examples of the latest technology in the world. This safeguards the intellectual property rights in the event a commercial product does become viable at any point in the future. A Google spokesperson commented on the patent:
“We hold patents on a variety of ideas – some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents.”
That touch of realism may come as a disappointment to burnt-out parents hoping for a tech-based answer to their babysitting needs that doesn’t involve a potentially unreliable teenager or expensive professional babysitter. Nonetheless, it does mean that there is a good chance our future smart homes will help contribute to keeping curious and adventurous infants out of harms way.