Friday, July 6, 2018

Unattended babies and hot cars

Leland, not his real name, is one of the folks who sometimes drops in and drinks coffee with us.

Leland is a gentleman.  In days of yore he would have been the perfect Baron.  His manner is courtly. His wit sparkles. Leland has the ability to blend in with any crowd from upper crust to lowest brow.  I wish I batted in the same league as Leland.

He and his wife have been small business owners for forty years and have learned to simplify, simplify, simplify.  A short example will suffice.

Unattended babies and hot cars
I was showing off a bit.  I used to be an engineer and I was trying to impress the coffee crowd with the difficulty of instrumenting vehicles and developing algorithms to eliminate the problem of distracted parents leaving their children in vehicles unattended.

I opined that the ideal platform for the package would be the common smart-phone.  The basic smart-phone costs $15 to produce and put on the shipping dock in China.  The phone comes with a suite of, microphone, GPS, plumb-bob for orientation as well as the ability to call a list of ICE numbers and 9-1-1.  It also comes with WIFI capability.

After rhapsodizing about the difficulties of collecting different types of data from a single location...for example: sensing that there is a baby in the seat and the ambient air temperature...for a good five minutes Leland interrupted me with a gentle clearing of the throat.

"The solution is really not that hard." he stated.

I know that Leland has very little background in engineering but I also know that he does not BS and is always on-point.  With true humility I asked, "Leland, what am I missing?"

Leland said, "You are right about the solution being a smart-phone.  But they don't need any additional devices.  All the driver has to do is turn off their phone and to slide it between their baby and the back of the baby seat every time they drive somewhere with Junior."

I raised my eyebrows, encouraging him to go on.

"What usually happens is the parent is on their way to drop off the baby and must pass work to get to the daycare provider.  They get a phone call from work and they are completely absorbed by the work problem.  They turn into the parking lot having completely forgotten about their sleeping baby."  Leland said.

"You have a point." I conceded.  "But I don't think that turning off their phones will address most of the unattended babies."

"You skipped right over the main point.  Have you paid much attention to these young kids?" he asked.  "They go into  LDTs (Lack-a-Digititis Tremors) withdrawal if they go forty seconds without their device in their pockets.  Even if they walked away from their baby with the doors locked they will be coming back to collect their device...the one behind the baby...less than a minute later."

Added later:  I shared this with some family members at our family reunion.  One of the young ladies thought I was being critical of the parents.  

Then it occurred to me that this is best explained through the lens of classical conditioning.  The young parent has 10 years of conditioning in keeping track of their phone...reinforced 4-to-40 times an hour.  

A new baby?  Maybe two months at five times a day.  Most of the time you are either holding the baby or he/she is sleeping and there is no need for checking.

I drink coffee with some very, very smart old guys.

1 comment:

  1. Man, I need to add this fella the the smarter-than-I folks who I swill caffeine with. Thanks for giving us this story. Excellent.


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