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Friday, July 14, 2017, 11:51
Cradling an enterprise with the bottle
By Jasmine Zhou in Hong Kong
Friday, July 14, 2017, 11:51 By Jasmine Zhou in Hong Kong

Editor’s note: It seems the sky’s the limit for technological innovation. Mothers and would-be mothers can now breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the problem of feeding their newborns while they’re busy at work. A smart bottle device can do the job safely and reliably, and provide data updating parents on their infants’ consumption status.

(Billy Wong / China Daily)

Imagine you’re going to feed your newborn baby and, after a “bip”, the consumption, frequency and temperature get automatically recorded and graphed, allowing you to monitor the infant’s consumption status when you’re working. Isn’t that nice?

The job can now be done by Feedibaby — a smart bottle device invented by Juliana Ko and her team comprising three graduates of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. It can keep track of, recall and analyze a baby’s feeding and growth information by measuring the weight difference of the bottle before and after feeding. The data, with a 15-day local storage, can be sent to an app on a smartphone via bluetooth and updated to clouds.

Ko, who is a cofounder and one of the inventors of Feedibaby, started designing the device two years ago. It consists of two parts, a dock and an adapter. The dock operates like a mini electronic scale, which can sense different kinds of physical data, such as weight and temperature. Different from other smart bottle devices available in the market, Feedibaby gets patent for the adapter, which can fit almost any type of feeding bottle into the dock. It means users don’t have to buy a special type of bottle from the company making the smart device.

I myself intend to continue working after becoming a mother in future, and this gave me the inspiration to come up with the device and start the business

Juliana Ko, cofounder of Feedibaby

“Hong Kong parents are very demanding concerning the safety and reliability of a feeding bottle’s material. They may be reluctant to buy feeding bottles from small startup companies. Besides, some infants prefer certain kinds of feeders. It’s hard to force a new one on them. To compete with other makers of smart bottle devices, our invention is flexible in use with regard to almost all feeding bottles. Parents can still stick to their original bottles while using our product,” Ko tells China Daily.

As most parents are usually busy at work, with little time to take care of their babies, and traditional Chinese grandparents tend to feed babies in excess, infants are prone to obesity and nutrient excess problems.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of overweight children under the age of five globally is estimated to exceed 42 million by 2015, with nearly half of them in Asia.

“I had talked to some mothers before working on this product. I found quite a lot of them are worried about their babies’ status while they are at work. I myself intend to continue working after becoming a mother in future, and this gave me the inspiration to come up with the device and start the business,” says Ko.

Feedibaby is equipped with scientific data from the WHO and big data, providing the most updated healthy benchmarks for parents to monitor their babies’ health status.

According to Ko, their main funds for setting up the enterprise came from cash prize awards, and they launched a crowdfunding exercise in mid May. Customers can now get the product after placing their orders online.

“One of our users during the trial period said Feedibaby is portable and easy to operate. The only thing you need to do is pushing the button, and all the data are ready for you. It’s also convenient to carry it when traveling.”

Ko says her team, however, is facing challenges in promoting the brand. “Feedibaby is the world’s first smart dock to keep track of diet consumption, while Hong Kong parents are usually more conservative about new products.”

And, as maternity leave in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland is relatively short, she’s upbeat about future sales. “A proper diet record of babies shared among all family members is not only essential for a baby’s health, but a harmonic relationship within the family.”

Ko is looking beyond Hong Kong to boost the product, may be even putting up a dog and pony show. She’s seeking cooperation with baby brands in Europe and the United States, and sees the Chinese mainland as a huge potential market in view of the relaxation of China’s one-child policy, and Chinese parents’ unshakable love for their children. Talks with mainland distributors are on the cards.

As a female entrepreneur, Ko points out she devotes a lot of attention to certain details in business that may tend to be overlooked by her male counterparts.

“There’re many opportunities that are easier for female entrepreneurs to obtain, such as in the field of feminine and baby products. So, it’s important they stay passionate and patient and support each other. We can and we should strive for a better future together.”

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