Special Segment: Kid Safety 2.0

September 28, 2009 4:39:07 AM PDT
No one has to tell you keeping up with technology can be daunting at times. It seems everywhere you turn there's a breakthrough item or gadget being advertised that you simply must get -- because your life depends on it.But beyond the hype, ABC7 Chicago has gone out to try and highlight some modestly priced -- and local items that can help make for what we're calling, "Kids Safety 2.0."

You just never know what can happen. Becky Azar is worried about her 1-year-old son Adam. Since he started crawling, he's been a handful.

"He's getting into everything, all the time, and you just can't ever be too safe," the mother said.

So, Azar is 'baby-proofing' her home in Arlington Heights.

"My goal is to save children's lives," says Larry Stone, who runs Safety Matters, a company that tries to reduce household dangers for kids. "Innovations and improvements for products for baby safety in the home are definitely very, very important."

Stone says while baby-proofing isn't new, new technology and products are changing his industry. New designs keep kids from getting stuck in protective gates and magnetic latches are now used to secure cabinet doors.

Still, some of his solutions are low tech. In the Azar house, Stone is covering outlets with sliding plastic covers.

"Thousands of children are put in the hospital, or hospital visits, every year from burns and shocks from them sticking something into an outlet," Stone said.

"What we like to think we do is make dumb products smarter," said parent Dan Masterson.

He thinks about safety differently after his 3-year-old pulled out and handed him outlet plugs. He began to think if there was a better way to child-proof outlets.

"If the dice had been rolled and came up a different number, my son would have been injured, electrocuted," Masterson said.

Now, he can stick a paperclip into a live outlet his company created called the "Guardian Angel" outlet. It can sense when something that shouldn't be near it-- like a hand or bobby pin -- is close and turn off the power.

"It's the same technology used in the iPhone," engineer Daniel Namie said.

Instead of lots of little sensors like on an iPhone, Namie says, the outlet uses one big one.

"It's able to shut off the circuit before I can stick the paperclip in there," said Namie.

Masterson says the outlet also can also recognize a real plug.

"As I approach the outlet, the power is off, but eventually the outlet determines that the light is supposed to be plugged in and allows the power to turn on," he said.

Masterson's company's safety sensors also stop paper shredders if a hand's too close and will open a garage door if the carbon monoxide level's too high.

Now, he's working on a stroller that throws on the brakes if a parent lets go, stopping it from rolling away.

"Accepted frustrations are always my favorite," he said. "Those things, those problems you didn't think could be solved, so you're living with them anyways."

Azar says parents always have to be on the lookout.

"Anything is a potential hazard, really. Even the most innocent-looking thing in the hands of a one-year-old is potentially a danger," she said.

The Guardian Angel outlet will cost about $10 and should be available in January.


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