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MNB the other day took note of a VentureBeat story about how Procter & Gamble is at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas showing off "a connected baby care system … It updates traditional baby monitoring by combining a video monitor with an activity sensor to offer parents a real-time holistic view of their baby’s sleep, feeding, and diapering patterns — all in one place. The company said Lumi transforms the data into tangible, personalized insights and actionable tips to support parents as their baby develops and grows. By blending real tracking insights with their own intuition, parents can know, at a glance, how their baby is doing and anticipate their offspring’s needs."

I commented:

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I find myself wondering if smart homes will end up creating stupid parents. Or maybe, to put it another way, whether connected homes could lead to disconnected parents.

I love it when technology can make things easier, but I would worry that some parents may become so dependent on these devices that they won't pay as much personal attention to their kids. To me, there is a line … it seems fine to use technology, for example, to monitor a sleeping child, but not so much if one were to use technology to read a book to a child rather than doing it yourself.

MNB reader Jackie Lembke responded:

Your concerns are valid, but a little late. Without the monitoring but with the use of smart phones and tablets there are already parents who have become disengaged. They are either on the devices themselves or have turned the devices over to their child(ren) to work as a sitter instead of engaging with their child(ren). It is time to unplug everyone and go outside and play or stay inside, read, play a board game, teach your kids how to play card games that keep their minds sharp but are also fun. Monitoring while the sleeping is one, monitoring when the parent is available is definitely crossing a line.

Bloomberg reported the other day about how a Netherlands company is reviving the concept of the milkman, "but with a modern flourish … using electric vehicles, focusing on less food waste and fewer food miles traveled. The company buys and delivers locally, with its vans going no faster that 50 kilometers per hour … Picnic has unleashed a fleet of 1,000 electric vans on to the streets of the Netherlands and Germany and plans to add 'hundreds more' by the end of 2020."

I commented:

I have to say that I like this idea more than autonomous vehicles, in part because it seems to be more immediately attainable. But there's something else…

The thing I remember best about the milkman - and I am old enough to remember that metal box that sat on our back porch, magically being filled on a regular basis with bottles of milk and cream being delivered and empties being taken away (sustainability!) - is that he tended to have a relationship with the households that he served … there were connections being forged that went beyond the simple product.

That's something sustainable worth aiming for.

One MNB reader wrote:

Had to laugh out loud....I come from a family of 7 and we too remember the Milkman coming twice a week or when needed. The relationship was very strong with him personally and we were all on a first name basis. My Dad use to joke that the Milkman was closer to us than he was... which use to make my mother mad.

As long as the milkman wasn't closer to your mom than he was…

Kate McMahon wrote yesterday about various returns experiences, prompting one MNB reader to write:

Our local Kohls had a dedicated Amazon return location after the Holidays.  Someone at the front of the store as you walked in asked if the return was for Kohls or for Amazon and directed us to the proper location.  It took less than five minutes of standing in line and processing the return.  It was a great experience.

MNB reader David Spawn wrote:

I hope that Happy Returns also works with the retailers to make sure the goods that are sent back are actually able to be sold again.  I do appreciate their efforts at making the return process seamless, but I am concerned that the ease with which they make the process simple and friction-less, will ‘hook’ us into the habit of ever easier returns, further exacerbating the waste associated with it.  Many retailers  are ill-equipped to deal with the flood of returns and a huge volume of returns never find a home that isn’t a landfill or an incinerator (estimates range as high as 5 BILLION pounds of waste every year) – a substantive portion of this waste is apparel & shoes.
KC's View: