Married couple researchers from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and University of Haifa build a crowd-based developmental diary
A new free website developed by the married couple Ayelet and Eli Ben-Sasson, faculty members at University of Haifa and Technion, respectively, lets parents monitor their child’s development using crowd wisdom
“My daughter said her first word!”, “My son isn’t walking yet”, “She started crawling today”, these are sentences every parent is familiar with, ones that mix anticipation, pride, and anxiety. The Internet is full of blogs and websites devoted to early childhood development, but these sources do not provide a scientific real-time comparison of one child’s developmental status with that of other children.
Working as a team, Ayelet and Eli Ben-Sasson have developed a free website based on crowd wisdom, offering an electronic developmental diary for parents who want to learn about their child’s developmental milestones. The innovative website – baby.croinc.org (CROINC stands for CROwd-based INteractive Clustering) – meets parents’ needs in a supportive community where they can instantly obtain relevant and specific information in accordance with the individual developmental profile of their children from birth to age six. Eli, a professor in the Computer Science Department at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, brings his expertise in algorithms to the project. Ayelet, a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Haifa and an expert on early childhood development, contributes her knowledge in this area.
“The website enables parents to create a personal developmental diary for their baby, including milestones about their motor, communication, and social skills” explains Professor Ayelet Ben-Sasson. “The system gives parents information about future milestones, so that they can help their child advance towards these goals and understand their baby’s behavior from a developmental standpoint. Research shows that early diagnosis and treatment of developmental problems leads to significantly better outcomes, because of the increased brain plasticity of young children.”
“The advantage of crowd wisdom is especially great when you’re dealing with complex phenomena” explains Prof. Eli Ben-Sasson, “and early childhood development is as complex, mysterious and important as it gets. Our website is a collaborative platform where parents play the dual role of ‘clients’ and ‘service providers’. We do not presume to replace pediatricians or well-baby clinics but rather create a dynamic database containing essential information which will be available to all parents who need it. Those parents who want to learn more should simply register and try it out. After all, it’s freely available online and takes less than 5 minutes to enroll.”
The website enables parents to build a personal developmental diary for their baby. Once the diary is created, it provides parents with processed statistical information about their child’s rate of development compared with the “typical” rate of development, based on information entered by other parents. The website was programmed by Eden Sayag and Matan Yechieli, who are currently completing their undergraduate degrees in Computer Science at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and users are supported by Yael Schwartz-Klein, an early childhood therapist at Haifa University. Currently, baby.croinc.org has over 300 members world-wide, and is looking to increase its user base (free) because, as both professors Ben-Sasson explain, a larger user base means improved data accuracy which benefits every user of the system.