By Ariel Schwartz
Like so many consumer technology products, the baby monitor has changed dramatically over the years. Remember the quaint days of one-way audio monitors? Those were quickly supplanted by two-way monitors (so you can calm your child down), wireless webcam monitors, devices equipped with infrared night vision and movement sensors--the list goes on. As part of Microsoft's annual Imagine Cup, a global student technology competition, a small group of students from Winona State University came up with an even more high-tech baby monitor: one that measures and logs data on a baby's heartbeat, breathing, and movement.
Editor's Note: The Miracle Workers team didn't make it to the Imagine Cup finals, but they plan on continuing their work together.
The students (they call themselves the Miracle Workers) first began working on the idea in preparation for last year's Imagine Cup. "When we started the project, we were sitting there, brainstorming for ideas, and one team member said 'Let's do something for babies.' When we talked to nursing departments and doctors, they said 'Why don't you work on something related to SIDs?' Now we've pivoted to an overall baby monitor," explains team member Parbati Sanjel.
The Miracle Workers didn't win last year's competition, but that's not why they pivoted. One big reason was because a SIDs detector would require FDA approval--a lengthy and often arduous process. Instead, the Miracle Workers created a monitor that keeps track of a baby's vitals, allowing doctors to determine if anything is wrong.
The team's device consists of a sensor-filled pad placed on top of a mattress in the baby's crib. Normal ranges for heartbeat, breathing, and movement are pre-programmed for different ages (0 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, etc.). If the baby strays from the normal ranges, the pad alerts the parents via a Windows Phone or tablet--and the baby's doctor, if the option is selected.
At this point, the sleeping pad costs approximately $150 to manufacture. That could quickly go down if the device goes into mass production--and even if the Miracle Workers don't win a piece of the Imagine Cup's $1 million in prizes, they plan to continue with the project.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.