My wife and I raised our two children without one, but they have become a necessity for most new parents today. Baby monitors come in various forms and brands and are a real comfort for parents. Here comes my typical question. When did the first baby monitor come into being? The answer may surprise you.
It seems a tragic event in the United States is what brought about the invention that allows parents to monitor their infant even in another room. That event was the kidnapping and murder of 20-month-old Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. the son of the world famous flyer Charles A. Lindbergh who was the first man to successfully fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. As a direct result of the trial and horrific nature of the death of the child the Federal Kidnapping Law was passed making the kidnapping of a child and crossing state lines a federal crime.
In 1932 the president of Zenith Radio Corporation, Eugene McDonald, assembled a baby monitor using a speaker, a microphone and a radio so he could listen to his daughter in her room to make sure she was OK. In 1937 hired Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American engineer, to design the first baby monitor. They called the invention the Zenith Radio Nurse and started selling them in 1938.
Quoting an article from 10babygear.com titled “The invention of the First Baby Monitor – Zenith Radio Nurse in 1937” here is their explanation as to how the device worked. ” 1) The Guardian Ear controlled a microphone, a sound amplifier, and oscillator circuit (modulator). 2) The generated circuit was conducted by means of the lighting circuit and was intercepted by the radio nurse. 3) The receiver unit of the Zenith Radio nurse had a detector, sound amplified and sound reproducer. The total amplification from microphone to speaker was in the order of 500,000 times. This was capable of making the slightest sound audible on the receiver.” For more details on history of baby monitors go to
Now we zoom forward to the present and another invention that could revolutionize the baby monitor industry. This research comes out of the University of Washington. An October 16th article by Sarah McQuate from the University of Washington and published on techxplore.com explains this new device. The article is titled “First smart speaker system that uses white noise to monitor infant’s breathing.
They call their device BreathJunior. Quoting the article”…the smart speaker plays white noise and records how the noise is reflected back to to detect breathing motions of infants’ tiny chests. When the researchers tested BreathJunior with five babies in a local hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, it detected respiratory rates that closely matched the rates detected by standard vital sign monitors.” The white noise not only soothes the babies, but allows monitoring of their breathing and movements. They can also detect the baby crying and movement within the crib.
According to Shyam Gollakota, associate professor in the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of computer Science and Engineering and Director of the UW computing for health group is quoted as saying “If we could use this white noise feature as a contactless way to to monitor infants’ hand and leg movements, breathing and crying, then the smart speaker becomes a device that can do it all, which is really exciting.” Although this new device will be of great use to monitor an infant’s breathing and movement it has NOT been suggested by the team that the unit could be used to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The team was scheduled to present their findings at the MobiCom 2019 conference on October 22nd in Los Cabos, Mexico.
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