New Research To Help Parents Monitor Their Infants.

Crying Infant | Photo by

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.

Lindbergh Baby
Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. | Photo by

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.

Zenith Radio Nurse
Zenith Radio Nurse Newspaper Ad 1938 | Image by

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.

Radio Nurse Parts
Zenith Radio Nurse Parts (bottom left Guardian Ear/Transmitter Unit, bottom right The Receiver)| Image by

Quoting an article from 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

History of Baby Monitors (1937 to Present)

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 explains this new device. The article is titled “First smart speaker system that uses white noise to monitor infant’s breathing.

BreathJunior | Photo by Dennis Wise University of Washington

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.

Shyam Gollakota | Photo by

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.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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