Utah State University Engineer Working To Improve Baby Monitor Technology

Apr 9, 2018

Utah State University engineer Nathan Ruben demonstrates his newly developed baby monitor technology.
Credit Bronson Teichert

Electrical engineer Nathan Ruben is on the carpet playing cars with his nine-year-old son Hyrum. Nathan and his wife Sarah have three other healthy children, but when Hyrum was first born he came too early.

“He was born premature by about four weeks, so they had him in the neonate intensive care unit,” Ruben said.

Little Hyrum was able to come home just a few days after, but Ruben says the premature birth was just the beginning of their problems.

“Sarah was getting a few hours of sleep in a span of days because she was constantly checking on him, making sure he was breathing,” Ruben said.

As a new parent, Ruben was studying electrical engineering at Utah State University at the time. He decided to create a high-tech baby monitor for his family and other parents.

Most engineers design their prototypes in high-tech laboratories, but Ruben works at home, keeping his work close to his inspiration.

“24 breaths per minute, which is pretty normal for a toddler,” he said.

Surrounded by monitors in his basement lab, Ruben points to a screen with live footage of one of his sleeping children.

“In this video you can’t tell anything’s happening," he said. "You can’t tell she’s even alive or where she is.”

Then Ruben shows me another screen with a wavelength representing the peaks and valleys of the child’s heartbeat. Another chart records the breathing patterns.

“From here, we’re absolutely getting a signal," he said. "We combine those, in a very intelligent way to get this wave form out.”

If the breathing stops for more than 20 seconds...

“Our software is able to alarm.” 

The camera itself isn’t gathering the data, but the software behind it is.

“The physiology is blood is pulsing through your veins, they’re changing size,” Ruben said. “The light reflecting from your face literally changes colors every time.”

Ruben said the technology isn’t necessary for people to be good parents, but it is another tool to ease the stress of parenthood.