Radar to track baby’s breathing and safety in crib

December 3rd, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 3 (IANS) A technology that tracks enemy bombers and hurricanes will now detect another danger - when babies stop breathing.In a high-tech twist on the remote devices that allow parents to listen to or watch their baby from afar, University of Florida (UF) engineering researchers have built a prototype baby monitor that focuses on a baby’s breathing.

If his or her chest stops moving, the crib-mounted monitor detects the problem and sends an alarm to a portable unit kept by the parents.

“It’s a step beyond just watching the baby through a video link or hearing it cry,” said Jenshan Lin, a UF professor and principal investigator of the Doppler radar technology used in the monitor.

Parents buy millions of baby monitors every year in the US, but most transmit only sounds or video images of the baby - both useful, but only if a parent is listening or watching, according to an UF release.

Some recently available monitors also monitor babies’ movements and breathing, but Lin said he is not aware of any on the market that use wireless technology.

UF engineering students Changzhi Li, Julie Cummings, Jeffrey Lam, Eric Graves and Stephanie Jimenez designed the monitor.

They produced a small-book-sized device that attaches to the crib just like a standard monitor. They also designed a remote station with red, blue, green and yellow lights, variously indicating the status of the baby’s vital signs, the battery life of the station and confirming the station’s wireless connection to the crib monitor.

The station emits a loud alarm and flashes a red light when the monitor detects that the baby’s breathing activity has fallen below a preset threshold, or that he or she has stopped breathing.

Future versions could also detect heartbeat, using a higher frequency signal, Lin said.

The crib monitor’s signals are of very low power and not harmful to the baby or parents, Lin added. While a standard cell phone emits about one watt of power, the Doppler radar emits just one ten-thousandth of a watt of power, he said.

The findings will appear in the February issue of IEEE Microwave Magazine.

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