Cathie Anderson

Intel veterans seek crowdfunding for next-generation baby monitor

Roseville resident Joseph Bennett is using the connections he made during his days at Intel to develop and market a whole new generation of baby monitors, products that use low-frequency Bluetooth technology to send updates on who’s watching baby, how long she’s been crying and even whether she’s sleeping safely on her back.

Bennett and his partners introduced their new device, which they call the BabyBit, with an campaign on June 20. So far, they’ve raised 38 percent of the $50,000 needed to get manufacturing off the ground.

“We thought, ‘Can we do something with the fact that we all have smartphones now and this Bluetooth LE technology, which is this really low-power radio built for wearables and for medical devices,’ ” Bennett said. “It was like, maybe we can put something on the baby’s clothes, and when you go to the park, we’ll use the caregiver’s phone that tells you, ‘Brandon’s at the park,’ or ‘Jenn is watching Brandon, and they’re at the park right now.’ 

Bennett developed the technology that allows BabyBit to track and transmit data and to work as a mobile application. He joined the team after two other Intel veterans, Brian Ostrovsky and Jonathan Harle, had already invested the money to begin research and development. Ostrovsky now lives in Portland, Harle in Santa Rosa.

Their Indiegogo backers get the chance to purchase their product at a significant discount. Bennett said their product will likely retail for $159, but early birds can get it now for as little as $99.

Harle, Ostrovsky and Bennett began talking about the idea of a wearable piece of technology for babies back in January 2015, but the design really came together this year after Portland’s Jaguar Land Rover Incubator selected the product in its inaugural class of startup investments.

The automaker provided only three companies with space, capital and its engineering resources. In exchange, it received a small investment stake in each one, but there also was the potential to integrate products such as BabyBit into smart-car technology.

“Your newer cars have Bluetooth on them to connect to your phone to play music or access maps or whatever,” Bennett said. “In a technical demo we showed how it also can connect to the BabyBit and when the caregiver gets out of range, it sends a notification through our cloud service to you, ‘By the way, I’m watching your baby now.’ It can also send it to another caregiver if, for some reason, that first caregiver is not answering the notification. And, with your newer cars, since they’re always connected, it will turn the car on and turn on the heater or the air conditioner.”

In the future, as smart-car technology becomes more ubiquitous and better integrated with car controls, Bennett said, a device such as BabyBit could help parents avoid inadvertently leaving their sleeping children in a car or save the child’s life by adjusting temperature and calling 911 if a caregiver doesn’t return in time.

“I heard one story about a family who went to church, and the mom thought the dad had the baby in the pew, and the dad thought the mom had the baby in the choir,” Bennett said. “Everybody has great intentions.”

The BabyBit is a small plastic square, about half the size of a driver’s license. It’s less than a half-inch wide. It has grooves on the side. Parents put the bit under a child’s clothing and use a clip that fits over the bit to secure it. Bennett said it’s been tested to ensure it presents no choking risk.

He said the main goal for him and his partners was moving baby monitor technology forward. A microphone on the device allows it to measure how long a baby has been crying, and if parents want to be alerted about crying, they can set up a notification and choose how much time should elapse before a message is sent.

They can also get smartphone alerts when babies roll onto their stomach or side, positions that put them at risk for smothering or other medical emergencies. It also will advise parents how far the caregiver is from the child.

This isn’t meant to be a nanny cop, Bennett said, adding that there has to be some degree of trust between caregivers and parents. Rather, he said, it’s a device that reassures parents that their child is OK.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee