When a friend of Aardra Kannan Ambili, Sanchi Poovaya, and Ranjana Nair had a baby a few years ago, they decided to pay a visit to the infant and the new parents.
What they noticed was that the baby, who was a preemie, had to always wear a chest band or the parents had to constantly put their hands on the baby's chest to check if she was breathing properly.
The three women technologists, who are founders of the Bengaluru start-up Ray IoT Solutions, went on to develop Raybaby, the world's only non-contact health and sleep monitor for babies.
This non-intrusive device alerts parents of their babiesâ€™ breathing and sleeping pattern through a mobile app.
"Raybaby safely monitors vitals, breathing rates and sleeping habits all from a 'Smart Journal' app while even making recommendations to improve the baby's sleep. All you need to do is keep it next to the baby," explains Ranjana to The News Minute over email. Ranjana is the CEO of the tech firm and is in San Francisco currently.
She also states that there is no product in the Indian market currently that tracks a baby's vitals or sleeping.
"We saw that there was not much hardware available that targeted the tracking of respiration rate," Sanchi, the COO, says over the phone. However, she clarifies that Raybaby is not a medical device and only gives feedback about the baby's breathing and sleeping habits.
The trio researched breathing/respiration rate and found that it is among the four vitals that doctors check to diagnose diseases.
"We knew we had to create something that didn't require any electronic equipment on a tiny baby's body (basically no exploding batteries on a baby's body) and also something that would alert the parent accurately," Ranjana says.
Ranjana first met Sanchi at a â€śboringâ€ť bachelorette party in Bengaluru several years ago; Aardra and Ranjana used to be roommates then. The women went on to work with each other on various projects before all of them decided to get together for Ray IoT Solutions, thus creating the "perfect team".
"We were the perfect team to create a smart baby monitor," Ranjana says, "not because one of us has a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell or another has published research papers on Artificial Intelligence in University of Georgia. We were the perfect team because we were the highly-qualified baby-sitters for our friends and family for the past 10 years of our lives."
The firm got their first investment from HAX, a hardware startup investor, of Rs 1.07 crore last year; it was HAX's first investment in India. Raybaby is also supported by Johnson & Johnson. They moved to Shenzhen, China, in September 2016, as a part of the HAX program and the product will hit market shelves later this year.
They recently launched a Kickstarter campaign where the launch price of the product has been set at $129; the market price will be $250.
When it comes to launching new products, India is a tough market to crack, according to Ranjana. "We wanted to collect pre-orders for our Raybaby and get market validation, test our messaging. India is not exactly an early adopter community. They buy tried and tested brands," she notes. "So, we moved to San Francisco to do our crowd funding campaign and talk with buyers like Target and Best Buy to get Raybaby into retail stores. We are figuring out the Silicon Valley scene now."
Raybaby's makers are hopeful of the technology's potential for other applications as well. "We track and analyse respiration rate. If you breathe you are our potential future customer. Jokes apart, respiration rate is one of the 4 most important vitals that get tracked in an ICU facility. We will create mini ICU units for 1/1000th the price. Mini ICU units can be used to track respiration rate and the change in respiration rate will alert the nurses/doctors. We can get into Senior care also," Ranjana adds.
Over the years, the women have seen quite a lot of parents struggling to take care of their babies, and they believe that their product will make the lives of many a tad bit easier.
"I was speaking to a friend, who has a less-than-a-month old baby, and he was telling me that whenever he doesn't hear any sound from the baby, he keeps his finger near his mouth to check if he's breathing. This is a real concern for parents and what this device can do is give them some peace of mind," Sanchi says.