Our Founder Shares Why He Built the Miku Smart Baby Monitor
How it all Started
A lot of people ask me “What prompted you to make Miku?” To be honest, when I began working on the Miku Smart Baby Monitor, starting another business was the furthest thing from my mind. Rewinding 5 years back, I was employed working for the Department of Defense and had an engineering consulting business on the side that was really starting to take off. On top of all that, my wife and I had just welcomed our first child into our lives, our daughter Madilyn. Our hands were full!
When my daughter was 3 months old we decided to transition her from the bassinet in our room to the crib in her nursery. We had registered for the best baby monitor on the market at the time. The monitor had video, audio and advertised that it even worked with my smartphone. I was really excited to use it the first night. Right off the bat our experience was extremely disappointing. The video quality was so low I could hardly make out Madilyn. The audio sounded like garbled static. And most problematic issue, I couldn’t tell if my daughter was actually OK. The night vision video basically looked like a motionless, black and white blob. After a few minutes of staring at this blob on the screen and holding the static-filled speaker to my ear to try and determine if my daughter was breathing, I put it down and went into her room to check on her. Thankfully she was fine, but I woke her up in the process.
Over the course of the next few months, this became a pattern. Whether my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching TV, or woke up randomly in the middle of the night, we would check the monitor. Not being able to tell if she was OK, we would run into the room and check on her. This was exhausting. We could never fully fall into a deep sleep at night. We needed something that we could quickly check and see if she was OK and breathing. Something that would alert us if she needed our help. So we turned to Google.
We found these motion pads that you can place under the mattress to monitor movement and different types of wearables, but they had accuracy issues, warnings, and loose cords. They required special clothing or clips, nightly charging, washing and maintenance. Some required purchasing new sizes from newborns to 18 months to insure fit. My wife was completely against it and didn’t like the idea of attaching an electronic device to our kid. After all, these are the same type of batteries you hear of every day catching fire in phones, laptops and electric cars. We had suddenly become those scared, sleepless, helicopter parents we never thought we would be.
As an engineer, I knew better technology existed to solve the problem, but why hadn’t anyone else done it yet? After some research, the answer became clear. There are very few companies that innovate in the baby monitoring space. The incumbents had carved out their niche developing low-cost solutions and there was little to no competition forcing them to spend research and development dollars to innovate. The big tech-giants certainly could have developed something better, however the baby monitoring market is just too small to move the needle for these large corporations to justify innovating in this space.
Our Proprietary Technology
The only way to get the monitor I was looking for was to build it myself. I studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Central Florida, and I worked in one of the top computer vision research groups in the world, so I took on the challenge. After that, I spent the next 10 years of my career working for the Department of Defense. I helped build sensors that allowed soldiers and law enforcement to “see” through walls so they knew if someone was there inside before they entered a building and sensors that could detect landmines buried in the ground. I helped design backpacks that were worn by soldiers that prevented Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) from detonating when they walked around dangerous areas. Most related, I developed sensors for a DARPA project that could remotely detect vital signs of a fallen soldier in a battlefield.
It was the combination of these two life experiences of being a first-time parent and developing sensor systems for the military that enabled me to truly bring Miku to life.
I began working on Miku when Madilyn was only a few months old and over the next three years my daughter’s nursery looked a bit like an engineering laboratory. All kinds of sensors and cameras were hanging on the wall and a long data cable that ran under her door and into laptop in the hallway outside of her room. Every night, I would get home from work and help put my daughter to bed. Once she went to sleep, I would sit on the floor in the hallway outside of her room and developed our initial algorithms on my laptop.
The ‘Final’ Product
Over the course of months and then years, the prototype came to life. My wife and I would constantly crack open my laptop to see if my daughter was safe and breathing. It worked like a charm and gave us the peace of mind we were yearning for. We showed other parents and they were were astounded at what they saw and asked if I could build one for them. By the summer of 2017, I gathered some funding, thanks to our angel investors and a National Science Foundation grant. Finally, I was able to take my rough prototype and turn it into a product and, the Miku Smart Baby Monitor was officially born. Naturally, Miku had some growing to do. It took another two years of prototyping, testing and programming to get to the product you see today which launched in January of 2019 at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Miku was founded on a personal pain point that was shared with parents and caretakers all around the world. We will continue to dream and discover applications for Miku in our ever-advancing world.