Just about every new parent in the last 25 years has relied on baby monitors to alert them when their little one cries. Never before have there been so many high-tech options available and with all these new options come safety and security concerns. How on earth do you sort through all the information and find out what’s right for your family? Last week I sat down with Ruwan Welaratna, CEO of Evoz, to talk about baby monitors. Ruwan graduated from Harvey Mudd College and has been working with electronics and signal processing for over 20 years.
Kim: Starting with the basics, what kind of baby monitors are out there?
Ruwan: Baby monitors started getting popular in the 70’s. Back then they were like little walkie talkies. As time went on, they got better and better. In the 90’s and 00’s, they started using the same technology as a cordless phone, called DECT.
Then, in the mid to later 00’s we started considering WiFi. Evoz was one of the first to use it. Basically, you put one piece in the baby’s room and then you could use your phone to listen in and see your baby.
Just recently they have started making wearable monitors that clip on the baby’s onesie or a bracelet or sock. Those don’t send sound or pictures, and they work with Bluetooth. They send a sense of breathing or pulse to your phone.
Kim: Since you mentioned the wearable monitors, are there any health concerns with regard to that type of monitor? For instance, with the radio waves or ‘electrosmog”?
Ruwan: The AAP just issued an opinion that those wearable “vitals” monitors are not really “ready for prime time.” Basically they’re saying, maybe hold off on those devices because we’re not sure how well they work. In terms of the transmitter, it’s right on the baby, where a WiFi monitor sits on a shelf. It’s preferable to have the transmitter farther away. Newer Bluetooth is a lower signal strength, but I think there are many concerns around those types of devices that doctors aren’t ready to sign off on yet. That’s why we have decided to stay with WiFi.
Kim: Are there any similar concerns with WiFi signals?
Ruwan: We at Evoz, we recommend keeping the monitor at least three feet away, which means the radio is much farther away from the baby than something that’s in the crib or on the baby itself. WiFi devices require FCC approval, and part of that testing is how much radio energy is going out of it. Bluetooth has similar testing, but because the wearable monitor is right on the body, we don’t know as much about any potential effects on the baby.
Like any commercially available radio product, Evoz has passed FCC certification. Keeping the transmitter away from the baby should provide parents who are concerned about radio waves added peace of mind.
Benefits of WiFi
Kim: What do you think are the benefits of WiFi monitors?
Ruwan: Security, connectivity, and safety are the three biggest benefits. With the new WiFi monitors you can connect from anywhere. The older DECT monitors always had range problems—you could be on the other side of your house, or the backyard, and it would just cut out.
Security was a concern too. On some you had to set the channel on them correctly, and in some cases your neighbor might be on the same channel.
With WiFi, if your phone is working, you can connect from anywhere. That’s the most attractive thing about WiFi monitors.
Kim: So with WiFi, is it possible for your baby monitor to get hacked?
Ruwan: Everyone knows that some baby monitors get hacked. Frankly, some companies don’t do a very good job. The single, easiest way to get hacked is to leave the username and password left to what it was shipped with. Hackers can go online and find out what these factory passwords are and connect to them.
At Evoz, we don’t have a preset username and password. You have to set up your own, and it’s easy to do. We have been thinking about security right from the start.
More technically, some monitors use a technology called UPnP—Universal Plug and Play—and that’s notoriously poor for security. Not only can someone get to your camera, they can get to other devices on your network.
Another common weakness is a service called Telnet. There’s no reason for a Telnet server to be running on any device, whether it’s a baby monitor, security camera, or just a power outlet controlled by a phone. Devices are susceptible to these errors if the factory isn’t paying attention. That’s something we pay a lot of attention to.
Kim: Are hacking concerns only with video monitors?
Ruwan: No, it can be with the sound-only monitors too. Those still have to use a radio, and if someone else can pick up your transmitter, they could hear it.
Safety of existing baby monitors
Kim: If someone already has a baby monitor they’re using, how do they know it’s safe?
Ruwan: You can Google the manufacturer and model of the monitor and “security” and check out their safety reports.
Kim: We talked about the electrosmog and radio wave questions and the security issues, is there any other type of concern parents might have that you can address?
Ruwan: There are the more traditional concerns about anything in a baby’s room. You want to keep power cords well away from the crib and well out of reach. Also, I think it’s best in a baby’s room if you can fasten things down a bit so they can’t be pulled down.
Kim: Didn’t you tell me that the inspiration for Evoz came from a person whose monitor wasn’t working? I think that would be a good story to share.
Ruwan: A good friend of ours had moved into student housing with their 2-year-old. The baby’s room was upstairs at the back of a duplex. There was a barbecue for all the grad students, and their monitor wouldn’t reach down to the common area right in front of the house. This was the late 90’s, early 00’s. So my friend took his wife’s cell phone, called his cell phone, and left his wife’s cell phone next to the baby. He walked around this barbecue all evening listening for the baby to wake up. That was the initial impetus for thinking there had to be a better way.
Kim: Let’s talk about some of the features of the Evoz.
Ruwan: In terms of safety, we use the same underlying technology as the secure banking websites for the connection from our monitor to our servers.
Another great thing, if you’re concerned about radiation, WiFi only runs when you’re trying to look at it from your phone. It doesn’t send audio or video unless you ask for it. The Evoz monitor is running a high-tech chip set that compresses audio and video, so it’s taking less bandwidth than many of the others. Even when it’s running, it’s sending less all of the time.
In terms of features we think are really special, we realized that with WiFi we could do more than just connect to your phone. We can reach out to parents and let them know when their baby is crying. With a traditional monitor, you have to have it on all the time. With the Evoz, if the baby wakes and is just playing or cooing, that’s fine, but if the baby is crying, we can recognize that. We can filter that and send a text message to your phone. It lets you be in the moment with whatever you’re doing while the baby sleeps.
Another thing the Evoz monitor can do is help you figure out your baby’s schedule. If your pediatrician or a sleep coach asked you to track that information, the monitor does it for you. And then, with your help, we added other baby care features to the app, like feeding. Then we have content, including premium content from Sleep Lady Solutions that is available right in the application. It’s a one-stop-shop for all your baby needs.
Kim: When my coaches and I talk with clients, we ask them for a sleep log for their baby. You said the monitor will keep track of that, and parents can add in other information, like when they put the baby in the crib, how long they slept, and so on. Can you export that information to send to your Gentle Sleep Coach?
Ruwan: Yes, you can export and email the coach, or you can give them access. You and I are working on making that capability better. We make it easy to safely share the log with your coach, or invite them to look at just the data, not necessarily the monitor.
Kim: Can a parent record some video to show a pediatrician or sleep coach?
Ruwan: Yes. For example, at night, you would have it just on audio. You can tap the app and tell it to record on your phone and it shows up like any video.
Kim: Let’s say I have the Evoz monitor all set up, and I’m going out for dinner. I want to take my phone, so can I connect the monitor to another device like an iPad or tablet?
Ruwan: Yes, that’s one thing you can do. We also have a system where you can give the babysitter temporary access to the camera. For those three hours or so that you’re away, they can use their own phone. Once that time is over, they’re locked back out. That’s something you couldn’t do on an older style monitor. We have WiFi and the technology to back this up.
We can also make it available to relatives—not all the time—but for those times you want to share. It can be made repeatable for a certain day and time. You always have control over the sharing.
Kim: How can someone get an Evoz monitor if they don’t win one in my giveaway on April 26??
Ruwan: Well, they can go to our site, myevoz.com and order from there, or Amazon. That’s the easiest way to get it.
What’s in the box?
The Evoz monitors will come with an application that includes connectivity, cry-alerts, scheduling, logging, and Sleep Lady content.
Even if you don’t have the monitor, you can get many of the benefits with the free version of the app. Sleep Lady Solutions content, Sleep Lady videos, and the baby data logging are all available. We have great plans for the future to send relevant content to you based on the baby’s needs.
With the Evoz, it’s the extras like sharing with relatives and the baby sleep content that set it apart from the rest. From secure WiFi, to the ease in connecting multiple devices, Evoz has come a long way since the plastic 2-way radios and even many current devices.
The approachable staff at Evoz welcome your questions on their website contact form—it’s a tab at the bottom right of every page.
Don’t forget that two lucky winners will win their own Evoz in our live giveaway on April 26 and our grand prize that runs all week.