Software could help prevent sudden infant death syndrome

Students in Israel have developed a system that could be used to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Developed by two students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), the new system uses video and computer software to monitor babies.

The system, dubbed BabyBeat, uses computer algorithms to convert video footage to pulses that represent a baby’s heartbeat and skin tone.

According to BGU, in the event that the system detects an abnormal heartbeat, an alarm sounds to awaken the baby, change its breathing pattern and alert the parents.

SIDS is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under the age of one in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. Researchers have theorised that a dramatic drop in heart rate occurs just before death.

Tomer Apel and Anava Finesilver developed the program as part of their final research project. While still early in the development process, the software program will work with a basic video camera and home computer.

‘Heart pulse affects the skin tone,’ said Apel. ‘This is such a minor change that it’s not visible to the human eye, but it’s still there. We have developed algorithms to interpret the discolouration recorded by the camera and translate them into pulses. It’s widely assumed that babies’ pulses slow down before SIDS and this system could help prevent this.’

After further testing, if BabyBeat continues to perform as expected, the students will seek to market the innovation.

The system is claimed to have other potential applications, such as monitoring sleeping babies at daycare, as well as patients online in real time, providing for telemedicare when required.