New parents often stress over their baby’s breathing and heartbeat. The stress eases in a few weeks or months for most parents, but the concern lingers, often for the first year or two. We’ve written about a variety of new baby monitoring tech, from Ingenio Solutions GmbH’s NeoCare Baby Monitor pulse oximeter sensor to the multi-sensor Sproutling ankle strap. Belgian researchers developed a non-contact method that uses radar to detect heartbeats with a sensor incorporated in a small wearable or with base stations located around the house.

Utah State University professor of electrical engineering Jake Gunther and former student Nate Ruben have a simpler solution to measure an infant’s heartbeat. The pair’s technology patented by USU uses a webcam and software to detect minute changes in the red, green, and blue values in images reflected from human skin. Monitoring reflected light differs from pulse oximeters which measure light transmitted through the skin. According to Gunther, the secret sauce in their invention lies with the green light. Hemoglobin peaks absorb green light, meaning lower green light values are reflected. The software in the system averages values from multiple areas of the body, wherever skin is visible.

USU’s continuous contactless vital sign monitoring technology could find its way into devices used in homes, clinics, and hospitals. Gunther and Ruben separately founded a company called Photorithm, Inc. to market a similar image-based product they developed called Smartbeat to detect an infant’s breathing. Smartbeat is currently in beta testing.