[Tech30] Researching sleep techniques for newborn gives birth to smart cradle
Radhika and Bharath Patil founded Cradlewise, which will soon launch a responsive, automated smart cradle - NiNi - that will help babies sleep soundly.
The hand that rocks the cradle sometimes needs a break. And could there be anything better than if the cradle could come to the parent’s aid?
Enter Cradlewise, a Bengaluru-based startup that aims to build solutions for infant care. Fittingly, the founders are a married couple parents to two children. Their first wish? To get their newborn to sleep safely and snugly without being disturbed by light, noise or other distractions?
Cradlewise’s first product is a customised smart cradle called NiNi built with a number of features that combine the cosiness of a traditional hammock with modern-day technology.
Only the best for baby
“It all began at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, where Bharath and I were classmates at the Centre for Electronics Design and Technology. Who knew that we would go on to be life mates, parents to two beautiful kids, and co-founders of Cradlewise? We had absolutely no idea then that our roles as professionals and parents would overlap in such an interesting fashion one day,” says Radhika Patil.
When the couple had their first baby in 2014, they took on every new parent task with enthusiasm.
“Things slowly started settling and we developed a routine, only to discover that our daughter’s sleep pattern started getting quite unsettled. She didn’t seem to be sleeping comfortably or long enough; obviously she wasn’t very happy as a result. We were spending a good amount of time putting her to bed, and becoming quite frazzled,” Radhika explains.
At around that time, the couple began looking for a cradle. They discovered that cradles in the market had firm flat mattresses, so that when the cradle rocked, the baby rolled from side to side. The baby seemed uncomfortable, and that’s when they decided to go for a hammock. However, there weren’t too many options in the hammock category. Disappointed, the couple decided to make one themselves.
From hammock to smart cradle
Radhika and Bharath are both engineers, and all it required to build a basic swing was an old cotton sari, a few linkages and a metal rod! The baby took to it very well, and the exhausted parents could get some sleep.
The home-made product triggered new ideas – they added new features like a motor that could make it swing automatically, and music that rocked the baby to sleep.
“Cradlewise was born out of our own need to ensure our baby was able to sleep safely and snugly. Our aim is to ensure that babies enjoy the long hours that they spend in the cradle, and parents get some much-needed sleep,” Bharath says.
Before setting up Cradlewise, Bharath was leading Research and Development for the 3D sensing team at Texas Instruments. He was responsible for optics, circuits, systems design, and software for a 3D sensor used for industrial applications and in drones for collision avoidance. Interestingly, the same sensor is the heart of the monitor of the cradle.
The cradle that rocks
Once the idea was in place, they decided to develop a “beta version”. A carpenter built a wooden cradle with their design specifications to which they added the rocking and music features and a monitor connected to an app. Their second baby was its “first test engineer”.
After building cradles for four more friends and receiving their inputs, their product designer developed their current smart cradle NiNi in April this year.
“The cradle is made of soft, organic cloth with good air permeability and comes with a mosquito net. We have a patented resonant rocking mechanism that makes the swinging noiseless and smooth. It also consumes less power and hence with two hours of charging, it can be used for an entire day,” Radhika says.
“We developed this through machine learning. The cradle is also fitted with a mobile-sized monitor and a night lamp. All these are connected with an app that is also connected to the cloud. It’s a knock-down model that can be easily set up and weighs around 8 kg. It can be used till the baby turns a year old,” she adds.
Exploring business models
Initially bootstrapped, Cradlewise recently received angel funding.
The duo plans to pilot their product, NiNi in January 2019 and then make it available online as well.
Cradlewise is priced at Rs 25,000 plus taxes. The company is also exploring rental models. They are reaching out to expectant mothers through Preg Buddy, Facebook and WhatsApp groups, and gated communities. They will soon move on to other channels like Cloud 9 hospitals and stem cell banks.
When asked whether an automated cradle takes away the “personal touch” a mother provides her newborn, Radhika says,
“We are offering it as a parenting aid and not as a replacement. We believe when parents and baby sleep well, it contributes to overall wellbeing.”