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Baby Watch

Got my eyes on you, baby

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Many parents are turning to high-tech baby monitors to watch their tots while they are in the office or travelling. An advanced version of the device even lets them talk to the infant and soothe it though they are miles away.

When actor Ranvir Shorey was in Ireland for a month-long shooting schedule of Ek Tha Tiger recently, he would long to see his eight-monthold son Haroon. He did not need to get back to Mumbai to do that, nor did he have to rely on multimedia messages or video clips that take ages to download. Shorey simply clicked on a special application on his phone. No matter what time of the day or night it was, the little one appeared instantly before his eyes.

Shorey could see live feed of Haroon waving his chubby arms in the air with delight as mommy Konkona Sen Sharma read a bedtime story to him in their flat. A little later, the naughty cherub would be sleeping peacefully in his crib. "When one is away for so long, just being able to see the baby is great, " says Shorey.

The Bollywood couple use a high-tech baby monitor that allows them to keep an eye on their son 24x7 whether they are abroad or in a different room at home. The actors are among a growing number of parents who are turning to technology to make sure their baby is safe in their absence.

More than 3, 000 couples in Mumbai and another 4, 000 in Delhi and other cities have purchased Y-Cam's baby monitor since its launch in India two years ago. And over 500 couples have bought Chicco's baby monitors at 15 outlets across India.

A majority of the buyers are young, working couples and first-time parents, says Lavdeep Walia from Chicco. Sanket Shah, director of the Asia Pacific operations of Y-Cam Solutions, which has its headquarters in the UK, says many film stars and top corporate executives have purchased the baby monitors from them.

While baby monitors have been popular in the West since the 1990s, they were unheard of in India till recently as most couples lived in joint families and co-sleeping was the norm - children used to sleep with their parents even till they were five or six years old. But with families going nuclear and young couples preferring to put their tots in a separate room so their privacy is not compromised, the demand for baby surveillance systems has grown.

DIGITAL COMFORTING


Various types of baby monitors have hit the Indian market over the past two years. The basic monitors, which cost anywhere between Rs 3, 000 and Rs 9, 000, can pick up sounds made by baby, monitor his or her breathing and catch movements. They also give the parents an alarm to signal that the baby is awake. These conventional gadgets, which may or may not come with a camera attachment, cover a range of 150 to 300 metres so they are useful if the parent has an office within the home or next door or wants to use it while cooking or entertaining guests. While one device is attached to the baby's crib, another is with the parent.

The more advanced range, however, allows the parent to keep a watch on the baby from anywhere via the internet. These devices use wireless IP (Internet Protocol ) cameras and their live feed can be viewed from any mobile, laptop or desktop. The latest baby monitors also provide two-way communication so the parent can not only hear and see the baby, but also talk to him or her in real time. A Hyderabad-based company, RF Security Solutions (RFSS), launched such an IP-based baby camera, which is being marketed under the name of 'wibabi', this September especially keeping working couples in mind. "If the mother is in her office but sees that the baby is crying, she can talk to the infant or sing a lullaby and comfort the child to sleep even without being physically present, " says Sangeeth Reddy from RFSS.

A software engineer and a lecturer in Hyderabad have already bought the wibabis which cost Rs 18, 500 and others have expressed interest, says Reddy. Y-Cam, too, recently introduced a baby camera with two-way communication, called the Y-Cam Bullet for Rs 25, 000.

The IP-based systems offer many additional benefits to users. They can, for instance, be viewed by both parents as well as others - up to 16 persons - at the same time. And, the video feeds can be recorded so the parent can see what the baby was up to for several hours while he/she was on a flight or busy in meetings. The wibabi also comes with another special feature - free for the first year - which enables the paediatrician to use his phone internet to see the child's rash or runny nose. "One doesn't even need a 3G connection to use the baby monitor. A basic GPRS connection for Rs 100 a month is sufficient, " says Reddy. Many baby monitors also come with night vision and a range of lullabies which the parent can play to put a child to sleep without actually going to his or her room.

MONITOR THE MAID


Watching the baby gurgle or flash a toothless grin can provide immense joy to a parent when he/she is stuck in office for hours, but a majority of Indian couples buy the devices to monitor the maid as much as the baby. "Sixty per cent of families buy the monitor because they don't trust their help, " says Pradeep Kumar from Teks International, which has been selling baby monitors in Bangalore for the past 18 months. Shah says the couples use the devices to gauge "how the maid is treating the child, whether she is hygienic and whether she is feeding the baby on time. "

Shorey and Sharma, too, keep an eye on their son's nanny. "One is so attached to the baby, one doesn't feel like trusting a help blindly, " says Shorey, adding that they use the monitor all the time, even when they are in another part of the house.
Advertising professional Hetin Sakuja (36) and his wife Megha have a full-time maid who sleeps in their six-month-old son's room but they check on him several times through the night using the Y-Cam baby camera. "If Megha sees the baby is crying and the maid is fast asleep, she rushes there to soothe him, " says the Bandra resident.

The Sakujas recently bought a second Y-Cam baby camera for their five-year-old son's room, too. "When our elder son was younger, we were almost home bound. And, when we absolutely had to go out, my mother would have to stay up till late to watch the baby. But now we manage to go out with friends three to four nights a week without worrying about the children constantly, " he adds.

SUPERVISION A MUST


Baby monitors may be every working parent's saviour, but a section of medical experts in the West discourage their use. This is primarily because companies there market the gadgets as a sure-fire method to prevent 'crib deaths' or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - inexplicable death of a sleeping baby up to 12 months old. A section of paediatricians and the US Food and Drugs Administration have criticised baby monitors saying they "provide a false sense of security" and pointed out that there is no evidence that they can prevent crib deaths.

But there is little cause for concern in India as most parents here rarely leave the baby unattended even with a sophisticated monitor nearby. "Baby monitors are an added advantage but they are not a replacement for human supervision. Either Koko, I or the nanny are with the baby at all times. We can't imagine leaving him alone even with the monitor, " says Shorey.

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