In 2003, I was introduced to the concept of baby breathing/movement monitors. At the time, there was no such thing as a portable monitor. All products on the market were bulky and required mains power with wires, mats and all sorts of things that appeared clumsy and dangerous (I'd heard of a case of strangulation in one instance). With a background in electronics engineering and a passion for innovation, I set out to develop a portable breathing monitor for babies that exceeds the performance of anything on the market. Although SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death) are not scientifically proven to be a result of a cessation of breathing, I could not help think how devastating it must be for a parent to lose a child this way, without giving them an opportunity to at least try to resuscitate their little one, in case of such an event. Statistically speaking, providing this opportunity seemed far more important than anything else since according to CDC data (USA stats), a baby is 20 times more likely to die from SIDS/SUID than in a car accident. Yet seat belts and approved car seats are a legal requirement in most of the developed world.
After nearly 5 years of R&D, including countless hours at the NICU unit testing alongside "gold standard" hospital equipment, we finally had a product that was ready for the market. The design, certification, branding, patents and company structure were complete, now it was time to let the world know about us. We initially approached various retailers in South Africa, none of whom showed interest. Perhaps it was too early for the South African market! So in the interests of getting a device to market sooner rather than later, we shifted our attention to the rest of the world. We packaged the Snuza Halo (later rebranded as Snuza Hero), and traveled across the globe to various baby trade shows around the world, in the hope of building a network of contacts interested in distributing our product in their respective countries.
It was a very slow start but eventually Snuza began to gain traction. It was a bumpy first few years, streamlining production and our internal systems to handle the load of increased demand taking its toll. There were certainly growing pains but things gradually improved. As sales in the rest of the world were increasing, which helped establish the brand, we were getting our company’s management system up to "Medical Device" ISO 13485 standards. Snuza HeroMD is now a certified Class IIb Medical Device (MDD 93/42/EEC), clinically proven to be able to detect when a baby stops breathing. This was a huge achievement and a world first. Our "Post Market Surveillance" enabled us to conservatively estimate that our devices have accumulated over 1,000,000,000 (1 billion) hours of use by well over 350,000 users.
Having a certified medical device on the market, with incredibly strict requirements not only in product design (safety, proven efficacy, etc), manufacturing and testing, but also in company operating procedures, allowed us to collect data we would never otherwise have been able to collect. The average worldwide SIDS rate is about 1 death per 2000 births. In Snuza's case there have been 350,000 devices used with (very sadly) one reported death (the device alarmed as expected but the baby could not be resuscitated). Without Snuza, this number would be closer to 175 deaths. It's horrific to talk about death in cold statistical terms, but this is the reality. What's perplexing and tragic is that most paediatric associations around the world discourage the use of such monitors because "there is no clinical evidence that these monitors reduce SIDS". They are effectively saying that a baby cannot be rescitated once it has stopped breathing. Of course this needs to be disputed. Infant CPR is well established for a very good reason! Perhaps not all situations are survivable even with resuscitation, but certainly some are and those are the ones that may be preventable by early intervention. In the meantime 10 babies is the US alone die each day due to SIDS/SUID.
Our team of talented and dedicated individuals have ensured our steady growth to the point where we are one of the largest baby movement/breathing monitor brands in the world, and our commitment to continuous improvement and furthering research will hopefully one day help to reduce the number of babies who are lost to SIDS/SUID. In fact,
Every so often a testimonial comes across my desk of a life changing event, where our little Hero acted as the voice for a baby that could not. That is what drives me.