While working on Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile defense system, Assaf Glazer could not imagine that one day he would be developing a high-tech baby monitor.
But that’s what he’s doing now with his company, Nanit, which was launched while he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute in New York.
After growing up in Rehovot and serving in the Israel Defense Forces, Glazer earned a doctorate in computer vision and machine learning at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Then he went to work for semiconductor giant Applied Technologies, developing an image classification platform for categorizing defects on silicon wafers.
Glazer was putting cameras above silicon wafers to examine them. Then when his oldest son, Udi, was born six years ago, he thought about using similar methods to watch babies.
“I put a camera above his crib to analyze his movement and sleep,” he said. “It really helped me as a parent make better decisions.”
When he went to Jacobs, he brought the idea with him. Six months in, he brought aboard his old friend Tor Ivry, with whom he had worked at Applied Technologies. Glazer stayed at Jacobs for two years and left in January 2016 as Nanit’s CEO.
To launch Nanit, Glazer raised millions from venture capital investors, however he won’t disclose just how much. Nanit has sold thousands of units, Glazer says — but won’t disclose specific numbers.
“We want to be the Google Maps of
parenting navigation.” — Assaf Glazer
Today, Nanit has 30 employees. Half are in Ramat Gan and half in New York, in a WeWork space near Penn Station. Ivry leads Nanit’s Israel team of engineers focused on research and development. Sales and design are handled in New York.
“We are trying to make the most of the two worlds and connect them,” said Glazer, who with his wife has three sons, ages 1, 3 and 6.
Priced at $514 — but selling at a promotion price that starts at $279 — Nanit is at the high end of the smart baby monitor market.
To be sure, it is no ordinary baby monitor. It’s a smart camera that not only watches your baby sleep but analyzes sleep patterns and distinguishes between movement while sleeping and awake. How does the Nanit, which has the sleek lines of an Apple product, tell exactly when the baby falls asleep?
“This is our secret sauce. I could tell you but then I may have to kill you,” Glazer said with a laugh.
Nanit also has built-in temperature and humidity sensors, plus a nightlight aimed at the ceiling. It sends parents daily and weekly briefings and recommendations right to their smartphones.
“We designed this with parents in mind,” said Glazer, who used his son Udi to test how high to position the camera to be out of reach of a curious toddler.
Nanit’s blog (called “Nightlight”) is full of articles about sleep training and when (and when not to) change diapers, making it seem like a virtual Mary Poppins.
The product’s buyers give it mixed reviews, with many of the complaints focused on kinks that can come with a tech startup.
But Glazer is forging ahead.
Up next is applying the concept to elder care. Nanit’s technology is a potential boon to those caring for the elderly, particularly if they have dementia, which can come with sleep disturbances and wandering. Glazer is also thinking about how to use the technology for people with autism.
“Our vision is looking at people from birth to death,” Glazer says. “We want to be the Google Maps of parenting navigation.”