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New parents who are wondering how their baby is sleeping, whether he’s cold, or whether she’s still on her back, might be able to rest a little easier at night if the first wearable tech product for babies meets its crowdfunding campaign goals this month.
Or, they might be nervously checking their baby’s vitals every five minutes.
Owlet Baby Care is launching a smart sock that gives you information on your child’s heart rate, blood oxygenation levels, sleep quality, skin temperature, and sleep position. That last one is particularly critical, as doctors have said that sleeping face-down is likely a contributing factor in SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome.
“I’m a dad, I’ve got 2 kids,” project cofounder Jacob Colvin told me this morning. “They had RSV [a respiratory infection that causes difficulty in breathing], and I had a really close friend who lost their child while we were actually visiting them. We want to be able to provide parents with peace of mind.”
I have three children, and that nagging question — is our baby OK? — is indeed one that forces parents to get up and go check on their infants, particularly when they’re a few months old and starting to sleep in their own rooms.
The expandable sock includes a four-sensors pulse oximeter, which allows the device to measure skin temperature and heart rate simply via a built-in light. It’s similar to but more advanced than the typical pulse rate device you might put your finger into in a doctor’s office, with two light sources and two photo diodes to ensure good readings even with different-sized or growing infants.
An accelerometer keeps track of a baby’s movements, providing insight into sleep quality and an alarm if your child rolls onto his stomach, a thermometer provides temperature, and the sock transmits all the data to your smartphone or your computer, giving you a customizable dashboard into your baby’s current health status.
Owlet isn’t crowdfunding via Kickstarter, and there’s a good reason for that.
“Kickstarter doesn’t allow baby products, home health care products, or medical products,” Colvin told me. “And we’d like to be able to have a little more control over our campaign.”
Another difference compared to many hardware crowdfunding campaigns is a short timeline to deliver the product. Owlet has already built multiple functioning prototypes of the baby monitor, Colvin told me, because babies, after all, can’t be put on hold. Expecting parents will need their devices in just a few months, not half a year, and Owlet is ready to fulfill that, he said.
Eventually, it will be certified as a medical device as well.
“This device does not require FDA clearance, but we have another version that does,” Colvin told me. “It has an alarm system built into it [that alerts parents if their] child’s oxygen levels drop.”
That alarm requires FDA approval, apparently, and part of the crowdfunding proceeds will be put to that notoriously lengthy and complicated process. The company is looking for $100,000 in funding, and has already raised $19,650 of that on the first day of its campaign.