The number of health and fitness trackers on the market is multiplying every month, but they're still mostly relegated to a subset of the human population: adults. But what about babies? Don't helicopter moms need to know when their child has reached its optimum crawling output for the day?
The Owlet Baby Monitor, a "smart sock" developed by a student team at Brigham Young University, is the baby health tracker you never knew you were waiting for. In all seriousness, babies could benefit from health trackers more than most adults. After all, they can't exactly speak up for themselves about why they are feeling unwell.
The winners of the Student Innovator of the Year competition at BYU, the team behind Owlet has now raised through crowdfunding more than $45,000 to develop the device. The students believe their technology could ultimately eliminate SIDS, the number one cause of infant death.
The Owlet comes with a handful of built-in sensors: heart rate, oxygen (measured with pulse oximetry), sleep, temperature, and a roll-over alert, just in case your child accidentally ends up on her belly. The device has already been tested in 30 different homes for approximately 200 hours, with spot-on results.
"The things we can do with the data we're collecting—it gives me shivers when I think about it," says Jordan Monroe, one of the students behind the project.
Just after birth, a baby's heart rate and oxygen rate are supposed to fall within a strictly defined range. While in the hospital, doctors are constantly measuring the newborn's vital signs, but once the child goes home, they're only seen at doctor checkups. The Owlet lets parents and doctors keep track of vitals for years. "Maybe there are markers that could predict lung issues, heart disease, or autism," Monroe says. A research organization for interstitial lung disease has already reached out to the Owlet team to discuss a partnership.
Monroe says that the Owlet, which is made out of soft silicon and a spandex-like fabric, is comfortable for the baby (not that a baby could ever discredit his claims). It's also adjustable, since a baby's foot triples in size after the first year.
The Owlet is the first device that measures a baby's heart rate and oxygen rate, Monroe claims. If there's anything else out there, it hasn't been marketed well. "It's hard to ever be first to do anything these days. I was surprised that no one else had thought about the idea," he says.