Co.Design

The Owlet Baby Monitor: Wearable Tech For Infants

The latest in wellness trackers is a wee baby boot, designed for and by parents to track stats more vital than the kid's FuelBand future.

No, this wellness tracker for babies is not part of any type of diet-centric, Toddlers and Tiaras-inspired agenda. The Owlet Baby Monitor is from a team of innovators—and parents—at Brigham Young University. The smart sock, as it’s called, tracks vitals like heart rate, oxygen levels, temperature, and sleep habits, including a roll-over alert to ease the universal anxiety of new parents, sending notice if the baby turns face down in the crib. All this data beams to an app where grownups can check up on a child's health without a visit to the pediatrician.

Owlet was conceived when one of the founders was babysitting his infant twin cousins. Twins are often born prematurely, and one has cerebral palsy. Which made the diligent caretaker think: How great would it be if parents or babysitters could receive preemptive alerts when vitals—like oxygen flow—go down? Standard baby monitors broadcast the screams and tears, but stay silent during true emergencies, like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

A fragile newborn can make any object with which they share a crib look clunky, and the Owlet essentially gives the first appearance of a baby moon boot. But the fact that the wearable tech object was designed for parents, by parents, means some highly personal, thoughtful consideration went into the potential pros and cons of bundling someone's bundle of joy.

"Innovation loves constraints," Jordan Monroe, one of the five Owlet founders, tells Co.Design. “A big concern was, do I want something electronic on my baby’s foot?” The designers made the Smart Sock out of an easily cleaned, food-based silicon. “Being dads ourselves, we realize babies don’t stay the cleanest or driest all the time,” he says. “And it’s food grade, so if you took a bite out of it, then nothing would happen to your stomach.” Owlet uses basic LED lights and sensors to mimic the non-invasive technology used in hospitals and adult wellness trackers.

The Owlet lives on the ankle because it’s a reliable spot for taking a pulse—one that's far enough away from a teething baby’s mouth. And unlike other smart baby monitors, such as Rest and Exmobaby, Owlet isn’t worn as a garment, so it can’t be considered dirty laundry by day’s end.

The designers also had to allow for the exponential growth of their user. “We’ve got this tiny piece of real estate, and that triples in size in the first year,” says Monroe. The team built an adjustable strap for the baby's foot, and fixed the monitor higher up, on the shin. But perhaps most crucially, it stops growing with the baby after about a year—which weans neurotic parents from obsessing over their child's quantified life for too long, and keeps Owlet focused on newborn health.

The first round of Owlets cost $159; once those are sold, the price goes to $199. They can be bought here.

[h/t Co.Exist]

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