Many parents spend days, weeks, or even months in the NICU with their babies immediately after they are born. The constant beeping of monitors might seem annoying. In that situation, however, it offers reassurance that everything is okay.
Now, imagine bringing that baby home from the hospital. Without the monitors, many parents worry about their baby’s health during every waking moment.
Engadget’s Amber Bouman spent more than 100 days in the NICU with twins and knows this struggle firsthand. She writes, “We definitely needed a product to continue that monitoring once we got home, and Owlet is one of the few companies that provides a wearable version for babies.”
But what is Owlet? The company has quickly made a name for itself in the connected health space thanks to its Smart Sock. The wearable gadget is a lot like a Fitbit for a baby and can be used to monitor infants’ vital signs while they sleep and rest.
A Sock, but Smart
Owlet’s Smart Sock isn’t exactly revolutionary from a hardware standpoint. In fact, the third-generation device shares many of its sensors with today’s smartwatches. It senses the baby’s blood flow and oxygen level through the skin. However, instead of mounting the hardware inside a watch, Owlet put it in a fabric sock that is worn on the foot.
The gadget pairs via Wi-Fi to a base station that displays a variety of color-coded updates to relay the baby’s status. For instance, it notifies parents of a dip in heart rate with a red light and an alarm. When things are normal, it displays a green light.
Perhaps more important is the Smart Sock’s smartphone integration. It syncs with parents’ phones to provide in-depth data and analytics about the baby’s vital signs, sleep statistics, and more. In this sense, it makes the Smart Sock a lot like a Fitbit.
Still Needs Improvements
Owlet has greatly improved its Smart Sock since the previous generation. The device now fits smaller infants and older babies. It also got a wireless charging upgrade, which cuts out the need for extra cables.
The Smart Sock can be fully charged in just 90 minutes and has a battery life of 16 hours. This means parents can put it on and know that their baby will be monitored all night.
Even so, the device isn’t perfect. Babies are notoriously fussy and love to squirm. Their movements can easily remove or shift the sock, causing false alarms and “disconnected” alerts that drag parents from bed in the middle of the night.
On top of this, not every baby actually needs a Smart Sock. In fact, it may even cause more anxiety for new parents who lean too heavily into monitoring their baby’s vitals. The majority of infants don’t need this type of high-tech monitoring on a daily basis.
However, it can be useful in certain cases—like those coming home from a NICU stay. It’s worth noting that Owlet isn’t marketing the Smart Sock as a medical device. A disclaimer on its website reads, “The Smart Sock is an information-gathering product for use with healthy babies only. It is not a medical device.”
Even so, it can give parents some extra peace of mind knowing that their baby is being monitored in real-time. Owlet’s third-generation Smart Sock retails for $299.