Can a sock reassure you of a baby's well-being? Perhaps it can, if it's the Owlet. Created by Owlet baby care, this sensor-lined sock monitors a baby's vital signs through its foot, and transmits the data to a smartphone app or internet-based device via Bluetooth. Parents can check on a baby's skin temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen levels and sleep quality at a glance, and even be alerted to the baby rolling over. As a monitoring tool rather than a medical or diagnostic device, the smart sock aims to help parents be more aware of potential health-related danger signs so that they can take preemptive action.
Created by students at Utah's Brigham Young University, the Owlet is currently the object of an independent crowd-funding campaign and has already exceeded its US$100,000 goal. Owlet's CEO, Kurt Workman, hit upon the idea of a baby monitoring sock when caring for his prematurely-born twin cousins and losing one of them to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A baby's sleeping position is thought to have some connection to SIDS; it's why doctors recommend that babies sleep on their backs instead of face-down.
Its developers hope that the sock can help parents monitor their baby's sleeping position more easily, since the sock can be strapped to the baby's foot and held in place as it sleeps through the night. The built-in accelerometer keeps tabs on the baby's movements and issues an alarm when the infant begins to roll on to its tummy. A four-sensor pulse oximeter within the sock takes numerous readings of the baby's vitals with the aid of a small LED light. It does this by sending harmless beams of light through the tissue and detecting the amount of light absorbed. This is used to calculate the oxygen levels in the blood, and other health metrics.
The data is sent to a paired smartphone or PC and can be uploaded onto the cloud through Wi-Fi, letting parents check on their baby's health from anywhere in the world. While the sock is targeted at babies less than a year old, it has been beta tested on babies up to two years of age and can be used for as long as it fits the baby's foot.
The Owlet will ship in November according to the Owlet website, and is expected to eventually retail for $199 though early backers can obtain it for $159. Owlet 2.0, the next version of the smart sock, will contain an alarm that notifies parents of emergencies such as the baby's oxygen levels falling below the norm. The advanced version is expected to get FDA clearance by 2015.
Check out a video of the Owlet below.