“Smart Socks” Helps Parents Sleep Easier

Here’s another gadget to add to my ever-growing, paranoid (or more, perhaps, cautious) parent list. I’ve read about this at three separate sources today, so I figure it’s probably worth mentioning here.

Students at Brigham Young University have created what they call The Owlet baby monitor. This device is supposed to help combat SIDS, which is the leading cause of death for infants in the United States. It is a sock-like monitor that is placed on a baby’s foot while they sleep, and uses pulse oximetry to indicate if a child stops breathing, has low-levels of blood-oxygen, or irregular vital signs. The creators hope that it will help alert parents to potentially fatal and harmful situations. Here is a picture of the sock monitor, as well as the app.

The team who created it had personal reasons for wanting to create a monitor like this. In an interview with KSL.com, co-founder of Owlet, Kurt Workman said that he partly came up with the idea because his wife was a near-SIDS victim as an infant, and a cousin had passed away from SIDs as well. Another one of the team members, Jacob Colvin, is a father and understands how parents worry about their child breathing. The tagline for Owlet is “up all night, so you don’t have to be.” I definitely think that statement has some truth to it.

Here is a video, explaining a bit more about the product and it’s development, as posted on a news release on Brigham Young University’s news website:

There are some other monitors out there to help monitor an infant’s breathing, but I think this one is definitely different. I love that it shows the blood-oxygen level. I think I’ve mentioned before that my son was in the hospital when he was a few weeks old with RSV. A few days before his admittance, he had his two-week appointment. His levels were pretty low (around 85), and the nurses just said the machine wasn’t working. However, that wasn’t true — his levels truly were too low, and he went a few days without getting adequate oxygen. While the doctors and nurses should have acted on this, rather than dismissing it as a fluke, I wish we could have had this monitor then, so we could have seen his oxygen was low earlier on. I’m grateful that nothing happened, but it would have been nice to have something to alert us that something really was amiss with our son.

I posted this article to Facebook, and a friend immediately responded, stating how much she wanted it. When her daughter was first born, she had some episodes where she quit breathing. Luckily, my friend was always around, but it has made her very nervous to let her daughter sleep by herself. This monitor would truly give many mothers (and fathers) peace of mind. Parents of babies don’t get a lot of sleep to begin with — not feeling the need to wake up every few hours to ensure that their child is breathing might give everyone a little more sleep (I’ll be the first to admit that not only have I woken up to check on my son, but I’ve woken him up in the process, when it’s so dark, I’m half asleep, and I can’t tell if he’s asleep.)

The Owlet won first place in the Student Innovator of the Year competition that was sponsored by the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology and the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. They won $6,000 to help with the improvement of their device, and got valuable feedback from judges. While the Owlet won’t be on the market for awhile, its creators are motivated to get it into the mainstream market, and approved by the FDA. I like how Jacob Colvin described some of his motivation in this device:

If we can hear just one mother say that we made a difference, it would all be worth it. That makes all the difference in the world.

About the author

Katie Clark

Katie Clark

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.


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