Owlet Baby Care used hospital technology that monitors infant heart rate and oxygen levels to create a simple wearable sock that could monitor an infant’s vitals at home. Parents have traditionally used baby monitors to keep track of their baby’s health, but that technology is outdated, requiring parents to stay close and continue checking on the infant. Additionally, traditional baby monitors can’t tell parents if their baby has stopped breathing. Since suffocation is one of the leading causes of death among infants in the United States, Owlet Baby Care decided to create a wearable monitor that could send alerts directly to parents’ smartphones if there were any problems with the baby’s heart rate or oxygen levels.
Objective and Context:
Suffocation is one of the leading causes of death among infants in the U.S. To address the concerns of new parents who want to monitor their infant’s health from outside of the nursery, Owlet created a wearable device to collect sophisticated heart rate and oxygen level data and deliver simple readings as smartphone alerts. Owlet’s goal was to provide parents with peace of mind through education and information as well as with a tool to validate and deliver routine health readings. The challenge was not just to deliver numbers, but to help parents feel comfortable with what the data was telling them. Simplicity, comfort, and trust are all vital parts of the brand and were incorporated in the product design. Owlet’s goal was to deliver comfort and relief to the parents of newborns.
The target audience was new parents, who aren’t armed with the knowledge of what a healthy heart rate or oxygen saturation percentage is for an infant, or the tools to properly measure these vitals. Additionally, they’re worried about their children after putting them down to sleep. Owlet solves a delicate situation that parents face as they leave the control, safety, and helpfulness of the hospital and return home feeling insecure about taking care of their newborn. Every parent worries about whether or not his or her child is healthy and breathing safely. Owlet is the first baby monitor to actually provide real peace of mind by alerting parents if their baby stops breathing in the middle of the night.
Currently, baby monitors are clunky, require proximity to the base unit, and require constant checking and listening in to the monitor. Owlet has created an alternate scenario where parents can relax, check in when they want, and be alerted via their smartphone only when something out of the ordinary is happening with the baby’s heart rate or oxygen levels. Parents simply have to put the Owlet sock on their infant and check their phones if they are notified. Actual vital sign numbers are available for parents if they want to access them with the app.
Bulky baby monitors haven’t changed for decades, and they still just act as an extension of a parents’ eyes and ears, as long as they’re in range. Owlet wanted to deliver updates by using mobile devices to tell parents if their infants were okay or if something was wrong.
Overall Campaign and Mobile Execution:
Owlet Baby Monitor is a simple baby sock that includes removable electronics to measure the oxygen saturation in the infant’s blood, detect heart rates, and detect movement. These vital readings are sent to the base station, which in turn sends the data up to the Owlet cloud to alert the parents if there is a problem. Parents can also readily view this information on their app. Owlet devised three levels of engagement between parents and the numbers that give heart rate and oxygen readings. First, when the app is opened, there is a green check mark that says “readings normal.” Second, the company came up with an animation of moving stars around the baby’s photo, which informs parents that their baby is breathing. This appears on the home screen. Lastly, parents have to go deeper into the app to see the spectrum of numbers that show the baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels. These levels are compared to normal levels, and the app tells parents when they should be concerned. The simplicity of the app allows parents to feel instead of think. As one mother put it, “I don’t care about the data. I just want to forget the stress and worry and be in the moment with my child.”
The data gathered from the baby’s vitals is complex. It measures the amount of red light and infrared light entering the sensor. Owlet had to adjust for the baby’s movements and the ambient light that gets into the sensor from the room’s lighting. Instead of trying to simplify the complex data, Owlet made it easier to understand in a basic design of intuitive symbols, animation, and a spectrum of good and bad numbers that parents could easily understand. Owlet provides an “extra set of eyes” to help alleviate the need for frequent check-ins and provide parents with more time to relax or sleep while the baby is in his or her crib.
Owlet identified Pulse Oximetry as the common hospital technology used to illustrate a patient’s heart rate and oxygen levels. They took the technology known as “the little red light” that doctors clip onto patient’s fingers in the hospital and converted it into simple readings of red, yellow, and green to communicate oxygen levels and heart rates via smartphone. Owlet developed an innovative product by taking complex hospital technology and simplifying it for the consumer market. It is one-tenth the cost and one one-hundredth the size of its hospital counterpart.
The company’s beta testing app showed a screen with heart rate and oxygen levels numbers as they refreshed every second in real time. The initial test felt very inhumane and robotic. Owlet had dozens of reports from people feeling a sense of anxiety as they watched the numbers move up or down. In the next iteration, the company revised the display and user interface and surveyed over 300 testers who used it for over 20,000 hours without any reports of anxiety. These improved results are crucial to the product’s value proposition, which is to deliver peace of mind to parents.
Most notably, one of the beta testers received a lot of red alerts. Owlet’s medical advisor looked at the child’s data and concluded that the baby had a heart condition and sleep apnea. The parents requested their doctor run some tests, which confirmed the advisor’s diagnosis. This is a great example of how long-term monitoring at early life stages will change and potentially save lives.
In March 2015, Owlet transitioned from beta testing to public release of the product in the United States. Owlet has had over 3,000 preorders and will be shipping 12,000 more orders this year. As there is such a high demand for the monitor, there is a waitlist of about two months. The Owlet Baby Monitor is available only through Owlet’s website at this time.
Owlet believes that five years from now, every baby will go home wearing a health monitor. As it is required in the U.S. for every baby to leave the hospital in a properly installed infant car seat, Owlet would like to see each infant leave the hospital with a wearable device like the Owlet Baby Monitor. Owlet also plans to develop a medical version that can be utilized by doctors. This would give doctors a more meaningful view of infant health data over time. In addition, Owlet is supporting the creation of the largest data set of infant health data that has ever existed. Researchers will be able to improve many facets of infant health care using the data they’re collecting. The company’s vision is to become a hardware platform that will connect parents and pediatricians and improve the health of the world’s infants.