Owlet’s Smart Sock
As a parent, the ‘’health management’’ of your children is a time-consuming and stressful occupation. Especially due to the fact that infants cannot express themselves verbally, which often confuses parents. This is where digitalization could lend a helping hand. New possibilities are helping parents to understand the needs of their infants. One of these possibilities is the Smart Sock. Kurt Workman is the CEO of a baby-care company named Owlet. When starting a family, he had some concerns about the health of his future children due to a inherited heart condition of his wife. This resulted in the creation of the Smart Sock.
Owlet is a company that provides parents with help through a so-called Smart Sock. The company was founded in 2013, which was also the year that the co-founders began to work on in-home infant pulse oximeters. Their mission is as follows: ‘’ Better care for babies in the home, empowering parents with the right information at the right time’’ (Owlet, 2019).
The smart sock allows parents to track the heart rate and oxygen level of their infant, even while the baby is asleep. The levels are sent in real-time to the parents’ phone, which then allows them to gather insights about their baby’s wellness. If the smart sock identifies a drop in the heart rate or the oxygen level outside of a pre-set range, it will notify the parents which allows them to react in the way that is needed. The smart sock comes with a base station, which will glow green to reassure the parents that their infant is doing fine. Not only will this help the parents understand the needs of their babies, but it will also allow them to experience less anxiety and improved sleep. (Owlet, 2019).
The Smart Sock of the baby-care company is active in the smart textile market. By sensing and reacting to stimuli in its environment, wearable smart textile allows the wearer to experience increased functionality (Vagott et al., 2018). The increase in the miniaturization of devices and the past advancements in technology have driven the market growth. Moreover, there is a high demand in consumer electronics, which positively impacts the market (Grand View Research, n.d.).
As the aforementioned, the key activity of Owlet’s Smart Sock is to provide parents with access to better tools to care for their infant in their own home. By using smart sensors and pulse oximetry, the Smart Sock offers a better picture of the wellness of a baby. The sock collects the necessary data in order to provide parents with insights about their infant. In addition, this will also enhance the quality of life of the parents, as the product will reduce anxiety and improve their sleep. Moreover, it will also make them more knowledgeable about the baby’s health, as it can be difficult to understand the signals that baby’s express. (Canal, 2018).
Currently, parents can buy the Smart Sock for £269.00 on Owlet’s online web shop and in retail stores such as Target and Walmart (Owlet, 2019). The Smart Sock is suitable for infants up to eighteen months and is targeted towards anxious millennial parents. Owlet started selling their Smart Socks in 2015, which turned out to be a great success, as the company booked $2 million in revenue by the end of the year. After some years and some adjustments to the products, Owlet managed to close 2017 with $19 million in revenue. During 2017, the company has also raised $25 million in funding, which they used to expand internationally. (Sportelli, 2017).
By using different channels, such as online web shops, retail shops and social media, Owlet is able to sell their products to tech-savvy parents. The Smart Sock comes with 3 fabric socks (sizes 0-18 months), a Smart Sock sensor and a base station. Furthermore, it also includes charging cords, a power plug converter and a power adapter. The results of the Smart Sock are sent to the base station, which then will transmit the data to an application that allows parents to have insights about their baby’s health. (Owlet, 2019). Owlet also provides their customers with a 45-day Peace of Mind Guarantee, which allows the customer to return the Smart Sock within 45 days of purchase. This will increase the likelihood that a doubting customer would purchase the product, as they will not have much to lose when they do not like the product after their purchase. (Owlet, 2019).
The Smart Sock is attractive because it creates value for the parents by reducing the anxiety that they experience when taking their new-born to their own home, realizing they left the safe hospital environment. The Smart Sock alarms parents when it senses that something is wrong, which gives them a peace of mind.
Even though the Smart Sock sounds like a revolutionary product to many anxious parents, there were still some negative reviews. One of the challenges that Owlet experienced at the beginning, was to convince parents to spend so much money on a single product. Moreover, there were also some reports of frequent false alarms, which worried parents even more. In addition, there were also some cases in which parents claimed that the sensor created some burn marks. However, Owlet took these reviews seriously and made some adjustments to their product. (Sportelli, 2017).
Besides the negative reviews, there were also some concerns with regards to privacy. Smart wearables are gathering consumer data and transmitting it over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the Internet. (Friel, 2017). According to consumers, the data has intimate details about their infant’s health. This could raise some concerns, as the data might be sold to other companies, such as insurance firms. According to Dr Leaver, Curtin University associate professor, this is not a stretch to imagine, given the history of similar products such as the Fitbit. (Friel, 2017).
Canal, E. (2018). This Company Makes Wearable Devices for Babies So Their Parents Can Sleep Better. Available at: https://www.inc.com/emily-canal/best-industries-2019-owlet.html
Friel, A. L. (2017). Babies and Baby-making, or Not… Privacy and Security Lessons for the Internet of Things. Available at: https://www.dataprivacymonitor.com/internet-of-things/babies-and-baby-making-or-not-privacy-and-security-lessons-for-the-internet-of-things/
Grand View Research. (n.d.). Sensor Market Analysis, Market Size, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Competitive Strategies And Forecasts, 2014 To 2020. Available at: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/sensor-market
Owlet. (2019). Why Parents Love the Smart Sock. Available at: https://owletbabycare.co.uk/
Sportelli, N. (2017). Owlet’s Smart Sock Makes Millions Selling Parents Peace Of Mind — But Doctors Are Unconvinced. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nataliesportelli/2017/10/03/owlets-infant-health-monitor-is-winning-over-millennial-parents-doctors-are-another-matter/#2b059a976469
Turner, R. (2017). Owlet Smart Sock prompts warning for parents, fears over babies’ sensitive health data. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-12/owlet-smart-sock-prompts-warning-for-parents-privacy-concerns/8893104
Vaggot, J., Parachuru, R. (2018). An Overview of Recent Developments in the Field of Wearable Smart Textiles. Journal of Textile Science & Engineering. Available at: https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/an-overview-of-recent-developments-in-the-field-of-wearable-smart-textiles-2165-8064-1000368.pdf