Owlet, a ‘smart’ sock for baby’s health

Baby’s health: Currently, worldwide, premature birth occurs in 5-12% of pregnancies for causes that are not always known. According to the World Health Organization, around 15 million babies are born prematurely every year, 5.2% of them before 28 weeks. In Italy, it is estimated that approximately 35,000 babies are born prematurely each year, or around 7% of newborns. My daughter is among them.

A baby born prematurely has a different growth rate from a baby who has reached the end of its gestation, so it needs more attention in its first months of life. Fortunately, technology comes to our aid.

There are two fundamental indicators for ‘reading’ the baby’s health status of a premature baby: saturation, i.e., oxygen in the blood, and heartbeat frequency. In the first case, as for all of us, the optimal level is around 98-100%. In the second, the value can be very high, from 70 to 190 beats per minute (bpm) up to one month of life (then drops).

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At discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit, given that it is assumed that the return home of a premature baby only takes place when his condition is stable, monitoring these parameters is not easy nor suggested to avoid continuous anxiety for parents. However, there are solutions that can monitor the child’s basic state of health, leaving both him and his relatives to live out the days (and especially the nights) in peace, alerted only when really necessary.

And this is the case with Owlet Smart Socket 3. It is basically a sock connected to a tiny base to be kept nearby so that SpO2 and bpm data are read and sent constantly to the connected phone via Bluetooth. But who would buy such a gizmo? I am not a fan of technology for minors, but we are potentially talking about a life-saving gadget here. All parents know the risks of a baby in a cot that is not entirely free of frills.

All it takes is a sheet pulled up to the face by those two little feet or a seemingly harmless puppet falling on the child’s head to block its proper breathing and cause serious problems. But that is not all: there are those parents who, exhausted, think it best to put their child in the middle of the bed to make him sleep more peacefully. A modus operandi that many people advise against, not least because when an adult is asleep, they do not realize the often unconscious movements that they make, which can block the nose and airways of newborns.

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An important note here: if the baby fusses too much and the sock shifts, it may lose its grip on the foot, giving false warnings. The older the baby grows, the better the foot will adapt to the smart sock, functioning optimally.

One app for all

In short, you will understand that having a sock that is very easy to attach and set up and that alerts you whenever one of the two levels drops can be salvation for many. Just read a few testimonials, such as that of two parents who received a real-time alert on the Owlet app when their baby turned sideways during sleep, hugging his pillow until his face was pressed against it. A 78% saturation immediately alerted the app on the dad’s smartphone, who rushed to reposition the baby better in his cot.

Like a Fitbit, the Owlet Smart Sock 3 can monitor the baby’s sleep trends, from total time to quality. Another valuable aid for checking if there is any overlap between moaning or actual crying at the exact times of the night, perhaps approaching feeding time or immediately afterward.

Owlet Smart Sock 3 has only one big problem: the price. On its own, it costs 339 euros, with adaptable socks from 0 to 18 months, or from 2.7 to 13.6 kg. Already in itself, this means that a child who is discharged under 2 kg can certainly not fit the smart socket right away.

The cost is so high that many may wonder whether it is worth it, especially when their children have never presented any problems or critical issues whatsoever. A lot also depends on the level of apprehension of the parents, which cannot be overcome. But every penny spent on being more relaxed is well spent when you have gone through complicated management, a sudden birth, or a month in the neonatal intensive care unit. There is also an Owlet Duo version that adds a surveillance webcam to the sock. A valuable addition to monitoring the baby’s life, with a watchful eye on what they are up to, day and night.

Antonino Caffo has been involved in journalism, particularly technology, for fifteen years. He is interested in topics related to the world of IT security but also consumer electronics. Antonino writes for the most important Italian generalist and trade publications. You can see him, sometimes, on television explaining how technology works, which is not as trivial for everyone as it seems.