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PROVO — A new parent's nights can be fraught with worry, but a Provo company is hoping to help.
Owlet is a smart sock that slips onto a baby's foot to monitor heart rate and oxygen levels, alerting parents if their child stops breathing. After three years of development and six months of beta testing, the device was released to the general public at the end of October.
"Five different families actually alerted when their babies stopped breathing," said Owlet co-founder Jordan Monroe. "It's been a wild ride, to be honest."
The innovative baby monitor snagged second place in Verizon's Powerful Answers Award contest on Dec. 9, winning $250,000. It's just the most recent of many awards for the Owlet team, which used winnings from business competitions — including the 2013 International Business Model Competition at Harvard — to start the company while students at Brigham Young University.
The idea for Owlet came to co-founder Kurt Workman when he was preparing to start a family with his wife. He noticed how another family member was sick with stress caring for their premature twins and decided that with all of the amazing technology available, there should be something better to help parents rest easy.
He decided to make use of pulse oximetry — recognizable as the clip hospitals use to measure oxygen levels in blood — and create a baby-friendly device. The Owlet team worked with pulse oximetry experts to perfect their smart sock, which sends alerts to a wireless hub and smartphones.
"It was worth it to take three years before going to the public with it," Monroe said. "It just works really well. People are really happy with the user experience, and it is very soft and cuddly."
During the beta period, three families were notified when their babies stopped breathing, according to Monroe. Since the product started shipping to the general public at the end of October, two more families received the alerts to save their children. Monroe said it gives him goosebumps to wonder what would have happened to those families without Owlet.
The Owlet team will be showing off its technology at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The monitor was named an Innovation Award honoree for the conference.
Owlet monitors can be purchased through the company's website for $250. The kit comes with three socks of varying sizes, which can be washed when the electronics are removed.