Owlet is Watching Over Baby
Creating peace and comfort for parents through innovative wearable technology
By Gina Halladay
What started out as a project for an innovations class at Brigham Young University has turned into a successful baby care business, Owlet. But that journey from class video presentation to a business that ships out tens of thousands of products every month has been a process bigger than the founders imagined.
"As classmates, we were working on the idea for a product that could check on your baby in the middle of the night. Our tagline was ‘We are up all night, so you don't have to be,’ ” said Jordan Monroe, chief innovation officer and co-founder of Owlet Baby Care.
"We had to make a video for our class project, and we built a sort of a nonfunctioning prototype to use in the video. We won the innovation award at BYU and the story got picked up and published by a newswire,” Monroe said. “Well, this got picked up by ABC, the Huffington Post, and a whole bunch of other news publications who thought our product was real,” he said.
“We actually got over 25,000 views of our video over one weekend. We started getting emails from parents asking where they could buy the product.”
It was in 2012 that Kurt Workman first got the idea for a baby monitoring product. Classmates Monroe,Zack Bomsta, and Jake Colvin knew they were onto something too. By 2013, they had all quit their jobs or dropped out of school to help build Owlet. They all also had newborns or babies on the way.
"We started working on building a baby monitoring product that could track heart rate and oxygen levels, and for about three years we thought were ‘just four months away’ from shipping the product. We, however, were consistently doing things wrong and realized how difficult it really was to build a product with the technology available at the time,” he said.
"We had to figure out how to take sensor technology that at the time was about the size of a briefcase and make it small enough to fit on a smart sock that then fits on a tiny baby’s foot,”Monroe said. “Many months passed before the sensors needed for the product were finally made small enough -— actually 100 times smaller and able to run on batteries.“
We literally hit the perfect timeline to be able to build this product, because a year earlier, it would not have been possible with the larger-sized sensors, and if we started maybe a year or two later, there might have been other people or businesses already working on their own products.We feel grateful and lucky about the timing of starting our business,” Monroe said.
"With the advancement of today’s technology, I knew there had to be a better way to watch over our infants while they slept,” said Workman.
"Monitoring your baby’s health is crucial for everybody and we think that in time the smart sock will become just like a car seat, you won’t want to leave the hospital without one,” said Monroe.
In 2016, Owlet received the “Best Startup Company” at the Consumer Electronics Show, a trade show for new products and technologies.
Owlet’s products include the Owlet Smart Sock, Owlet Camera and Monitor, and Dream Lab, a video course proven to teach the baby how to sleep through the night. A new product, the Owlet Band and Pregnancy Tracker, is a wearable band that goes around an expectant mother’s belly which can read the baby’s heart rate, count its kicks, and identify contractions.
"I knew there had to be a better way to watch over our infants while they slept.”
"Our band product is still in the beta testing stage, but we won a CES award in the category of ‘Best of Innovation in Wearable Technologies’ award, and that is pretty cool because we beat products fromApple, Fitbit, and other big players,” said Monroe.
Over the past two years, Owlet, based in Lehi, Utah, has won several more CES awards in innovation in the categories of “Tech to Change the World,” “Innovation Award Product” and “Software and Mobile Apps.” These innovation awards are getting national attention too, but unlike the innovation award the founders received in college, now they actually have products and technology and a company of 130 employees working to keep babies safe to back it up.
Owlet also works with 16 different foundations throughout the world. “We offer to match donations. The foundations have given away about 10,000 smart socks to make baby monitoring more widely available,” Monroe said. “We are working toward a future where every parent, new and expecting, has access to better tools to care for the baby in the home.”