Whether you are a first time parent or been around a few times, welcoming a newborn into the world is always an exciting and nervous time. There is always so much to do, so much going on, constantly looking in on bub to see if they are ok. The Owlet Smart Sock is now on it's third generation, the V3, and it is the first baby monitor to track your baby's oxygen level and heart rate.
For those that have been long time readers of DRN, I am completely done and dusted with the baby making scene. We are fortunate enough to have little Hudson arrive into the world at the end of October 2020. Perfectly timed for the launch of the Owlet Smart Sock V3. Hudson's parents are first timers, and with thanks to Owlet, we are going to find out how it has helped them transition into parenthood.
Note that this review was conducted by Hudson's parents, and I am writing up their experience of the product.
The Smart Sock is not a FDA-approved medical device and is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, alleviate or prevent any disease or health condition or investigate, replace or modify any physiological process. It is a consumer product that provides parents insights into their baby's wellness, as well as peace of mind each time the parent puts their child down for a nap or to sleep at night.
The parents are as always, responsible for the health and well-being of your baby and following safe sleep, health, and care guidelines.
I remember with my first baby, I was flat out looking after him. My second and third were a little less hectic but there are more children in the mix. The last thing I cared about is to try look for things to make something work. With that in mind, Owlet's box comes included with 1 smart sock sensor, 2 pairs of fabric socks, a base station, charging cord and adaptor, everything you need to be up and running in one place.
The socks come in two sizes, for under 5.4 kg and from 5.4kg up to 13.6kg. They came in a pair of left and right, but you only need one sock on at any one time with the sensor. Yes the socks do come in a variety of other colours and limited edition patterns, and can be purchased separately.
There was some site specific initial hiccups where the base station refused to detect the Wi-Fi network, to the point where I had to remote in and check out the router configuration. In the end it was one of two things that solved the problem:
Setting the Wi-Fi channel (to 8 in this case but I will qualify it by saying I did not test other channels),
Enabling "20/40 MHz Coexistence", which is where I suspect caused the issue.
The Owlet is a 2.4Ghz device so it makes sense. Usually I would have spent more time in identifying the issue down to root cause, but when you are remote into a machine that is Wi-Fi connected to the router, every change drops my connection.
Aside from that, the setup was reported to be straightforward, taking less than 30 minutes in total to create an account on the Owlet app, add the baby's details, set up the sock, sensor and base station. Once the app account is set up, both parents can download the app and have concurrent access to the information.
The sock electronics uses pulse oximetry to gather your baby's heart rate and oxygen levels. The electronics send your baby's heart rate and oxygen levels to the base station (via Bluetooth). The base station then sends your baby's heart rate and oxygen levels to your smartphone (via Wi-Fi). Pulse oximetry, in use in hospitals since 1987 is mature technology, it uses a small light to shine through the skin and the amount of blood flow and oxygen levels are estimated based on how much light is transmitted to a sensor. if you have been hospitalised before, or have watched lots of medical based shows, the finger clip they use in hospitals is the same technology.
The Owlet Smart Sock is low profile, should be placed directly next to the skin and is designed to fit under a regular sock. There are clear markings on the inside of the sock showing where to place the sensor. It was reported to be easy to position and stays on the foot throughout the night. While is was generally easy to fit the sock on Hudson's foot, on some occasions it was a snug fit into the feet of some onesies pyjamas. It comes down to how much room there is to work with.
A fully charged sock sensor lasts a little over 16hrs, enough to go through the evening and into the following morning. It is routine to take the sock off in the morning and attach it to the base station to charge and leave it there during the day. The battery takes about 1.5 hours to charge up fully and is ready to go again.
The Home screen shows the baby's summary at a glance, along with easy to understand charts of his heart rate and oxygen levels. Scroll down a little and you have the status of the base station and estimated battery life left in the sock battery.
The History page allows you to scroll through the collected data, with a summary of the day's average oxygen level, average heart rate, total hours of sleep, sleep quality, sleep onset, number of wakings and longest sleep segment.
The graphs provides a simple visual summary of all the key metrics: sleep data, oxygen levels and heart rate. Rather than watching Hudson sleep, the data is derived from sleep algorithms based on heart rate, oxygen and movement, which is take used to determine deep and light sleep as well as awake periods. Take this information as indicative rather than actual as co-sleeping, use of swings and bouncers, rocking etc will affect the calculations. The different periods are represented by different colours - light purple for light sleep, dark purple for deep sleep and orange for awake.
The notifications page provides a history of notifications that has been generated, such as low oxygen levels for the baby, or general issues like connectivity or placement of the sock. The app stores graph data and notifications for 30 days.
Separate to the app, the base station can alert you independently with lights and sounds if the detected readings are outside of the normal range.
- Red if the oxygen or heart rate levels are outside of the normal range.
- Yellow if the sock is not placed correctly or is falling off.
- Blue if the sock is out of battery or range.
The smart sock sensor connects to the base station via BLE (BlueTooth Low Energy). In the event of a loss of home Wi-Fi, or no phone service, the Base Station will still be able to alert the parents via the light and audio.
The app's Guide page has a number of 'how to' guides covering topics such as understanding the readings and notifications, sock placement and tips & tricks. It keeps track of the baby's age and provides handy bits of knowledge to their stage and abilities.
You can monitor twins or multiples with separate sock sensors and registering the child in the app.
The fabric sock is recommended to be washed once per week or as needed, and the sock electronics must be removed prior to washing. The recommendation is for hand-wash with mild detergent, or machine washing in a garment bag on delicate cycle before allowing it to air dry. Baby's feet can sweat at night and bacteria loves to grow in warm, moist environments and regular washing will keep your little one's feet happy and healthy!
The sock can give off false alerts if the baby is moving too much, crying or during feeding. It can be a bit annoying if you cannot reach the base station to turn off the alert. You can snooze the base for 60 seconds through the app, but there is no ability to acknowledge and turn off the alarm except to be physically at the base station. It is a bit of an annoyance when the primary reason it goes off with Hudson is when the sock is taken off when he's being changed in the morning.
The base station audio alert is loud enough to rouse you from sleep, however it is difficult to hear from another room.
The Owlet app is limited to the tracking and analysis of information provided by the sock sensor. It would be much more value add if there were additional features such as the ability to track feeding, nappy changes, tummy time, expressing of milk, basic journaling etc. The ability to have all the information in one app would make life much easier for parents. Sure there are apps out there that will do this, but then you will have to switch apps to do it. In business analyst parlance, a single pane of glass with all the key information would be ideal.
The Owlet Smart Sock V3 does everything it says it will with ease, and the 16 hours battery life means there is no cause to worry overnight about the sock not lasting the distance. It is allowing Hudson's parents some extra sleep instead of hovering over the bassinet needlessly while the baby is peacefully snoozing. In the morning, Hudson's mum mostly do quick checks of the Overview screen to see hours of sleep and number of waking, and does not feel the need to look back on historical data as often.
At a retail price of AUD$479.99 the Owlet Smart Sock V3 is not a cheap device, but what price do you pay for an insurance policy on your precious baby?
DRN would like to thank Owlet again for providing the review unit, it will certainly help give Hudson's parents a peace of mind in his first 18 months. Congratulations to the parents, enjoy these moments because your bub will not stay small and cute forever. Also remember every day is different, he may be a terror today, but he probably will be an angel tomorrow.