Apple acquires sleep startup Beddit a month after sleep expert leaves the company

By Jonah Comstock
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Apple has acquired sleep tracking company Beddit for an undisclosed amount. CNBC broke the news last night based on a change in Beddit's privacy policy, and Apple has since confirmed it.

This is an interesting acquisition for Apple, which has largely eschewed the sleep tracking space even as it's become commoditized for the rest of the wearable tracker space. MobiHealthNews noted when the Apple Watch launched in 2014 that sleep was a notable omission from the Watch's tracking suite, likely due to the fact that the Watch needs to be charged nightly.

Interestingly, the news comes one month after Roy J.E.M. Raymann, a sleep scientist Apple hired back in 2014, left the company, according to Raymann's LinkedIn. Although speculation at the time of his hiring suggested he would work on the Apple Watch, Raymann's linked in says he worked on Apple's Nightshift display for Macbook, the iPhone's Bedtime alarm, and HealthKit and ResearchKit. Prior to working at Apple, Raymann was a senior scientist at Philips Research who founded the Philips Sleep Experience Laboratory, a non-clinical sleep research lab. He also led projects related to sleep and activity monitoring as part of Philips' Consumer Lifestyle Sleep Research Program and Philips' Brain, Body, and Behavior group.

Beddit's website suggests that its offerings and customer experience will remain unchanged at least for the moment. Beddit was already iPhone compatible, synced with the Health app, and its latest model, Beddit 3 Sleep Tracker, was already available in Apple retail stores. Beddit added an Apple Watch app in 2014 and relaunched it for WatchOS 2 in 2015.

So it is likely that, just as in its previous acquisitions, Apple is hiring for the team, the technology, and the patents -- which could mean the company is revisiting the idea of sleep tracking functionality on the Apple Watch. Combined with the timing of Raymann's departure, it suggests the company may be setting out in an entirely new direction regarding sleep tracking.

Beddit, an Espoo, Finland-based company with offices in California, is a crowdfunding success story. The company first hit the scene with an Indiegogo campaign for its bed-based sleep sensor. Beddit set out to raise $80,000 on Indiegogo and ultimately raised $503,000. And, at a time when health device crowdfunding was at its zenith but many struggled to deliver on time, Beddit shipped on time to its backers and even opened up for additional pre-orders. 

The essential form factor and technology hasn't changed much since 2013. The under-the-sheets strap uses ballistocardiography (BCG), a method which uses motion sensing to detect individual heartbeats from cardiac contraction forces and breathing rhythm from chest wall movements. The strap measures bed time, awakenings and bed exits, sleep time, sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep), testing heart rate, sleep quality and breathing movements, which also analyzes if the user is snoring. From there the strap uses Bluetooth to connect with the companion app, which offers personalized coaching, a wellness diary, a history of sleep recordings and a social sharing option.

In 2014, the company partnered with Misfit (now owned by Fossil) to create co-branded devices sold as a unit which would also be integrated with each others' apps. The partnership appears to have ended, possibly with the acquisition of Misfit.

Beddit raised one $8 million funding round in 2014 from Finnish investor Inventure -- the company's only announced funding to date.