Johnson & Johnson, Rest Devices team up to launch connected sleep coaching system for babies

By Heather Mack
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Boston-based Rest Devices has announced a collaboration with Johnson & Johnson to develop a smart, personalized sleep coaching system for babies (and their parents, hovering over their crib with a smartphone). The offering, which consists of a wearable baby monitor called Mimo and a companion app called Nod, was announced during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

The coaching system, which will be available on iOS next month and will later expand to Android, was born out of the growing focus on sleep as it impacts infant development, health and mood. Tara Glasgow, Vice President of R&D of the Baby Franchise and Scientific Engagement at Johnson & Johnson Consumer, said the two companies came together with similar goals to improve infant sleep at a time when sleep research is still, well, in its infancy.

“Sleep is such an exciting space, and as someone who started about 10 years ago researching, it was surprising to learn how little we really know,” Glasgow told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “We know now that sleep is even more important than just not being cranky the next day, and what we are learning is it is even more important for baby development – from building a strong immune system to learning development, sleep has a positive impact on social, emotional and physical health for babies. And their parents.”

The sleep coaching system is based on data from 350,000 infant sleep episodes compiled by the Johnson’s Bedtime Baby Sleep App, which was launched in 2012, and Rests Device’s infant sleep database powered by information from the Mimo monitors. Mimo, which has been available for purchase since 2014, consists of a onesie with a pocket for a sensor that can monitor breathing, sleeping temperature, body position, activity level and whether the baby is awake or asleep. Using Bluetooth, the data is sent to the parent or caregiver’s smartphone along with live audio. The company also makes a crib sheet that acts as a movement monitor.

“Helping parents improve their baby’s sleep is a common need around the world,” Dr. Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who contributed expertise to the app, said in a statement. “I am excited to support Nod in expanding access to these evidence-based tools in this important area for parents.”

The whole project was facilitated at a Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center, where the company identifies and works with companies on technology-enabled consumer and medical devices as well as solutions involving pharmaceuticals and public health. Rest Devices and Johnson & Johnson worked together to create the Nod app, which combines expert coaching and analytics in one app with the aim to give parents get their babies to sleep better. After learning parents’ goals, behaviors and routines for their baby’s sleep, Nod will create customized sleep advice for each baby based on clinically-validated behavioral techniques developed by pediatric sleep experts.

“This coaching system brings an expert into the nursery with you at 2 am, so that when your baby can’t sleep, you can have someone with you that gives you very individualized advice,” Glasgow said.  “Not everyone has access to leading sleep researchers, but we can do is build all of that into an algorithm and deliver customized solutions that are a combination of human expertise and the aggregated data of hundreds of thousands of sleep episodes.”

Glasgow said J&J is excited at the potential impact of the sleep coaching system, given the increasing interest in connected baby products.

“It’s a huge thing for parenting, doing a connected approach to sleep, but that’s just one aspect of parenting, so it will be a really interesting field to watch,” Glasgow said. “Generally, people are looking at wellness differently and focusing on all the different things we can do as healthcare is moving more and more to that preventative space and what that means to overall baby development.”

While the app isn't ready quite yet, parents can set up on the Nod site to be part of an upcoming beta program.