Sleep tracking wearables, apps and investment heating up, says panel

By Heather Mack
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Sleep – the final frontier, or so it seems in digital health. While everybody needs sleep and plenty want to know more about how to do it the best they can, tools to improve sleep and, in turn, improve health have moved decidedly slower than other digital health innovations like activity trackers. But that’s changing, said a panel of sleep experts and sleep tracking device and app makers at Health 2.0.

“The power of the sleep message has been blunted for years, because we haven’t really had a metric,” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “To the extent that we can measure sleep, we can drive behavior change, and with that, unlock the true power of sleep and its connection to health.”

Taking a look a sleep tech 2.0, which Cloud called the second generation of the field in which it is actually providing information to the user for behavior change, the panel discussed some of the latest technology.

Lasse Leppakorpi of Finnish sleep tech company Beddit, announced the company’s Beddit 3 Sleep Tracker, which will be sold in select Apple retail stores around the country.  The device consists of a thin, flexible sensor that lies across the mattress, reading heart rate, breathing, temperature, humidity and even snoring. The data is transmitted through Bluetooth to the sleeper’s iPhone (integrated with the Health App) and they don’t have to do anything until they wake up and look at the companion app. The idea is to have a two-week summary report of sleep, recover and breathing to share with personal trainers, doctors, therapists and whoever else wants to know what’s going on in your bedroom.

“People are tired of inaccurate products, and now that we know how to do this, we are starting to create standards, because we have more criteria to judge from,” said Leppakorpi.

Sleep tracking in and of itself isn’t new, but it hasn’t always been reliable. Wearable trackers may think someone is in sleep mode when they are simply sitting on the couch watching TV, and manual entry apps are dependent on the honest information from users. Having a hybrid of smart mattress design to sync with tracking strips, wearables and apps makes more sense, the panel said.

Harry Wang of Parks Associates said the idea of sleep wearables was a “tall order,” but the industry has a huge growth potential.
The sleep summit, which included discussions on data-driven opportunities that leverage what’s known about human behavior thus far, covered not just how people sleep, but where they are sleeping.

“It’s a young industry with significant growth as sleep quality becomes trackable and improvable,” Wang said. “The new growth opportunity is with smart sleep furniture.”

From people getting more insight on which mattress works best for them at home based on actual sleep-style data rather than a once-off at a mattress store, to hotels learning more about an upcoming guest and equipping the room with the perfect conditions to their stay, the summit focused on every possible place data could be captured.

Lloyd Sommers of ReST, which makes smart mattress, called the opportunity for sleep-tracking ripe for innovation, envisioning a future era in which there would be “hundreds of thousands of millions of people giving their data.”

“Until recently, people didn’t appreciate how valuable sleep is," he said. "Now that they have, they want to know more about it.”

Hugo Mercier of French company Rythm, which makes a sleep-tracking wearable headset, touched on the inherent difficulty of actually knowing what is going on when you aren’t conscious.

“Really actually improving sleep is hard,” Mercier said. “There are a lot of products coming out every year; you go on Kickstarter, you see a lot of sleep products so we think people are expecting a solution, but at the same time, there is no winning solution. The only product that we really have that everyone is using is a bed.”