Danville mom Keturah Shelton tried out a test model while putting her young son Luke down for a nap. The baby monitor is held in place by an elastic bootie that slips over an infant's foot. In the next room, readings from the bootie are being streamed directly onto a smart phone via Bluetooth technology. The system known as Owlet includes sensors that can provide a variety of data.
"So you push on monitor, and once you push that the first thing that pops up is his temperature," explains Owlet co-founder Jacob Colvin.
Colvin says the unit allows parents to monitor not only their child's skin temperature, but blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and sleeping position, including an alert if the child rolls over in the crib.
"Its target goal is to keep the child safe," he says.
Dr. Chris Retajczyk is a neonatologist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. He agrees the technology is powerful, but worries about how parents might interpret the data.
"For example, heart rate. There's a huge variation in newborns, from slow heart rate to very high heart rate," says Retajczyk. "So if the parents ses these trends, does that become worrisome when in reality it's quite normal?"
The company says each monitor will come with training materials to help parents make sense of the data the sensors are collecting, including the normal parameters for the readings. They're also hoping parents will ultimately be able to share the collected data with their child's pediatrician.
"You have access and can see vital signs over quite some time," Colvin points out.
In the meantime, parents like Shelton believe the cellphone tracked monitors could offer added peace of mind.
"It's a lot more convenient to have just one, to have your cellphone with you," she says.
The company will begin shipping a limited number of monitors next month, and plans to have them available in stores and online in January. The system is expected to retail for just under $200.
Written and produced by Tim Didion