Earlier this month, a software malfunction caused the Owlet Smart Sock to suddenly stop transmitting biomedical data to parents. This sparked frustration and anger with a number of device users.
The Smart Sock is a wearable baby monitor that parents use to measure things like sleep patterns, heart rate and oxygen levels in their sleeping babies. When it’s functioning correctly, the Smart Sock alerts parents and caregivers of any changes in those measurements that may indicate that their baby is in distress, by sending an alert to the base station via Bluetooth. The base station then changes colors and emits an alarm that notifies parents that they need to check on their sleeping infant.
In addition to sending the information to the base station, the Smart Sock also transmits the measurements to its smartphone app. This allows parents to track patterns and changes on their phone. Over the weekend, the Owlet Ssmart Sock malfunctioned and that information stopped transmitting.
Shortly after the malfunction was discovered, Kurt Workman, one of Owlet’s co-founders and the chief executive officer, released a video to Facebook blaming the problem on a bug that was causing issues with the servers. “I just want to take a moment to apologize to each and every one of you for this tremendous inconvenience that we’ve caused,” Workman said in his video.
The company also took to Twitter over the weekend and asked parents to reboot their Android phones and the Owlet app, and instructed IOS users to make sure they were using the 1.2.9 version of the app.
However, many parents filled the comments section with tweets about their ongoing issues with a product whose primary objective is to offer parents peace of mind.
As of yesterday, some users were still reporting issues with the app on Twitter and Facebook. Owlet’s social media team
Doing More Harm than Good
In addition to the recent software malfunction, parents voiced complaints in the comment section about repeated false alarms that raise both their anxieties and their sleeping babies. This raises the repeated concern that wearable baby monitors may sometimes do more harm than good.
Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director at Gramercy Pediatrics, told Parentology that she doesn’t recommend respiratory monitors to parents. “These devices have been tested by physicians in the hospital and they are not accurate, nor are they needed for healthy babies,” she explains. “Home apnea monitors claim to reduce the rate of SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome]. However, this is not the truth.”
Echoing many of the parental complaints you can find on social media, Hes says devices like these are prone to false alarms. “The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the use of home apnea monitors in healthy children.” While there are specific cases of children who are discharged from the hospital on oxygen where a medical-grade pulse oximeter is useful, most children won’t benefit from these types of products.
Keeping Babies Safe
Hes recommends parents follow the rules of back sleep (always lay your baby down to sleep on their back) and that they keep the crip free from suffocation threats like bumpers, blankets, and pillows. She also recommends that babies are laid down to sleep on a hard flat surface, and never left in a bouncy seat or swing.
“Safe sleeping is the number one way to protect your baby from SIDS,” she says. “The only thing home respiratory monitors cause is parental anxiety.”