Zeo Introduces Sleep Manager Mobile, Shifting Focus from Hardware to Sleep Management Apps and Integration

9/26/11Follow @xconomy

There’s no shortage of mobile apps for managing your workout plans or counting calories, but far fewer for managing and improving sleep, says Ben Rubin, co-founder and chief technology officer of Newton, MA-based Zeo. And he has reason to know. The company’s Personal Sleep Coach system has won the support of Regis Philbin (TV endorsement), iRobot founders (CEO Colin Angle is a board member and co-founder Helen Greiner has said publicly she is an investor), and Johnson & Johnson and Best Buy (strategic investors in last funding round). And now Zeo is expanding that function to a mobile app, with the goal of integrating its technology with a slew of smartphone-based wellness tools.

Like the company’s original system, which involved headband sensors and an alarm clock displaying sleep data, the new Sleep Manager Mobile detects brainwaves to determine when users are in deep sleep or REM sleep and uses the information to wake them up at the optimal time. And like the original, it also analyzes the data to give users a scored rating–or “ZQ”—of how good their sleep was on a given night. But, not surprisingly, the new mobile version of the Sleep Manager makes accessing the information much more seamless than the original system. The original alarm-clock-based product collects data on a memory card, which users have to connect to their computers to upload to an online dashboard. That dashboard then charts sleep patterns and offers up tips on how to improve sleep quality. The headband for the mobile version, by contrast, sends the data automatically to your cell phone (Zeo makes apps for iOS or Android) via a Bluetooth connection, says Rubin.

Rubin says this seamless interaction enables the system to better serve as a platform for sleep management, by interacting with other sleep improvement tools more automatically. He hopes that it can ultimately be employed by other devices and applications to improve wellness from all different angles. For example, he envisions that (in later developments of the technology) users who have trouble falling asleep at night could receive afternoon alerts reminding them to stop consuming coffee for the day. Others might get offers to buy relaxing music or a more comfortable mattress (with Zeo getting a chunk of the revenue if users acted on these offers).

It’s through these integrations that Zeo plans to make most of its money moving forward, says Rubin. The company’s original system sold for $399, went down to $199, and will drop to $149 once the mobile version comes out. Sleep Manager Mobile, which will be available for sale in late October, will cost $99. (For those who aren’t fond of the headband, which can slip off during the night, Zeo also offers a stick-on version that you can affix directly to your forehead.) “Hardware margins are not wonderful,” says Rubin. “Instead of trying to make money on hardware all the time, we’re moving into the world of what else we can do for you to help you manage sleep.”

Zeo has deals with wellness-focused partners like Boston-based FitnessKeeper, which uses the Zeo data to help users of its RunKeeper app see how their sleep affects their runs. It has similar partnerships that integrate sleep data with calorie-counting and calorie-burning apps and personal health management mobile applications. Rubin says he sees this all pointing to the mobile phone becoming a personal health coach. “The phone is going to remain at the center of your health and wellness life,” he says. “We’re going to do sleep really well, and be the experts in sleep.”

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