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as rapid as that of the Roomba, which helped his firm generate $13 million in sales in the first year after its 2002 release.
“Their challenge is one of getting people to believe the story of how this thing works and to try it,” Angle says. “They’ve earned their way to the point where they can get to the early adopters, but they need to scale their market in order to break through and have a sustainable company going forward.”
There should be plenty of takers for Zeo’s system. One in five U.S. adults get less than six hours of sleep per night, way short of the recommended range of seven to nine hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a non-profit group headquartered in Washington, DC. And Americans spend more than $20 billon a year on everything from sleeping pills and herbal remedies to specialty pillows and mattresses designed to help them snooze. Zeo is not targeting people with medically diagnosed sleep disorders, but the firm’s product could help the millions of people in this country who don’t get ample Zs due to many other factors such as diet, stress, and bedroom noise.
Think of Zeo’s system as an extremely evolved alarm clock. Users wear an adjustable headband equipped with fabric sensors, which pick up electrical signals in their brains and muscle movements that indicate whether they are awake, in light sleep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, or deep sleep. The headband sends the data from the sensors to a bedside unit, which at first glance looks like a sleek alarm clock but under more careful examination displays a graph of a person’s sleep pattern. The unit also crunches the sleep data and shows the user a numerical score (called a ZQ, of course) for how well she slept. It also does have an alarm clock that can wake a user up at a preset time or at what the system determines is an optimal moment to roust her from bed, based on her sleep patterns.
On a personal note, I’ve been testing the Zeo for the past two nights. My disclaimers: I’ve had a nasty head cold that’s been ruining my sleep and, presumably, my ZQ scores. Also, I’m a novice technology reviewer; on Sunday night I forgot to charge the battery on the headband and I didn’t get it on my head until 3:30 AM on Monday, and then Monday night I didn’t fasten the headband snugly enough before I conked out and the thing fell off my bucket for a couple of hours, during which the system obviously couldn’t record my sleep patterns. Pathetic, I know. My human errors and illness aside, the Zeo has performed without a hitch, opening my eyes to what’s going on when they are closed. It tells me I’m a light sleeper who is easily and frequently woken.
In addition to taking corrective measures, I’m going to upload my sleep data from the bedside unit to a personal Zeo webpage. The system comes with a memory card and thumb drive to transfer data from the bedside device to a … Next Page »
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