Parents are understandably concerned about their infant’s well-being, especially during sleep.

To put their minds at ease, students at Brigham Young University have created a wireless sock that can monitor a baby’s oxygen saturation and heart rate via a smartphone app.

The sock, called the Owlet Baby Monitor, straps onto the baby’s foot to prevent the infant from kicking it off during sleep. Using pulse oximetry, the sock records the baby’s oxygen saturation and heart rate and sends the data to the parents’ smartphone, alerting them of any critical changes in the baby’s vital signs.

According to a BYU press release, student Jacob Colvin and his team hope that the Owlet will prevent SIDS-related deaths by notifying parents of any signs of cardiorespiratory distress and allowing them to respond. The team won first place at the Student Innovator of the Year competition and $6,000 in cash prizes.

When no clear cause of a baby’s death can be found after a thorough investigation (including review of clinical history, autopsy, and investigation of the death scene) an infant is said to have died of SIDS. SIDS is a tragic occurrence that claims the lives of about 2,500 infants a year in the United States. The incidence has decreased dramatically since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) first recommended, in 1992, to place babies in a non-prone position to sleep. Their current recommendations include placing infants on their backs to sleep, using a firm sleep surface, and avoiding co-sleeping, smoke exposure, or overheating.

Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence showing that home monitoring is useful in preventing SIDS. The AAP actually recommends against use of home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy for preventing SIDS. A systematic review of the literature published in January 2012 in Acta Paediatrica in the UK reaffirmed the lack of evidence for home monitoring for SIDS, though a few cohort studies have shown a possible benefit for high-risk infants. Furthermore, some parents have actually reported increased anxiety levels with home monitoring.

Still, the utility of this wireless technology is not to be overlooked. If reliable, this technology could change how patients’ vital signs are monitored in the inpatient setting. Hospital patients are often burdened by a connection to a tangle of wires and tubing. Wireless recording of vitals could lead to increased comfort and mobility for patients, as well as ease of monitoring by the medical team.

Source: Press Release