Here at the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants we want to ensure that our members are up to date with the most relevant and progressive products and sleep aids on the market. Our featured product for this month is ‘Ooly’ - the app-connected sleep training companion that helps your child understand when it’s time to get up.
We talked to creator and founder of Ooly, Marie-Eve, about her journey with this unique product - from inception to market, her inspiration, challenges, successes, and her vision for the future
1) What inspired you to come up with Ooly?
I am a working mother of three. When I came up with the idea of Ooly, my children were one, three, and five years old, and I had just gone back to work after a year on maternity leave.
One Sunday morning, my son decided that 4:30am was a totally logical time to wake me up and start the day. I was particularly worn out at the time with a young baby who also wasn’t sleeping, and my patience and resolve was worn thin. Questions flooded my head in that moment: “Doesn’t he realise it’s way too early to wake up? Why won’t he go back to sleep? We bought him his own toddler clock, what does he not understand?”
Then, I left aside my usual calm, but firm parenting approach, and I yelled at him. I lost my temper. He cried, and I felt bad the entire day. The next day I pondered whether it (sleep) really needed to be this hard.
My husband and I had read countless sleep books and articles and I knew we had the theory right, but it seemed what was missing was a way to put it in practice. As I looked closer at the tools I was using to help my children get better sleep, I had an epiphany: I realised that none of them could adapt to my reality and my children’s needs. I realised that I was the one that had to adapt to the tool, not the other way around! That morning that my son woke me up at 4:30am, I couldn’t resist asking myself, “Okay, we have electric cars now, so why exactly am I stuck with these clunky, mass manufactured, simplistic pieces of plastic to help me with some of the most precious things in my life, aka, my children’s sleep and overall health… and my own sleep?”
Together with my husband Martin, an experienced electronics engineer, we dreamed up a customizable solution that would be more intuitive for both parents and children, adaptable to the family’s nap and bedtime routine, and easy to use - a true way for families to get more sleep. We were convinced that if we could build it, it would help thousands of parents around the world.
2) What gets you up in the morning?
My kids are the biggest motivators in my life. I want them to have the best, healthiest life possible. I believe that having long and restorative naps and restful nights is a crucial part of a healthy family’s lifestyle.
I love the new turn Ooly has made me take in my life. I get to spend more time with my husband, and I work to help families, including mine, sleep longer and better!
3) How long has this journey from inception to now taken you?
The journey to create Ooly started two-and-a-half years ago. Little did we know at the time that we would spend an entire year reading studies from NASA and Harvard Medical School, and discussing with children sleep experts from around the world. It took us a year just to narrow down the product design and features. Once those were settled, it took us another year to develop our prototype and bring the first Ooly to the world. We recently reached our crowdfunding goal (on Indiegogo) which has enabled us to begin the manufacture process of the first 500 units so we can finally bring Ooly to life, and into the hands of many sleepless parents all over the world! We expect to deliver these units in May 2017.There are still a few units left and people interested can order Ooly on our Indiegogo campaign page here.
4) Challenges and successes along the way?
Looking back on the last two years, what stands out the most despite the challenges, sacrifices (both self and my family), and lack of sleep, is the fact that I never doubted Ooly. Whatever the sleep issue, I knew Ooly could be of great help to improve my kids’ sleep habits and establish healthy, predictable, but flexible sleep routines.
Originally, we were convinced Ooly would be available at every store within a year. We were wrong, and there were certainly some learnings along the way! Through extensive collaboration with sleep consultants and researching various NASA and Harvard Medical School studies, one key learning was of the negative impact of blue light on sleep, and to the contrary, red light was most beneficial to sleep - which influenced our light colouring system.
….Then came the difficult technical questions with the prototyping process: Where could we find a battery that would be eco-friendly and last at least seven days without having to charge it? How could we make Ooly with no press button at all to ensure that kids wouldn’t accidently mess up the settings? How could we make Ooly operational within minutes, without parents having to read a complex and lengthy instruction manual? And of course, the all important consideration of positioning and price!
I’ve had quite a few “highs” over the first months of Ooly. It was a pivotal moment when we realised that we could simplify the reading of time for children by using colors rather than numbers, and having Ooly configured via an iPhone or iPad - which has literally opened the door to so many possibilities. On December 2015, a colleague came to me with the first testimonial, a great and positive testimonial from a mother of two and researcher for Topmed.ca. It gave me an amazing boost of energy that has helped me through this sometimes difficult journey.
5) Key product benefits/messages
Ooly has been designed together with child sleep consultants: They’ve given us their recommendations and regular feedback so we could make sure Ooly would become all they were looking for in a sleep training device, and would meet the real needs of the parents they work with.
Ooly is configured with an app (compatible with iOS/Apple and Android phones or tablets): Parents can effortlessly select Ooly’s color and intensity to create bedtime, morning, and naptime routines adapted to their child’s needs. They simply need to use the Ooly app to set and record the color they want for various times.
Ooly’s design is based on the scientific research of light and its impact on sleep: It is now proven that blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, delaying and disrupting sleep. Ooly is therefore equipped with a “blue blocker” mode. Ooly’s light intensity can also be reduced down to the slightest glow, preventing any disturbances to your child's sleep.
Ooly is portable and battery operated, with a battery sufficient for seven days’ operation without electricity: For increased ease and efficiency of use, and perfect for travel!
Ooly has an embedded memory to ensure settings are never lost: This means Ooly follows your child wherever they go - a week at grandma’s, camping over the weekend, or on the plane. Also, there’s no need to have your mobile device around because once specified, Ooly remembers its settings forever!
The electromagnetic field (EMF) generated by Ooly is safe: WIFI signals are strong and I did not want these anywhere near our kids. For this reason, Ooly uses a technology well known for its low power emissions called "Bluetooth Low Energy" (or BLE). BLE is used in many healthcare applications. Additionally, note that Ooly only uses its radio for the setup process with the Ooly app. Once done, Ooly operates by itself.
You can turn off Ooly’s light completely and have it 100% dark: Parents can choose to have the light turned completely off during the night, and until the morning wake up. For example, the light could be switched off during the night, then it could switch on at 7:00am. The same way, it could be switched on during the evening, then start fading down five minutes before bedtime - then it would switch off.
Ooly is 100% controlled by Ooly’s mobile application: We did this to prevent children from changing the saved settings (by pressing buttons). In addition, if the parent disables the "Lantern" mode, the hidden button on Ooly’s head will not work.
6) What is your vision for the future?
We intend to position Ooly as a high-quality and elegant device in a sea of cheaper, mass-manufactured products. Our end-goal is optimal user experience and ease of set-up for parents (our aim is for parents to set Ooly up in under a minute, without having to read any user manual). Among other key messages are Ooly’s sturdiness, eco compatibility, and long-term cost effectiveness.
To further spread the Ooly love, the team is establishing an affiliate program for children sleep experts who would like to recommend this great product to their clients. If you are interested in becoming involved, or would like more information on the process, please contact Marie-Eve at: firstname.lastname@example.org