We really liked the Beddit Smart. Beneath the zen-like minimal design lies an accurate and sophisticated sleep tracker with a solid scientific pedigree. It doesn’t do much apart from passive sleep tracking, but it achieves this with near flawless performance.
Beddit, as the name suggests, is a company focussed on sleep tracking technology. In contrast to the increasing sophistication of wearable trackers, Beddit’s tech won’t monitor your fitness, count your calories or tell you when you missed a phone call. Fortunately, this one-trick pony happens to be an extremely solid performer in the sleep stakes.
The Smart is the latest iteration of Beddit’s scientifically-validated sleep tracker. Like many crowdfunded products, the first Beddit had its share of teething problems, with many disgruntled backers voicing their dissatisfaction on the original IndieGoGo campaign.
Thankfully, after a few battle scars and lots of new investment and product development, Beddit seems to have vastly improved on the old model (an updated version of which is still available as the Beddit Classic).
What’s new in the Smart?
The main improvement is support for Bluetooth Smart (aka Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE)). Bluetooth Smart is designed for reduced power consumption, which is great news for your phone battery. The other benefit of the new Beddit is an upgraded app, improved connectivity, and automatic sleep tracking for iOS users.
Ergonomically, the new Beddit is very similar to the Classic, offering the same scientific smarts in a compact, unobtrusive design.
The sensor uses a clever technique called ballistocardiography (BCG) which detects the micro-mechanical forces of your heartbeats and blood flow. You can think of it as a electronic stethoscope attached to a smartphone.
Confusingly, you can also buy a co-branded version of the Beddit from Misfit, but be aware that this version is the Classic, not the Smart.
That’s the background, so, how did the device perform in real life?
The Beddit Smart advertises itself as the ‘invisible sleep tracker’. After 3 weeks of user testing I can testify that this is quite an apt description.
From them moment I received the package in the post, I was struck by how small, lightweight and unassuming this device is.
Opening the box, I was quite surprised to see how such a supposedly sophisticated device could be squeezed into a bit of tech so small.
The actual device consists of a plastic housing about the size of a slim cigarette lighter, attached to a wafer thin adhesive sensor strip. The strip reminds me of the thin ribbon cable you find inside the gubbins of a desktop PC. The plastic housing which contains all the electronics is attached to a white USB lead which acts as the power cable. The whole thing weighs in at a minuscule 86 grammes. Not quite invisible, but not far off.
Setting up the Beddit is a remarkably breezy affair too. The Beddit Smart works by detecting your heart-rate, breathing and body movements while you sleep, so the idea is you attach the sensor strip to your bed and well…… just leave it there.
The minimalist instruction leaflet tells you to place the sensor strip on top of your mattress, at chest level, in line with your heart and lungs. To achieve this, it’s a simple case of peeling back the adhesive tape and laying out the sensor strip in the appropriate position.
A sticky subject
With the sticky side now exposed the strip easily attaches to any surface. I was initially concerned that the choice of adhesive would either be too strong or too weak, but it seems that Beddit have put a lot of thought into this and the stickiness factor is just right.
It even survived a re-application after a night of bed shuffling due to a battle of wills with my flu-ridden 3 year old. The instruction manual says that if, in any way the adhesive loses its stick after time, you can replace it with any thin double-side sticky tape.
In my mind, for such a hi-tech piece of kit, this seems a little bit of a DIY solution. It’s a small gripe, but in the future, it would be nice if Beddit could design some kind of custom replaceable adhesive solution instead of this approach. That aside, once the sensor strip is firmly stuck in place, you’ll be assured it doesn’t move.
Positioning the sensor
The strip only picks up a single person’s readings, so if your partner wants to track their sleep too, they will have to buy an additional Beddit. Beddit provides recommendations for where to place to sensor, in my experience, sleeping on a hybrid memory foam mattress with a partner, I never experienced any problems with false readings.
One thing to note is that because of the design of the sensor material, Beddit can only give accurate readings above a body weight of 30kg, so it’s not suitable for babies, toddlers or small children.
Downloading the app
Before you begin your sleep tracking odyssey, you need to need to download the Beddit app. The process is quick and easy. You’ll also need to setup a user account so that you view and store your data. Again, this was a simple, breezy process.
Good product design should incur minimal interruption to your daily life. Nobody enjoys wading through manuals, scrolling through menu options, or remembering complicated button presses. Apple achieved world dominance not because its gadgets were sophisticated but because they were beautiful and could be operated by even the most die-hard technophobe.
The Beddit Smart goes a long way to achieving this type of elegant simplicity. In fact there’s hardly anything at all to say about operating the Beddit.
Assuming you’ve attached the sensor correctly and set up your app and user profile, the process couldn’t be any easier.
Your first sleep
The first time you launch the app you’ll be prompted to pair your phone via Bluetooth. This is a one-off process, and I’m pleased to say it worked first time, taking only a few seconds to recognize the sensor.
Amazingly, if you’re an iOS user, that’s it! There’s nothing else to do. Assuming your Bluetooth is switched on, and the app is launched, Beddit will automatically sense when you’re in bed and start tracking your sleep without any other manual intervention.
In this respect I’m suffering from Apple-envy. At the moment Android users don’t get automatic sleep tracking (although I’m promised it will be available in a future release).
That said, using the Beddit with my Samsung S5 is hardly an arduous affair. It’s basically two clicks; launch the app and press ‘Start Sleeping’. Once or twice I had to re-establish Bluetooth connectivity when the sensor was accidentally unplugged from the mains, but overall, unlike a lot of my experiences with Bluetooth over the years, I found the phone-sensor pairing to be extremely solid and reliable and consistent.
To begin with I was definitely conscious of having the sensor in bed. For instance I wanted to make sure I wasn’t shuffling around too much, and that my sleeping position stayed in the ‘sweet spot’. But after a couple of night’s results I realised these were frivolous concerns. Once in bed, I more or less forgot that the sensor was there.
This, I consider to be one of the Beddit’s biggest selling points. Unlike wearable trackers, there’s no visible reminder, the technology just fades into the background. I just wish I was able to experience the full no-friction experience of automatic sleep tracking.
Some other reviews I’ve read have expressed concerns about sleeping on top of something that’s permanently plugged into the mains. Personally speaking this never flagged as a concern to me.
In the morning, when you wake you simply tell the app to stop tracking and Beddit calculates your Sleep Score a value out of 100 to indicate how well you slept. This quickly became part of my morning ritual. It was interesting to
I was using the Android 2.0 version of the Beddit app. As with the hardware, Beddit have opted for simplicity over geeky functionality in the design of their app.
The main focus of the app is based is your SleepScore. This is a proprietary measurement that the Beddit scientists have come up with, combining multiple metrics ie movement, breathing, heart-rate and snoring – into a single number that represents your overnight sleep quality figure, the Beddit SleepScore.
The good thing about the Sleep Score is that you’re not inundated with reams of technical data. Just a single metric. A good night’s sleep will get you in the ‘green zone’, a thumbs up. A bad night’s rest will leave you in the orange zone – ie room for improvement.
The downside is that you don’t get a percentage breakdown to see exactly which aspects of your sleep need improving. This is a deliberate approach by Beddit to try and simplify the sleep tracking process as much as possible, and not overwhelm users with too much information. But as we’ll see later, if you want to dig deeper into your sleep data, there are a few options.
The Beddit sensor measures your heart-rate, respiration and body movement and crunches the numbers to algorithmically determine the following sleep modes:
Beddit can also tell you if you’re a snorer. To achieve this it combines the sensor data with the microphone input on your phone and displays your snoring as a series of spikes on your timeline.
I like the fact that the Beddit doesn’t pretend to detect your actual sleep stages (ie REM , NREM) as this can only be achieved accurately by spending a night in a sleep lab. Interestingly however, Beddit’s website hints that in the future 4-stage sleep classification may be possible.
Over the course of 3 weeks I found the Beddit’s sleep tracking to be consistently accurate. It picked up bed exits (trips to the bathroom) with no effort, gave a credible measurement of the time I took to fall asleep and told me when I snored (thanks!).
Impressively, I never experienced any interference from my partner’s sleep behaviour triggering the Beddit sensor.
Although the general look and user interface are pleasing, one thing I didn’t really like about the app was the vertical layout of your sleep timeline. Whilst I understand this makes sense on a mobile device, and it means you can fit more on screen, intuitively, I would have preferred a horizontal layout.
As well as your sleep timeline, the app gives a natty readout of your resting heart rate, which is an indicator of your recovery and stress levels, plus your average breathing rate.
One area where the Beddit fails to impress is in coming up with tailored suggestions for how to improve your sleep. There’s nothing in the software that gives you feedback based on your sleep metrics.
Instead, along with your SleepScore you get daily generic tips about sleep hygiene; matters such as not drinking alcohol, turning off your gadgets at night, etc etc. Whilst it’s all good advice, it seems like a token effort, an afterthought not related to how you actually slept the night before.
In this respect, Beddit Smart is what you would call a passive sleep tracking device, apart from the ubiquitous Smart Alarm, which wakes you in the lightest phase of sleep, there are no active features to help improve your sleep.
Data sharing and compatibility
As well as the phone app, your Beddit account gives you access to a cloud based service where you view your sleep data in more detail. Essentially this is the same information available on your phone, but with a better layout, more suited to a bigger screen size. The web app lets you view sleep trends, a more granular sleep history plus the option to share your data with other Beddit users via the Beddit Family service. As well as the cloud service, Beddit also offers a few other options for bio-hackers, quantified self-ers and those who want to get
CSV export –Users who want to have access to their sleep stats in a text format can download a CSV file for easy import into Excel. This works well and gives you a clear, column by column layout of all the metrics you can see in the app.
API –Beddit’s application programming interface (API) allows developers to take Beddit’s sleep data and use it in third party apps and services. Future plans include access to ‘raw’ sensor data for complete control of
Apple Health –Beddit also offers full support for the Apple Health platform, allowing you to share your Beddit data with Apple devices that support iOS 8 or above. This includes the Apple Watch, which includes a SmartNap application.
The Beddit Smart, true to its Scandinavian lineage, doesn’t shout from the rooftops about how good it is. It’s a truly understated piece of design and technology, one that casual observers might understandably overlook.
But hiding behind the minimalism of the sensor strip and the beautiful-but-basic app, lies a lot of technical wizardry and innovation. Beddit Smart might seem like a relatively basic sleep tracker, but the no frills approach hide behind a wealth of scientific research.
Beddit are right not to market their product as a medical device, but new research, improved algorithms, API hookups and software enhancements will no doubt unlock more potential in this unassuming sleep tracker, allowing more insight into how sleep impacts human health.
It seems that Beddit knows their product is good, but they’re holding back with new features until the product can offer best in its class functionality and performance.
But for now, Beddit Smart offers accurate, clinically-validated sleep data in an extremely easy to use, non-invasive way. For those who are solely interested in high quality sleep data with minimal effort and maximum convenience the Beddit Smart is hard to beat.
Beddit Smart is available at Amazon.com*, priced at $149 at time of review
Disclosure: A Beddit Smart was provided for review purposes. * indicates an affiliate link, which we may receive a commission from.