Can sleep tech become ubiquitous?

A good night’s sleep is increasingly considered to be just as important for our health and well-being as eating healthy food and exercising regularly. Unfortunately, today’s 24/7 high-stimulus, digital world is renowned for disrupting our natural sleep patterns. The average 21st century human is now sleeping significantly less than in the past. In 2017, McKinsey reported that more than one in three Americans does not get enough sleep – roughly the same number who are obese.

What is more, our sleep quality – as well as quantity – has decreased as well.

This emerging need has created an ecosystem of manufacturers, retailers and health service providers as well as pharmaceutical companies that has formed around sleep health. The McKinsey study reported the US sleep-health industry is currently worth between $30 billion to $40 billion and has historically grown by more than 8 percent per year, with few signs of slowing down.

In addition to the traditional categories of clinics, pharmaceuticals and bedroom furniture and bedding, a new wave of sleep gadgets has emerged.  Crowd funding sites are full of novel sleep devices from masks to robots. Many are connected, continuing the trend of measuring and connecting our lives.  Some even aim to stimulate the brain to create therapeutic effects.

Certainly sleep is becoming better understood, but scientific knowledge is still at a relatively early stage and this equates to a general lack of understanding through the population, government and mainstream industry.

“It’s an exciting time for the emerging sleep-ware industry”, says Clare Beddoes of Cambridge Design Partnership: “Here at CDP, we believe that sleep-tech is an exciting area that is evolving rapidly, following closely on the heels of the developments in the fitness and wellness sphere, which has seen an explosion of innovation in recent years”.

“We’re already working with companies assisting them in defining opportunities to innovate and we expect many interesting and successful advances in the area of sleep technology in the near future.”

With this in mind, here are five basic questions we think you need to ask if you are planning to bring a new sleep-tech product to market. If you have the answers to these then, with any luck, you won’t be losing sleep over your product development!

1. Can you show that your customers actually need your proposed product?

It’s great to have an idea for a product that you think might be the answer to an insomniac’s prayers. But are you sure it’s what the market really wants, needs and will pay for? Our approach is to start with the user and to identify the unmet needs where solutions will be really valued. This makes sure you’re heading in the right direction before you spend a lot of time and money pursuing a new idea.

2. What is the existing competitive landscape for similar products?

We’re fascinated by the plethora of sleep devices on the market and although it is increasingly crowded, we believe that the market is in an early phase and there are most definitely spaces for products that address the needs of broad market groups. So take the time to find out what the competition is and where the spaces are for innovation for the majority of mainstream consumers.

3. Where do market unmet needs align with technical solutions that can improve sleep?

The aim must be to create the must-have sleep-tech product. Just recently, here at CDP we worked on a technology to monitor REM sleep. We discovered that not only did users want to know how much REM sleep they had every night, they wanted to know whether it was enough and, then, crucially, they wanted to know what to do if it wasn’t. Successful products need to close this loop and not leave customers stranded.

4. What is the best revenue model for your concept?

This is crucial in the digital world. Will your product work if sold for a one-off payment or would it be a better proposition as the start of a relationship with your customer? Will customers pay for every night they sleep better, or will they not notice the difference?  In the AI enabled world consumers are beginning to expect customised solutions, continuous updates and evidence- based feedback.

5. Who are the most impactful sleep professionals for you to work with?

To develop and launch your product successfully, you’re going to need clinical and scientific back-up. So, do you need to work with doctors, psychologists, clinical researchers or YouTube sleep experts? Should you be turning to the peer consumer community, personal trainers or artificial intelligence? It’s all about finding the best development support route and final endorsement.

That way, your innovation journey will stand the best chance of seeing those sweet dreams of success become a reality.