Zeo Launches Smartphone Version of Sleep-Management System at Price for the Masses

WHAT: Zeo Mobile ($99) is a lightweight, wireless headband that measures brain waves to determine sleep quality and uses bluetooth to communicate that data to the iPhone, iPad and select Android devices. Data from headband is 90% as accurate as data from clinical sleep lab.

Alarm on the smartphone app wakes you at the optimal moment (when you're in and out of REM sleep) so you feel refreshed when you awake. [ REM sleep restores the mind, deep sleep restores the body. ] Use the Zeo Mobile app or Zeo website to analyze sleep patterns, add notes/journal entries and learn ways to improve your ZQ (sleep) score. Link sleep data to those in wellness/fitnees apps like DailyBurn and RunKeeper [ see our story ].

Existing product, Zeo Bedside (new price of $149), uses a headband with a proprietary alarm clock. Both Mobile and Bedside products include an email-based coaching program.

Zeo Mobile ships Oct. 26. Best Buy, an investor, is making Zeo products available in all stores. Launching in the U.K. in October and mainland Europe in time for holiday shopping.

LAUNCHERS:  Ben Rubin, CTO, and CEO (not a founder) Dave Dickinson, whose background is in biotech. Other co-founders are Jason Donahue, former VP of brand management (now at Harvard Business School) and Eric Shashoua (in medical school).

WHY: Sleep is critical to overall health, and most Americans don't get enough or enough quality sleep. Sleep clinics are only for those with serious sleep problems. Consumers have no reliable products for sleep management. The smartphone product needed to appeal to a larger audience that includes health-conscious people, not just frustrated sleepers.

WHEN/WHERE: Zeo Mobile: Sept. 26, 2011 / Newton, MA. Company: 2004 / Providence, RI.

BACKSTORY: While taking a basic psychology class at Brown, the founders learned that if you wake up at the right time, you feel more refreshed. As sleep-deprived students, they were intrigued and began investigating technologies for measuring sleep at home. They moved the company to the Boston area for talent and the city's strong consumer-health technology scene. What is now called Zeo Bedside debuted in 2009.

BUSINESS MODEL: Selling hardware at a price to encourage widespread consumer adoption. Eventually sell sleep coaching/sleep services and apps for managing specific sleep issues like jet-lag and new parenthood. Take percentage of sales of other sleep products like the the Philips goLITE BLU energy light or a Tempur-Pedic mattress. Ben also sees a data product in the future -- drug-discovery companies and insurers have already asked for ways to access Zeo's database of nights slept.

ON PRIVACY: "We're miltant about consumer ownership of data," Ben says. "You can opt out of data aggregation no matter what."

COMPETITION: Sleep Cycle, a sleep-tracking app that use the iPhone's accelerometer to measure motion in bed, and WakeMate, which measures wrist motion.

"Our key difference on the tracking side is data accuracy, and our scientific underpinning is way ahead of the curve," says Ben. He notes they do not have competitors on sleep management -- yet.

CUSTOMERS/GROWTH: Over 500K nights of data [ not disclosing number of people. ] Current users tend to be male and older although Zeo's initial target market of frustrated sleepers tend to be older women.

HOW LONG PEOPLE USE ZEO: "Most people spend three weeks to three months using Zeo pretty intensively, then they drop off to checking one a week or so once they have their sleep under control (or they give up)," Ben explains. He adds, "As we add features to help you manage your sleep -- jet lag, relaxation, etc. -- we expect engagement to continue to rise."

GOAL: To be the Weight Watchers of sleep management.

: "We're a science-based community," Ben says. "If we don't have the support of sleep scientists and academics, we won't gain the trust of the consumer." Zeo staff attend major sleep conferences, and the company recently had its first peer-reviewed article published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

HOW ACADEMICS ARE USING ZEO: Traditional sleep studies required people sleep in a lab -- not very scalable. Researchers are using Zeo to study things like new sleep drugs, the effects of diet and exercise, and the effects of light exposure. Ben also notes that the U.S. military is using Zeo in its post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research. "Sleep is very correlated to PTSD," he says. "It's an area we never thought we'd work on."

ON THE GAME ANGLE OF ZEO: Your ZQ score -- max is 110 -- is based on the total amount of sleep with points added for restorative sleep and subtracted for disruptive sleep [ see explanation here ]. "People are addicted to that single number," says Ben, noting that many Zeo users share their number on social media. "We haven't even gotten started yet on how to apply smarter dynamics to this."

WHO BACKED IT:  ID Ventures America, Trident Capital, Best Buy Capital, Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation.


NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 25, all in Boston-area office.


Zeo Mobile doesn't come with an iPhone (in case you were wondering) -- just the headband, a charging dock for the headband and European plug adapters. Corresponding apps for your smartphone or iPad are free. Full specs here.

When you open the app, you see your most recent ZQ score and a breakdown of your sleep by hours/minutes. Press the "track sleep" button once your headband is on and you are ready to try to fall asleep.

After falling asleep with the headband on, your phone tracks your sleep by REM, light and deep, showing moments when you were awake in red. The time the alarm will go off is in blue. The alarm can go off as much as 30 minutes ahead of that time (but never past it) to ensure you wake up at the best point -- between light sleep and REM sleep.

View small sleep charts for multiple nights in the "sleep history" tab. The ZQ score for each night is along the left side. Click the arrow at the right for more detail.

The overview for one night of sleep shows your different stages, the percentages for each, your total sleep time and your ZQ score (top right).


1. "Sleep for Success: Tips from Dr. James Maas" (Zeo Knowledge Center)

2. "10 iPhone Apps for a Better Night’s Sleep" (Mashable, June 24, 2010)

3. "Hands on: the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach" (PC Magazine, July 22, 2009)


Ben Rubin
Email: ben at myzeo dot com
Twitter: @bsrubin
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bsrubin
Blog: http://bsrubin.com/

Jason Donahue
Twitter: @sleepr
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jason-donahue/1/ba/10a

Eric Shashoua
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/eric-shashoua/0/91b/a94

Twitter: @zeo
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/myZeo
Blog: http://www.myzeo.com/sleep/zeology-blog
Board of directors: http://www.myzeo.com/sleep/about-us/board-directors
Scientific advisory board: http://www.myzeo.com/sleep/about-us/scientific-advisory-board