October 16, 2013, 12:03 AM — Gadgets surround us throughout our waking hours, and now they're coming to our sleep.
Through devices worn on the wrist or under a pillow, several companies offer services that track how you sleep and -- if the marketing is to be believed -- analyze the data to help you get a better night's rest.
On Thursday at the Demo conference in Silicon Valley, a new hopeful will present its sleep analysis system and launch a Kickstarter appeal to get it funded.
The device, called Bed Scales, consists of four to six sensors that sit under the legs of a bed and collect data on the sleeper's movements during the night. By sensing the amount of movement, the system can estimate the user's sleep cycle and, hopefully, wake them during a period of light sleep when they are more likely to feel refreshed rather than groggy. It also measures your weight change while you're sleeping.
"It's unobtrusive and there's nothing to wear," said Ralph Pethica, one of the people behind the product.
But the technology comes with a drawback: The sleep analysis doesn't work as well when there are two people in the bed.
The area of sleep monitoring is getting crowded as device makers and app developers turn their attention to the field. Both the Fitbit One and Jawbone Up can track the hours you sleep as well as activities like walking. The downside is they'll need to be worn at night, which some people might find uncomfortable.
Competing with the devices are a handful of apps like Sleep Cycle. They typically involve placing the phone close to a pillow so that the motion sensor in the handset can measure movement during the night. Like with Bed Scales, the movement can help determine the user's sleep status.
Bed Scales comes from the same team that produced Genetrainer, a service that provides a customized fitness program based on the results of a personal DNA test.
Genetrainer accepts results from two popular DNA analysis services, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, to attempt to determine how each user will respond to different types of exercise. It then produces a customized workout plan based on those results.
As for using DNA to help people get better sleep, Pethica didn't rule that out for the future but said it's not something that can be done now.
"We're in very early days on [DNA analysis]," he said.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is email@example.com