While there are already a handful of devices that claim to improve our sleep quality, one little startup from Hong Kong's Brinc IoT accelerator thinks that it can do a better job. Kello is a sleep trainer that comes in the form of an internet radio alarm slash Bluetooth speaker slash home automation hub, and unlike some of the competition, it doesn't use any bed sensor, clip-on device nor wearable to track the user's sleep activity. Instead, it's all about leveraging "simple, effective and scientifically proven techniques" from specialists to help us sleep faster, wake up better and ultimately change our lifestyle.
Admittedly, I was skeptical at first, because surely the more tracking data the better? Antoine Markarian, Kello's CEO and Deezer's former Head of Devices, disagrees. "You have this connected mattress, you know that you woke up six times, but what are you going to do with [this data]?"
Maybe he has a point. What's more important is to actually tackle the root of the problem: It could have something to do with one's irregular bed times or bad habit of staring at the smartphone while in bed (which suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy). Similarly, it turns out that hitting the snooze button in the morning only makes us sleepier: You're effectively confusing your brain just as it's switching between the wake-up phase and sleeping phase, therefore it's actually harder to wake up the second time you hit the button, plus the super short periods of sleep serve no purpose to your well-being. So basically, we also need to rely less on the snooze button.
To solve these issues plus other sleep-related pain points, Kello Labs surveyed over 10,000 people and ended up with six default (and rather self-explanatory) programs for its device: "Bedtime Alert," "Fall Asleep Fast," "Fight Jet Lag," "Power Naps," "Wake Up Earlier" and "Snooze Less." These work alongside each other, and more will be added at a later date.
The most important feature here is perhaps the "Fall Asleep Fast" program, which can be toggled with a long press on the Kello's shell. This is basically a breathing exercise that uses both the LED display and soothing music -- be it from the preloaded library, Deezer, Spotify, Soundcloud, Tidal or even just muted -- to slow you down to the ideal six breaths per minute. The startup claims that this will make you fall asleep 2.5 times faster than usual (provided that you leave your phone to a side, of course). "Power Naps," on the other hand, simply "plays the right music for the right amount of sleep" for a quick charge during the day.
As mentioned earlier, regular bed times also contribute to high quality sleep. To help us achieve this, "Bedtime Alert" tells you via both the app and the device's LED screen -- in the form of a starry sky -- when it's time for bed. When you're ready, just tap Kello to check in, so that it logs your bed time for future adjustment.
As a jet-setter, I'm a fan of the "Fight Jet Lag" program. A week before your trip, simply tell the companion app where you are, where you're going, when you're going and how long you're staying there, and it'll set reminders for sleeping plus daylight exposure to help you adjust to the new time zone, in order to minimize jet lag. It's worth noting here that you're not expected to bring Kello with you on your trip, as these reminders will be served by the app alone, but personally I think I would like to bring the device with me -- I'll just have to throw the power adapter into the suitcase as well.
This leaves us with "Wake Up Earlier" and "Snooze Less" for the mornings. The former lets you set a personal wake-up goal, so that Kello can shave off a few minutes from the previous alarm time every day to let you slowly adjust. This is apparently more effective than trying to jump directly to your new desired wake-up time, as you may just end up snoozing your way back to your current one.
Speaking of which, "Snooze Less" is a gamification program that limits the number of time you can hit the snooze button (which is just the shell on Kello) each week, so if you want, you can save up snoozes as a reward for the weekend. For those who are up for a challenge, you can even set it to play bizarre music or even motivational speeches after the first snooze, but this might not go down well for those who share a bedroom with someone else.
As a bonus, Kello comes with a USB port (5V/1.5A) on the back to let you charge up your phone over night. For those who want to dabble with home automation, Kello also supports IFTTT, SmartThings and Philips Hue, meaning you can set it to automatically turn on the lights and even brew coffee when the alarm goes off, or assign the shell's double-tap input to toggle other actions -- be it for locating your phone, toggling the air conditioner, adjusting the thermostat, turning on the TV and more.
As with all fitness products, Kello ultimately requires self-discipline from the user. After all, its goal is to change your lifestyle for better sleep. If you think this is something that will suit you, it's currently available on Kickstarter for $109 per unit, with the color options being "Mint Green," "Cerulean Blue" and "Pearl Grey." Expect it to deliver in March next year.