Lauren is a reporter for The Next Web, based in San Francisco. She covers the key players that make the tech ecosystem what it is right now. Lauren is a reporter for The Next Web, based in San Francisco. She covers the key players that make the tech ecosystem what it is right now. She also has a folder full of dog GIFs and uses them liberally on Twitter at @lhockenson.
There’s been an explosion of wearables for health and fitness, with a widespread mainstream adoption of step counters, heart-trackers and other gadgets designed to help you stay in peak form. But, even as both hardware and software companies clamor to capitalize on widespread interest in health data, women’s health issues remain underserved. Especially when you’re trying to get pregnant.
Now, a woman’s ear could be the key to conception.
In an effort to successfully procreate, women can use technology to gather data and pinpoint times where they are especially fertile. But to this data, women must diligently record a variety of different symptoms manually in order to determine whether they’re ovulating.
One of the most common data points is the Basal Body Temperature (BBT), or the lowest temperature of a body in a 24-hour period. Obtaining the BBT requires a woman to take her temperature when she first wakes up, before she sits up, and preferably at the same time every day.
YONO, currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, is an in-ear wearable designed to take the BBT of a sleeping woman. Slip it on at night, and the YONO tracks the body temperature to determine when it reaches its lowest point, gathering data points every five minutes. Then, in the morning, a the YONO is removed and placed on its charging cradle, which broadcasts the data from the earpiece to a mobile app via Bluetooth.
“It’s so easy to forget to take your Basal Body Temperature,”said Vanessa Xi, CEO and founder of Bay Area-based YONO Labs. “But now, the only thing users need to do every day is to wear the earbud.”
A longtime IBM employee working at the company’s Asia Pacific Headquarters in Shanghai, Xi founded YONO after her own struggles with fertility. She worked alongside medical professionals from the Bay Area to develop the wearable, considering many different design options. After testing many locations to put the device, Xi and her team settled on tracking the temperature of the inner ear.
“Our technology is quite different from infrared technology, which you see in traditional in-ear thermometers,” Xi said. “Our sensor measures the body temperature in the ear canal.”
See it in action in the video below:
The device does require you to be a relatively sound sleeper: woman’s BBT often occurs between 2am and 6am and Xi said the YONO needs a couple of hours of work to gather data points. But the earbud is designed to stay put throughout the night without canceling noise or transmitting data. But otherwise the YONO is more relaxed with data gathering — women do not need to wake up or go to sleep at strict times, or tabulate data strictly.
“They don’t even have to remember to transfer data every day,” Xi added. “Every 3 to 5 days is no problem at all.”
Once the data is transferred to the app (which will be available for both Android and iOS), YONO will determine through BBT when a woman is ovulating. Users can also input other symptoms to help augment YONO’s calculations. Xi says that YONO is smart.; after gathering data over time, it’s better at pinpointing fertility days.
For that convenience, women will pay an MSRP of $149, quite a bit more than a drugstore basal thermometer. Xi recognizes the cost involved — especially since women don’t know when their efforts will be successful. That’s why the company is starting a leasing program, which will offer women a chance to use YONO for for four months for $60 and a $15 refund per month not used if pregnancy happens quickly. The company is also marketing that it is safe to give YONO to a friend or family member after it has been used.
When it comes down to it, the YONO is clearly an option for couples who are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant, or who are sticklers for data to begin with. It’s not a must-have or even a lifetime piece of equipment. But it serves an important niche for women who are tired of tracking their data every day without assistance from smart technology.
So far, the wearable is near its goal of $30,000 with 40 days left. Enter the leasing program for $60, or access the early-bird purchase of $99.
➤ YONO Fertility Friend, a wearable basal thermometer [Kickstarter]
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