You snooze you don't lose

These 10 companies using tech for a better night's sleep are competing in Houston this weekend

Ever thought about using tech for a better night's sleep? The Sleep Show might be for you. Courtesy of the Sleep Show

Tech has affected every aspect of our lives, from the way we get our groceries or order food to how we meet a mate. So, it only makes sense that there is developing technology focused on improving the way we sleep.

This weekend, the Sleep Show is taking over George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, and 28 sleep tech products are competing on Saturday, March 9, for the National Sleep Foundation's SleepTech Award. Here are 10 of the award's semi-finalists that aren't snoozing on innovation.

TimeShifter 

Courtesy of the Sleep Show

Jetlag is a thing of the past if you use TimeShifter before, during, and after your trip. You program your plans in the app, and it offers you advice and recommendations for overcoming jetlag.

SleepScore

Photo via sleepscore.com

Another free app, SleepScore delivers advice and analytics for your regular night's sleep. the program is backed by science and doesn't require the user to wear anything or put anything in their bed. A bedside monitor us also used to detect light or sound in the bedroom for better analytics.

Embr

Courtesy of the Sleep Show

Everybody has their own optimized sleeping temperature, and it's difficult to control it from a larger scale heating and cooling system. The Embr Wave, developed by MIT scientists, is a personal thermostat you wear on your wrist. There's no bright screen either, and users simply press and hold the device if they are too hot or too cold.

Biostrap

Photo via biostrap.com

Another wearable, Biostrap is a sleep and fitness tracker that can provide precise vitals — such as heartbeat — using a clinical-quality PPG sensor, which runs on light-based technology. The data can be used for sleep analysis, heart rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen saturation, and respiratory rate.

Kryo Inc.'s ChiliPad

Courtesy of the Sleep Show

The ChiliPad is for sleepers who need to chill out. The blanket, which is the size of half of a queen bed — perfect for couples with different temperature needs — can regulate temperatures between 55 and 110 degrees.

Somnox

Courtesy of the Sleep Show

​Touted as the world's first sleep robot, the Somnox Sleep Robot is your high-tech cuddle buddy and little spoon. It syncs your breathing to that of the machine's and puts you straight into a relaxed state with soothing sounds. You can program your robot for a night's sleep, a quick nap, or just a relaxation period. You also tell the robot how long you want the sleep synchronization for, before it automatically shuts off.

BreatheSimple

Photo via breathesimple.com

Another breathing technology is BreatheSimple, a free app that helps train you to optimize your breathing. The app is currently available on iOS, and will soon be an option for Android users.

Nanit

Photo via nanit.com

Babies need sleep tech too, and Nanit as an over-the-crib monitor made to record, track, and offer guidance for parents on their baby's sleeping. The device was actually named by TIME Magazine as one of the "Best Inventions of 2018".

URGONight

Photo via urgonight.com

You can train yourself to be a better sleeper with URGONight. The headpiece syncs with a mobile app and, in about three months, you'll be a professional sleeper.

SonicTonic

Photo via sonictonic.io

Sounds are so important to humans' ability to relax. SonicTonic aims to help users truly relax their minds for a good night's rest and treat anxiety, depression, phobias, and more.


Michael Heckman shares about some exciting new aspects of Houston's 11th annual Comicpalooza. Courtesy of Houston First

Eleven years ago, Comicpalooza was a small event held out in Katy. Over the past few years, with the help of Houston First Corp., the three-day conference has grown to be so big, the 2019 programming will spill out of George R. Brown Convention Center and into Discovery Green, and attract over 50,000 attendees.

"These comic conventions used to just be for the hardcore pop culture fans. What we've attempted to do is make it so there's something for everyone," says Michael Heckman, Comicpalooza president and senior vice president at Houston First. "As a casual pop culture fan, there's a lot to see and do."

The festivities take place Friday, May 10, to Sunday, May 12, and include some big name events. Two Game of Thrones stars — Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) and Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei) — will be on a panel, and ESPN will host its first collegiate esports competition.

Heckman tells InnovationMap more about these big events and how Comicpalooza has transformed over the years.

InnovationMap: How the event has grown over the past decade? 

Michael Heckman: We've really worked hard to increase the impact of the event. There's a lot of out of town visitors that do come in — it has north of a $20 million economic impact every year. When you look at an event that is held during a traditionally slow period of time, it's a really big deal for the hotels and restaurants. The other part about it is when you're able to bring big stars to Houston, they're tweeting about it and posting Instagram stories about it. It does a lot to shine a spotlight on Houston's reputation and image.

IM: What are you most excited about for this year?

MH: It's a big sprawling event that takes place across all 1.2 million square feet of GRBCC. I'm excited about a few things. First, we've got the two folks from Game of Thrones. To be able to get Emilia Clarke in the middle of the final season of Game of Thrones, with only two episodes to go — the hype has been unbelievable. To be able to have a pop culture phenomenon like that come here to Houston — and it will be her first fan event. She's done the San Diego Comic Con, but that was more of a media event.

We've also got the ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship held here. We've done esports and gaming over the past few years, but it's a growth area for the event. To be able to hold that event with dozens of championships from around the country for this inaugural event is very exciting.

What a lot of people don't know is there are so many interesting aspects to Comicpalooza — from literature tracks to a film festival to a makerspace. There are hundreds of exhibitors on the expo showfloor, but there's an area carved out for makers. We have NASA, a cultural arts avenue, there's something for everyone. We're really looking forward to a blockbuster year.

IM: What did it mean for Houston to get ESPN’s collegiate esports program? 

MH: Esports is rapidly growing. That marketplace is developing very quickly. A lot of people and a lot of cities are figuring out what that means. We've understood the value of it for Comicpalooza for a number of years. ESPN is making a big investment — it's their first ever event of this nature, but it won't be their last.

IM: How did it come about?

MH: We've been talking to a number of folks across the landscape about how to best utilize the space that we have at GRBCC and find an opportunity that was a good fit for us. A couple people we were talking to out on the West Coast who connected us to the ESPN people, who happen to be the same division of ESPN that partners with the Houston Texans on a couple things. There's some synergies there, and they're familiar with Houston.

IM: How would you describe Comicpalooza's economic impact on Houston?

MH: Around 20 to 30 percent for the audience of Comicpalooza comes from outside of Houston. Last year, we had attendees from 47 states and 17 countries. It gives great exposure to the city, and the money they leave behind is valuable from an economic impact perspective. We think our numbers will be somewhat similar to last year.

If you look at the long term vision of what this could be, we have a beautiful campus for this event. We've moved some of our programming outside GRBCC onto the Avenida Plaza that connects to Discovery Green. If we have a full campus-wide event, that's something that's highly attractive. You grow that attendance, get up to 70 or 80 thousand people — that's a mega event. It's a snowball — once you get it started and then it just takes off. We're not there yet, but we've had really smart growth.

IM: How is the city as a whole preparing for the event?

MH: Houston's really good about handling events. It takes everything from the fire department to the police department and traffic control and 700 event volunteers — over 2,000 shifts. It's such a big footprint — it's kind of all hands on deck. It also looks like we'll have Astros at home and the Rockets playing game six of the playoffs at home. This major super block in downtown will be absolutely electric this weekend.

IM: What other events are you looking to bring to Houston?

MH: We'll always be chasing our conventions we have here. Our convention sales team looks to break another record this year. We have a lot of major events upcoming — from the college football playoff to the men's basketball Final Four, and we'll eventually pursue another Super Bowl. As we look to develop our portfolio of events that we manage here, there's a lot of opportunities here for events centered around innovation. There's a lot of talk around how Houston needs to have a better reputation for innovation. We've got aerospace, medical, oil and gas — what's an event we can create or partner on that could highlight Houston's innovation.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.