The Sense sleep tracking system is a product from Hello. Hello is a San Francisco based startup that was fueled by a $2 million dollar kickstarter campaign, the goal being to create a sleep analyzer that was non wearable and integrates into the bedroom environment. Essentially, this device is an all in one sleep tracking and environmental analyzer.
With so few device dedicated to sleep tracking on the market, I couldn’t wait to give this product a try. Read on to see our sense sleep review.
The Sense hardware is divided into 2 pieces: a small spherical orb about the size of an orange and a small button shaped device called a “pill”.
The device looks more like a knick-knack or decoration than a sleep tracker. It has a unique design that is quite pleasing to the eye. The orb has a criss cross pattern that resembles a ball of yarn. The orb itself comes in 2 colors: cotton or charcoal. Unless you have a lot of black in your room you’ll probably want to opt for the white one. The only downside to the white version is fingerprint smudging, although you shouldn’t have to touch the sphere itself too much as it is mostly motion controlled. Simply waving your hand in front of it will allow you to check the current status. Any other functions are controlled through the app.
The sphere serves a number of functions, chief among them being the ability to measures things like relative humidity, light, ambient temperature, environmental noise, and air quality. Additionally, the Sense has a built in microphone so you will be able to see if any noises are causing you to wake up prematurely. The microphone is able to differentiate between things like snoring or loud noise, which is a definite plus.
As for the actual sensor, the Sense uses whats called a "pill". The pill is a palm sized white button shaped device that is supposed to clip onto your pillow at night. The advantage to this is that the sensor doesn’t have to be in contact with your body, unlike a fitness band or smart watch. As far as actual implementation, I found it to be difficult and finicky to attach to our pillows. However once it was on the device felt very secure and I had no issues with it falling off at night.
The pill contains an accelerometer, which is a device that measures movement. The idea behind the pill is that it will monitor how often you turn over or get up during the night.
The 2 devices will sync to any smartphone via Bluetooth and for easy access to all of your metrics. The pill needs to be shaken while the orb is in pairing mode. I had no trouble getting the devices paired to my phone or synced with my Wi-Fi.
The Sense will actively scan your room environment to give you an idea of what to improve on. The built in led will change colors when it does this. A green light signifies peak efficiency, while a yellow/orange one will mean it’s time to check the app and see what’s wrong.
Overall, I found the active monitoring to be a little sluggish. When looking at the app in real time I noticed it would display my current room condition about 1-3 minutes behind. If I turned on some music it would still display the room condition as “quiet” for a few minutes until the sensor was able to catch up. I tested this multiple times by getting out of bed a few times and turning the lights on during the night. There always seemed to a delay. This may just be a software issue but it is worth noting none the less.
I have also found that the device can be a bit rigid in its calculations and doesn’t allow much room for error. For instance, if you happen to like sleeping with a night light you can expect the Sense will not like this and it may even change the Led to orange. It would have been nice to have a setting in the app or something that changes the room’s base conditions. Hopefully Hello will add something like this in a future update.
Hello claims the Sense is able to detect the best time to wake you up during your sleeping pattern. The idea behind this is that the sensor will be able to wake you right after your REM sleep cycle is finished. This is a fairly common feature eon sleep trackers but the Sense alarm can be a little slow due to its sluggish sensor. The feature works fairly well if but it will depend on how heavy of a sleeper you are. I am a pretty light sleeper and tend to wake up often so it didn’t really work well for me.
Additionally, the Sense allows for setting up of multiple alarms. They are all based of different sounds such as birds or the standard alarm clock noise. You can also do a Led alarm, which will change the orb to a soft blue during your scheduled wake up time.
The Sense app is available for both Android and iOS. As for the initial set up, it is fairly simple: the app will ask you to fill in your age/weight/height. It will also ask you a few questions about your usual bedtimes and how good or bad your last night’s sleep was. Once you have it set, the app will send you a steady stream of observations about your sleeping patterns. I found these to be a little vague. For instance, I would sometimes get a "your room envioirnment is too noisy" messeges, but elimanting the noise did not seem to improve my sleeping score any.
Also, the Sense app will give you a general timeline of your nights rest. It will also keep a detailed log of all “events” such as movement and noises and give you a “sleep score”, which is somewhat vague in the fact that is only gives a number between 1 and 100. Supposedly this sleep score is the sum of all of the data gathered by the various sensors during the night. I found that it tends to weigh total sleep time pretty heavily into the score equation – when I slept for more than 7 hours I noticed I always got a score of at least 70 or so. It did not seem to matter if I had many interruptions or noises during the night.
The app will often spit out messages that are based on an aggregate of other Sense users. You will see things like “you get up during the night 19% more than other users”. I’m not sure how helpful such a feature is but it’s a nice touch none the less.
I liked that the app offers the option of receiving alerts when certain bedroom conditions are not ideal. This can be handy if you sleep with your smartphone near you.
Overall, the app is well designed but a little bit limited. Considering all it does is track sleep, you would expect to be able to see a much larger amount of details, but this is not the case. You also cannot export the data at all – this can be annoying if you are trying to use the device in conjunction with a fitness band.
Hello has a rather unique product here – it is the one of the few devices that doesn’t require a bulky wrist or bed strap. That said, it is mainly an accelerometer based sleep tracker with noise and environmental tracking thrown in. Acceleromneters are already a feature of most fitness bands. While I realize Hello was going for a completely non-intrusive device, it would have been nice to be able to pair a heart rate tracker with the sphere for more accurate metrics.
The sheer amount of things that the Sense can track is pretty impressive but they are not represented well in the app and the slight sensor delay can throw things off a little.
For the most part, the Sense is a decent product, but it is a little rough around the edges. Hopefully with continual updates this device will be able to show its true potential in time. I would recommend this device to someone who is just getting into fitness tracking and is looking for a dedicated device that is simple to use and easy to set up.
To learn more about sleep trackers check out our detailed guide here.