Select Comfort Corp. may have sparked some envy among manufacturers by introducing a new children's smart bed that comes complete with monster-detection technology.
The new SleepIQ Kids bed made its debut in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where about 20,000 new products are introduced to the world each year.
The product, which took 18 months and thousands of dollars to develop, won a 2015 CES Innovations award. The bed will be available to consumers later this year at Select Comfort's 460 retail stores that operate under the name Sleep Number.
The new luxury bed for tots offers some features similar to Select Comfort's "smart" $8,000 adjustable air-filled bed for adults, which the Plymouth-based manufacturer/retailer introduced 14 months ago.
The new SleepIQ Kids bed, however, starts at just $1,000. It offers Select Comfort's traditional feature of adjusting the firmness of the bed. But it also alerts the parents when a child has slipped out of bed. It has a head-tilt feature for reading or head-cold relief and allows parents to turn off the bed's night light remotely once their child is fast asleep.
The product, available in twin, full or queen sizes, also features a wireless "dashboard" that records the child's breathing, heart rate and movement information and then issues a "sleep quality" score for each night's sleep. Parents or kids can also use the dashboard to track how sports, exercise or caffeine may affect sleep.
But perhaps best of all, the bed comes with a "Monsters Be Gone!" phone app that is designed to ease nighttime fears.
"Basically, the parents can use their phone app to 'look' under the bed. If a monster pops up, the kid can press the screen and zap it. It's pretty tongue-in-cheek," said Select Comfort spokeswoman Sarah Reckard. Also to help ease the fears of little ones is a soft under-the-bed light that illuminates the path for late-night bathroom visits while making it clear that no monsters loiter.
Financial analysts at Piper Jaffray and other equity research firms credited new sleep innovations like the SleepIQ, plus fresh advertising and fewer discounts, with turning around Select Comfort's results for two consecutive quarters. The new bed provides one more reason for consumers to reach out to the company.
"The setup for 2015 remains highly attractive," said Peter Keith, a senior research analyst for Piper Jaffray, in a note to investors last month. "We are increasingly confident of 2015 growth prospects."
Asked why a parent might spend $1,000 on a bed for a growing child, Reckard said the company's internal research shows there is demand.
"We think there is a market for this type of bed. In general, there are 2.5 million parents shopping for a bed at any given time," Reckard said. "We don't just think about this as a kid's bed. It's a bed they can even bring with them to college. It is able to adjust in firmness" so it is right for any size person.
If the company captures even 1 percent market share of the child bed industry, Select Comfort stands to gain $25 million in additional revenue each year. Officials said the new product line is one more innovative tool in growing a $1.1 billion corporation. Sales grew 20 percent last year while profits grew 13 percent amid a combination of new products and increased TV advertising.
Select Comfort CEO Shelly Ibach told analysts last month that the new bed has already driven interest and is "the only bed in the world specifically designed for kids' unique sleep needs."
And with its interactive features, Chief Product Officer Annie Bloomquist said: "The SleepIQ Kids bed turns bedtime into quality time, making it a fun, enjoyable experience."
The company designed the remote control and dashboard so that kids can begin using it on their own as early as 7 or 8 years old.