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New Pillows Have Features That Consumers Are Sure to Covet

New Pillows Have Features That Consumers Are Sure to Covet

Excerpt from BedTimes Magazine

Protect-A-Bed, based in Wheeling, Illinois, offers a variety of customizable or “adjustable” pillows, including one microfiber version overstuffed with 65 ounces of loose fiber and another model filled with 25 removable microfiber Support Clusters that look “kind of like Koosh balls,” explains Warrick Bell, vice president of product innovation. The company also has memory foam pillows packed with Support Clusters.

Kick-starting a high-tech pillow launch

Protect-A-Bed’s Warrick Bell has always listened to music while falling asleep. His wife likes a quieter bedroom.

“I got married and I wanted to stay married so I took apart a set of wireless headphones and put it inside my pillow,” says Bell, vice president of product innovation for the Wheeling, Illinois-based company.

That was the start of a tinkering process that would lead to ZEEQ, a “smart” pillow that plays music, monitors and responds to snoring, analyzes sleep patterns and wakes you up. It even works with Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa.

Bell created the initial prototype in 2013 and then worked with others, including Miguel Marrero, director of technology development for the company’s REM-Fit division, to develop the pillow and work out construction challenges, like how to keep sleepers from feeling the internal electronics. They ended up being encased in a memory foam egg and surrounded by customizable top and bottom compartments filled with the company’s comfort memory foam.

“We kept the consumer top of mind because comfort is personal. I like a thin pillow; others like a thick pillow,” Bell says. “We couldn’t sell a pillow for $299 and not make it adjustable.”

In what was an unusual step for a sleep products company, Protect-A-Bed launched a Kickstarter campaign in August 2016 as a way to generate interest, get feedback from “early adopters” (those tech savvy consumers who often determine whether a product flies or fails) and raise money for final product development. All told, the company raised about $500,000 through Kickstarter and pre-orders on other websites. The first pillows were delivered to early supporters in December 2016 and the product won a CES 2017 Innovation Award in the Smart Home category at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

“Protect-A-Bed is well-known in the furniture and bedding industry, but one of our goals is to expand our brand’s reach to end consumers and reach a new demographic,” Bell says. “Some millennials are never going to buy a mattress protector but they might buy a music pillow. And ZEEQ isn’t just for the millennials; it has something to appeal to every group. Snoring features might appeal to older consumers. Sleep analysis is for anyone.”

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