This week in Alec’s Tech Corner we’re going to dive into yet another wearable stress management device: the Lief Smart Patch.

If you read my last review, you might be sensing a “wearables” and “stress management” theme. Well, you’re not wrong! Wearable tech is an industry projected to reach $34 billion by 2020, and with 18% of Americans experiencing stress-related anxiety issues, the intersection of these two topics makes for some exciting alternatives for managing stress!

Unlike most wearables on the current market, the Lief doesn’t live on your wrist or clipped to your pocket. The small, flexible device attaches right below your pectoral muscle using adhesive patches that snap into the back of the casing. While the Lief is meant to be worn all day, its 6mm height and flexible form factor will have you forgetting it’s even there.

“But why would I stick this bulky thing to my torso? Why not wear one of the many stress-management wearables on my wrist?”

Ah, I’m glad you asked.

While there are many wearable watches/wrist straps that claim to accomplish similar feats of mood and stress enhancement, the Lief takes it a step further with medical-grade ECG hardware.

Overkill…? No, HRV.

HRV, or Heart Rate Variability, measures the time between each adjacent beat of the heart. Different from Heart Rate, HRV is becoming a more commonly recognized biomarker of stress and disorder within your body’s autonomic nervous system. Dozens of existing wrist wearables claim to measure the same data, but none match the accuracy attained by the Lief’s superior hardware.

The Lief’s high-end tech is coupled with some pretty advanced software to boot. Unlike most of the competitors in the stress-management-wearables market, the Smart Patch can operate without any stimuli from the end user. When the Leif senses your HRV is too low, it discretely vibrates with your heart’s restorative rhythm. After three minutes of exhaling with the vibration, your HRV is back to a comfortable level allowing you freedom from stress and anxiety.

While situational stress relief is something our over-worked, under-slept society has longed for, it doesn’t stop there! Lief offers additional three minute exercises aimed at long term results; Nudge helps kick bad habits and maintain new ones, Resilient helps develop a calmer nervous system and mental state, Control teaches self-regulation of your heart rate, and Calm uses deep breathing to relax the mind.

Thanks to its 64mb internal flash storage, the Lief can operate and store data without the app for up to a week. This opens the doors to phoneless runs/workouts, while still gathering personal health data. However, the accompanying app is not a feature to ignore.

The Lief support app, developed by Stanford and UCSF clinicians, catalogs your Lief data into easy-to-read graphs and charts. Tracking your stress management progress over time, the app also makes records of your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sensations!


Practicality: 4/5
Lief’s minimal user interaction properties make a great argument for discrete daily usage, and its form-fitting design seems to be comfortable under clothing. In the case of users who are in need of a holistic approach to their stressful life, this seems like a no-brainer. However to the general population simply looking to have better control over their nervous system, the Lief could cause an issue with form-fitting clothing, metal detectors, etc. This is only a minor gripe, which is why I’m still rating Lief’s practicality at four out of five.

Cost Effectiveness ($299/399): 4/5
At about $300 per unit (on sale right now for $229!), the Lief is no stocking-stuffer. But with the clear superiority in not only hardware but also in software, the cost is manageable. With multiple studies to back up its effectiveness, Lief could save thousands of dollars otherwise spent on medications and therapy. Similarly priced to the Buzzies stress management wearables we reviewed last week, Lief offers much more functionality and discretion for the dollar.

Affected Markets: 5/5
In the past few years, many tech companies have developed wearable personal health devices in an attempt to give the user more control over their physical and mental well-being. While Lief offers exponentially more information regarding personal health, it would still be a far cry to say that it will put therapists out of business. Rather, the Lief will most likely end up being used in tandem with professional psycho-therapy, and potentially even in an insurance-backed prescription model. The $399 Lief Pro model includes a web-based dashboard that syncs with the smart patch and allows exporting data into third-party programs, making remote monitoring and logging by a health professional possible.

Go-to-Market Feasibility: 5/5
Featured as one of KickStarter’s “Projects We Love,” Lief blew their original goal of $50,000 out of the water by eight times, finishing with $405,922! This relentless support indicates just how ready the public is for some insight into how their thoughts affect their body.

The Lief Smart Patch is a substantial step towards the future of autonomous health care. Scientific advances have expanded the known set of variables that affect physical and mental health to include many previously overlooked factors. Proprietary features like mood and thought tracking set Lief miles above the rest of the wearables, and are likely to infiltrate the toolkits of health professionals everywhere. As noted in the KickStarter page, development of sleep tracking is the next order of business for Lief.

We’re going to keep an eye on this company, as there is much more greatness to come.

1/24: After reaching out to the Lief Theraputics team, I can now confirm that their next production run of Smart Patches will now be waterproof. Chalk up another point for functionality!