This morning, Jawbone, maker of the UP activity monitoring wristband, revealed that the device is now tracking more than a billion steps every day. With so much exercise, you’d think UP users would be exhausted–well, UP is now tracking 610,000 hours of sleep daily, too–but when it comes to Jawbone, the company is far from slowing down. The impressive stats are only a tiny part of the day’s announcements.
Most significantly, Jawbone today announced that it will acquire BodyMedia to bolster its efforts in the wearable technology space. From the deal, which knowledgeable sources say was worth upward of $100 million, Jawbone is gaining a roster of talent and a company with more than a decade of experience in body monitoring technology, including 87 patents issued. But as if a nine-figure acquisition wasn’t enough, Jawbone also today introduced the UP platform, which is giving third-party developers the opportunity to integrate with Jawbone’s software. The moves position Jawbone as an increasingly powerful player in wearable tech–not just as a data powerhouse but as the foundation for a growing ecosystem of services.
“I think of this space in phases. We are in the early formative phase,” says Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman. “The next phase in this market is going to be around multiple sensors, where you have a lot more data coming out of this system from all of these different things. The third phase is connecting all of that data to really useful applications and services. So I think we have phases two and three of this market locked up now from an IP perspective and a science and technology perspective.”
Right now, UP can measure everything from your sleep patterns to distance traveled to calories burned. But the acquisition of BodyMedia, a company which has been doing similar work in the space since 1999, will open the company up to a swath of new data. Just how much data? Its monitors have collected more than 500 trillion body sensor data points. “That’s trillion,” Rahman repeats for emphasis.
What does this mean for Jawbone? “This is ultimately about the data and what we do with the data to give value back to the users,” Rahman says. While BodyMedia will continue to offer its own branded products–such as armband activity trackers and smartphone apps–the data it collects “are going to plug into a unified services ecosystem; that’s what’s really important,” Rahman adds. “The data will be shared across all the different types of applications.”
He describes the long-term vision for the combined companies. “Once you add all of these signals from BodyMedia, then it can get super interesting,” Rahman explains. “We can start to put all these pieces together and now tell you, ‘When your temperature rose this much, you slept this way, and you’re moving here, and you were in this city, it triggered these responses. That’s where you get very rich insight.”
In other words, the feedback Jawbone is able to give its users is likely to become not only more accurate but more valuable. While companies like Nike have pushed to enter the activity tracking space as well, some critics say products like FuelBand are not serious health and wellness solutions. But Jawbone’s acquisition of BodyMedia foreshadows a future when its products may be used for medical purposes–some believe health insurance companies could be using digital fitness tools to calculate premiums down the road, for example.
“BodyMedia has invested a ton in medical-grade products–they have FDA approval,” Rahman says. “They understand how to run a clinical trial with hospitals and wellness providers.”
Though hardware products such as UP, FuelBand, and Fitbit often get the most attention, there’s a slew of fitness products and services that are growing in popularity. Consumers use RunKeeper as a sort iPhone personal trainer; they use Sleepio to improve sleep practices; they use Withings to track weight loss. But despite the fact that all these products are designed to track and improve health and wellness, none of them are able to talk to each other. Jawbone aims to change that.
To that end, the company also today introduced its UP platform and unveiled its first 10 partners, which include Runkeeper, Sleepio, and Withings. Now, instead of having separate apps and services tracking your activity and disparately collecting data, Jawbone has enabled third parties to start integrating these experiences. “These are things that our users have been asking for because they use and love these apps, but in the past, they’ve had to choose which ones they want to use,” says Jawbone product management director Brad Kittredge. “The intention here is to extend the UP experience by pulling in additional signals from other experiences.”
Now, instead of tracking your weight on Withings and calories on UP, the experiences can be combined using Jawbone’s “bi-directional API,” according to Kittredge, which allows for data to be shared between services. Users merely have to authorize the UP app to sync with another service, and the sharing can begin. Like Jawbone’s acquisition of BodyMedia, Kittredge believes the partnerships will give its users better feedback. “We can take this massive volume of data analyze it, and use it in a really productive way in your experience,” he says.
Rahman stresses that the experiences will be “totally syndicated,” opening up the possibility for all types of data sharing. To wit: One of Jawbone’s launch partners is IFTTT, a services that allows users to glue two products together. For example, using IFTTT (which stands for “If This Then That”), the UP app can be connected to Foursquare, so every check-in at a restaurant or gym will log an event on UP, rather than having to open both services and manually enter the data yourself. Other launch partners include Wello, Notch, MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, LoseIt, and Maxwell Health.
The UP platform will be available on iOS at launch, though an Android port and an open API, Rahman and Kittredge promise, are coming in the future.