Imagine gradually waking from a long slumber to discover that, without even removing your blankets, the bedroom lights have begun turning on and the coffee maker in the kitchen has started brewing a fresh blend. It might sound futuristic but according to Jawbone product VP Travis Bogard the technology is already here.
Today, the San Francisco-based company introduced the UP24, the next generation of its popular UP fitness band. The wearable device, which wraps around your wrist to track your daily activity and sleep patterns in real time, is yet another entry to the already crowded quantified-self space, which includes competitors such as the Fitbit Flex and Nike FuelBand. While the UP24 solves many of its predecessor’s pain points, from Jawbone’s perspective, the larger significance of the device is that it’s more than just a novel tool for techies and health nuts. Rather, the UP24 could be at the heart of the connected home, enabling what Bogard refers to as “the Internet of me.”
Fewer Annoying Interactions (Finally)
The UP24 itself is a beautiful band. Designed by Yves Béhar, the device’s licorice skin clutches your wrist snugly. The form factor is the same as before, but it feels more solid–the button on the device’s end has been shaved down, for example–and features a wavy texture instead of the original herringbone pattern. As you go about your day, the UP24 ($149) silently tracks steps taken, calories burned, and hours active.
The biggest change is that UP24 now comes equipped with Bluetooth, allowing the wristband to wirelessly and seamlessly sync its data with your smartphone. Before, just finding out how many hours you slept was a huge hassle: Users needed to take off the band; remove a cap on the end of the UP; plug it into a smartphone via the headphone jack; open the UP app; sync the data; remove the device; re-cap and slip it back over the wrist. It sounds like a minor inconvenience but over time–having to go through this process multiple times per day if not dozens of times per week–that minor inconvenience became a serious deal breaker.
Now, though, Jawbone captures your data in real time–no more uncapping and plugging and re-capping and and so forth. Just open the UP app and the UP24 will immediately feed it your data.
Passive Updates for an Active Life
Even better, your smartphone will now start to collect your activity data passively in the background, enabling Jawbone to provide instant feedback automatically. “When I wake up, my first question is, How did I sleep? Now, right there on my [smartphone] home screen is the summary of last night’s sleep–no need to plug UP in,” Bogard says.
In the same way that Foursquare is now passively pushing restaurant and bar recommendations to your smartphone based on your location, Jawbone can now push health and wellness tips to your phone based on your activity. Throughout the day, the UP app will gently nudge you with tips, suggesting, based on your data, say, “drink more water” or “try to take more steps to meet your daily goal.” A feature called “Today I Will” aims to keep you honest: If your goal is to get eight hours of sleep, the app might suggest a specific bed time. (The new UP app can also capture sleep data if you forget to enter sleep mode before going to bed.)
But the notifications aren’t designed to be like a drill instructor or nagging parent making you feel guilty. “We’re being smart about when we do this,” Bogard says. “We’ll nudge you at a moment that has most impact, and we spent a lot of time finding the boundary of what’s achievable. If you’re daily goal is 10,000 steps, and [it’s very late at night] and you’re only at 2,000, hitting you up with a notification would be annoying. Telling you you’ve failed is not useful–that’s not the goal.”
While not perfect, UP24 does remove a significant amount of friction from the experience and also doubles down on the device’s screenless form factor. Unlike Jawbone’s rivals Nike and Fitbit, which feature displays on their wristbands, Jawbone believes the iPhone is the major point of interaction, delivering at-a-glance updates. The lack of a display is still a problem: You can’t get real-time updates unless you have your phone with you. Without it, the UP24 is mute. The Nike FuelBand’s data is arguably more superficial, but having it displayed instantly on a color display makes it far more accessible and fun–and its point system makes it feel more like a game and less like a competition to burn calories.
To Bogard, however, the screen wasn’t worth the potential costs to the form factor. “We’ve done all this while maintaing the form factor and not growing it,” he says. “We think the size is inherently what makes this wearable.”
It’s the Internet of Me, Stupid
The trend of “the Internet of things” is here. We have Nest’s thermostat that automatically adjusts our home energy consumption; we have Withings’s scale that tweets our weight; and a whole host of Kickstarter-funded projects that are turning the sci-fi concept of the connected home into a reality. At the center, Bogard says, could be wearable devices, which more and more know the crucial details of our lives and are more and more on person 24/7.
Initially, I’m skeptical of Bogard’s pitch. The smartphone (or perhaps smartwatches, if any company can ever make a decent one) is clearly more at the center of our lives, aware of our location and every movement. But because the UP24 speaks seamlessly with your smartphone, there are many promising applications for the device beyond fitness. “With the real-time aspect of UP24, you start to see a glimpse of where the world can go,” Bogard says.
Because UP24 tracks your sleep patterns and REM cycles, it knows the perfect time for you to wake up feeling the most refreshed. What if the lights dimmed on to help you rise from sleep? With the UP platform, and with apps like IFTTT (If This Then That), it’s now possible. Once the UP24 triggers its sleep alarm, it can tell another app on your iPhone to turn on the lights. Bogard envisions myriad applications. “What if when I get out of bed in the morning, my coffee maker turns on? Or if the act of putting my UP into sleep mode at night [automatically] makes sure the locks are locked on the front door?” he wonders. With tools like August, the smart lock also designed by Yves Béhar, these use cases are quickly becoming a reality.
“This ‘Internet of things’ trend starts to transition into the ‘Internet of me,'” Bogard says. “It’s all enabled by enabled by this [UP24 device] that has this great context around you and what you’re doing at this moment.”