When the San Francisco Bay Area suffered its worst earthquake in 25 years on Sunday, with a 6.0 rattler in the Napa Valley, one company found themselves in an unusual place to collect data on the tragedy: Wireless device maker Jawbone. The creators of the popular Jawbone Up device have access to aggregate fitness information from hundreds of thousands of users, and an active data science department able to garner insights from those aggregates.
Less than a day after the earthquake, Jawbone’s data science team released a report on how the Napa earthquake effected sleepers in Northern California. As Fast Company’s Chris Gayomali reports, Jawbone was able to collect data from thousands of customers in the earthquake zone in near-real time. The data showed 93% of users in the cities closest to the earthquake epicenter (San Francisco suburbs Napa, Sonoma, Vallejo, and Fairfield) waking up when the quake struck at 3:20 a.m., slightly more than 55% of users in San Francisco and Oakland waking up, and the "earthquake effect" tapering off in faraway-from-the-epicenter Modesto and Santa Cruz.
Eugene Mandel, a data scientist at Jawbone, told Co.Labs via Twitter that the information was collected from users whose Jawbone Up devices synced with the company’s servers following the earthquake. The popular wristband-style devices sync by connecting to the 3.5mm earphone jack of a smartphone, which then sends information along to the company.
Because Jawbone Ups are worn by hundreds of thousands of users and are intended for around-the-clock use, Jawbone (along with rivals like Fitbit) are able to collect impressive amounts of data that, in aggregate, can be used to spot trends and unexpected activity among users. In Jawbone’s case, they operate a popular Tumblr featuring infographics designed around their data team’s research.
According to Jawbone’s vice president of data, the data they get from users allows her team to find insights that no one else can obtain. Monica Rogati (one of Fast Company’s 2014 Most Creative People), explained to Co.Labs earlier this year that this both allows her team to conduct original research for the sake of research, and to turn usage trends into better products and user experiences.
"The data we see at Jawbone is very big, and is very much about us as people. Thanks to sensors being on your body 24/7, we can see a much bigger and accurate picture of your life than other sources," Rogati added. "We are the world’s biggest sleep study of sorts, and analyze centuries of sleep data each night."
When Co.Labs spoke with Rogati, she mentioned some of the more interesting insights Jawbone was able to collect on users by leveraging both sensor data and users’ self-reported diet and exercise information. Women tend to get 20 more minutes of sleep daily than men, while men who drink beer before sleeping have approximately one hour less of sleep per night.
But most interestingly for Jawbone, they accidentally found out which sports matches interrupt sleep patterns for users: In 2013, the company’s customers lost more sleep over the Super Bowl than over the World Series.