Jawbone’s Fitness Future: A Platform and an Acquistion

The Bluetooth audio maker is letting other apps and services talk to its Up band, and adding BodyMedia's products to the lineup.

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When you contemplate gadget maker Jawbone, it’s been reasonable to think of it as a Bluetooth audio company which has an interesting side business in the form of its Up fitness band.

Starting today, however, Jawbone’s fitness business no longer feels so much like a sideline. The company is announcing that it’s turning Up into a platform that can talk to third-party apps and devices. And it’s acquiring BodyMedia, a manufacturer of smart fitness gizmos that’s been in the game far longer than Jawbone or most other companies in the category.

The platform involves a new version of the Up app — for iOS at first, and, eventually, Android — which enables two-way communications with other products and services. Up can now exchange data with fitness apps MapMyRun (and other products from MapMyFitness), MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper; Withings’ Internet-connected scale; Wello’s video-personal trainer service; the IFTTT service for creating custom connections between all sorts of apps; and more.

Data about your activity and sleep patterns collected by Up can now be routed into other products and services, and information collected by other products and services can land in Up. (You have control over details such as whether your weight gets shared publicly, and Jawbone says that apps that use the platform must┬ástick to the same privacy policies as Up.) It’s a promising idea, especially if it’s widely supported — for now, Jawbone says that it’s being picky about which partners it approves, but it hopes to ramp up the quantity of stuff over time.

[image] BodyMedia


As for BodyMedia, its products, like Up, are wearable fitness devices. But they have surprisingly little in common with Jawbone’s current gadget, and in some ways they’re far more sophisticated: they’re sensor-laden armbands which monitor factors such as skin temperature, and have been certified by the FDA as Class I Medical Devices. For now, the BodyMedia devices will continue on in their existing form, but it’s not hard to imagine future gizmos that meld BodyMedia’s advanced technologies with Jawbone’s slick design.

As a user of fitness gadgets, apps and services, what I’d like to see is the ability for everything to talk to everything. Why shouldn’t I buy and use both a FitBit scale and an Up band, even though FitBit and Jawbone are archrivals? Jawbone’s new platform won’t make that happen — unless both FitBit and Jawbone decide it’s in their own best interests — but it’s a meaningful baby step in the right direction.