Jawbone Gets Into Health

 Wireless gadget creator, Jawbone, is hoping to solve the challenge of getting consumers to become engaged in their health with the introduction of UP, a device that automatically engages with consumers. UP is a small wristband designed to be worn 24/ 7 to track and record measures of health including activity, sleep and eating habits. It will be publicly available Nov. 6.

The wristband continuously records information while it nudges people toward healthy behavior change. For example, if a person has been sedentary for too long during the day, it vibrates to remind him to get up and move.  Similar to other device manufacturers trying to enter the health market, Jawbone is targeting a growing population of consumers interested in improving their health and wellness on a daily basis, outside the walls of their doctors office. The concept seems simple enough – help willing consumers make healthy choices throughout the day. However, developing devices and platforms that can keep up with and make sense of daily data isn’t easy.

The device uses technology from MotionX, the company that developed the sensing platform used by Nike+. UP’s small sensor measures calories burned, steps, distance, pace, intensity and active versus inactive time. The wristband can last up to 10 days on one charge and (unlike it’s competitors) is water resistant up to one whole meter.

The device is used along with an iPhone, iTouch or iPad app to track of users’ daily activity on the “Me” screen as well as provide a personal health timeline or “Lifeline.” Users also use their devices to create a meal log by snapping a photo of each plate. Meanwhile, the wristband observes where and when users are eating, and the app asks how they feel after digesting their food. This information is later assembled and packaged to help make better choices.

Sleep quality is measured through tracking the hours a person slept, observing the time it took a person to fall asleep and measuring deep versus light sleep. Morning is another time when UP intervenes. The wristband vibrates to rouse a person at the right moment in his natural sleep cycle.

UP also ties in social engagement. Friends can use the app to encourage each other to reach their health goals. A feed also gives up-to-date information about what other users are doing.

Jawbone is previously know for developing wireless products including ICON Bluetooth headsets. With the company’s first venture into the health care space, it offers competition for other more specialized products. Most notably, UP’s capabilities compare with Fitbit, a device that counts steps, calories and sleep cycles; Zeo, which measures sleep quality and provides tailored alarms; and The Eatery,  an iPhone app just  launched by Massive Health last week that allows users to track their eating patterns in a social photo food-log.

There’s also Basis, the wristwatch that aims to be an all-in-one health companion. It measures heart rate, calories burned, elevated physical activity, sleep, and it, too, employs a social component. It’s unknown how the Basis watch will ultimately compare to the Jawbone wristband. But, while Basis waits to ship by the end of the year at $199, Jawbone is already capitalizing on it’s first wave of customers at $99.

Price, features, design and compatibility are important, however, a critical component of any successful health device is the way it fits into daily life.  In the end, the competition might just come down to a simple waterproof test.

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