Jawbone wants to take the concept of the internet of things and adapt it to each individual’s behaviour.
“These different ‘things’ don’t have relevant context about you – in order for these things to work really well, they need to understand you really well,” says Bandar Antabi, head of special projects.
“Let’s take smart thermostats. The way they work now is they adapt to your behaviour based on how you set them. You put in a certain setting for bed, a certain setting for during the day and over time it starts automating the whole process.
“But ideally you’d want your thermostat to know whether you’re actually hot or cold. Not only that, but you’d want it to know if you’re hot because you have a temperature, or because you came in from a run or just woke up, for example. Each of these should trigger a different response, so you need to give it that sort of intelligence.”
This is where wearables, such as UP by Jawbone and the newest iteration UP24, come in. The simple rubber wristband comes with a motion sensor and, with this one sensor and the accompanying app, you can monitor sleep patterns and steps taken each day.
The sensor is smart enough to be able to tell the difference between the band being moved from side to side and actually being worn on the wrist of someone who’s walking. That sensitivity also allows it to figure out the different stages of your night’s sleep, when you’re in sound sleep and hardly moving, to when you’re tossing and turning in the middle of the night.
In order to be as unobtrusive as possible, Jawbone decided that the UP should be a relatively slim and comfortable wristband, instead of a smartwatch with a screen. The information is fed via Bluetooth to your smartphone since, as Mr Antabi points out, we’re all carrying one of those around anyway. This wearability keeps the UP on wrists 24/7, apart from the short charge cycle of around 80 minutes, which gives up to 14 days’ use.
Using a smartphone as the screen is also smart in another way as it allows Jawbone to add further features that the user can input extra information into. As well as tracking the number of steps taken during the course of each day, users can add periods of more intense exercise, whether it’s cycling, weight-lifting or Pilates. Users can also keep a food diary, by scanning barcodes, choosing from popular chain restaurant menus or just typing the name of the food.
In addition, UP delivers a great social experience to keep you motivated by adding team mates in the system to cheer on friends and see how you compare to others. You can connect with the apps and services you love, such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper or IFTTT, and discover new ones.
These additional features bump up the other side of the internet of things equation – the data. With data on sleeping, eating and exercise habits of large sets of people, Jawbone can extract trends and use the information to help inform and motivate its users to better life habits.
“We’re unique in the fact that we actually have a team of data scientists looking at the macro-level data,” says Mr Antabi. “When we were analysing trends, we realised that our female UPsters, when they go to bed before their bedtime average, end up burning more calories and being more active the next day.
“So let’s say Sarah is using her UP. It can notify her that after 50 days of use, we realised when she goes to bed even half an hour past her average bedtime, she’s losing an average of a hundred steps the next day. That’s very insightful information that she would have no way of knowing had we not been able to correlate these different datasets.”
When it comes to your wellness and health, ignorance isn’t really bliss – the more you know the better
The data has also helped lead to group challenges, which UP allows users to opt in and out of. For example, for the US holiday of Thanksgiving, Jawbone realised that, for obvious reasons, people were eating and sitting around more. The company challenged users through UP to meet their usual number of steps tracked. The 25 per cent of users that opted in ended up doing 1,500 steps more than those who didn’t, which Mr Antabi attributes to the motivational power of the data behind the challenges and living up to the challenge itself.
The company takes data privacy seriously. It is committed to erasing all the personal data of anyone who asks and demands the same commitment of partners, such as Nest, the learning thermostat company, fitness tracker RunKeeper and Whistle, a dog-monitoring device. And while it may seem like being told how to live your life by a wristband and an app could be invasive, the numbers show that people are happy to have help.
According to Thread Analytics, communications, weather and news apps are used most frequently and retain a lot of people over 90 days. But none of them keep more than 55 per cent of their users. UP is seeing 81 per cent retention and users open their app 20 times a week.
“When it comes to your wellness and health, ignorance isn’t really bliss – the more you know the better. I understand that people could think it could be invasive, but if you give them the controls to dictate how they use it, they’ll be happy with the functionality,” Mr Antabi concludes.