Just an hour ago on stage at TED Global, Jawbone announced the grand project they've been quietly working on for years: A wearable band called Up, which is infused with sensors and smartphone connected, allowing you to track your eating, sleeping, and activity patterns.
"The interest grew when people realized how large this market is."
"The CDC says that for the first time in history, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes are killing more people than communicable diseases," Travis Bogard, Jawbone's VP of product management, tells Co.Design. "We're trying to solve that problem." The Up's sensors collect data about how much you've been sleeping and how much you've been moving. That data is then fed into a smartphone app, which also takes in information about your meals. (You enter meal data manually, in part by taking pictures of what you've eaten.) Based on all that information, the smartphone program provides "nudges" meant to help you live healthier, day by day. For example, if you haven't slept much, when you wake up the app might suggest a high-protein breakfast and an extra glass of water.
Up's announcement finally explains the $120 million in venture capital cash that Jawbone has raised in the last four months. (That $120 million is more than double all the venture backing Jawbone received in it's first 11 years in business.) And it represents an entirely new space for the company with more potential than any it's tackled before, including Bluetooth headsets and speakers. "The interest grew when people realized how much work we've done in body computing and how large this market is," explains Bogard.
The product was designed by Yves Behar's Fuseproject, but the software was developed by Jawbone's current CTO, Jeremiah Robison, who joined the company recently after serving as CTO of social-gaming company Slide. For the sensors, Jawbone tapped the expertise of Philippe Kahn, the CEO of Fullpower Technologies, a pioneering company in sensor development.
Although it looks like a chic sibling to the Jawbone headset, Bogard points out that the product isn't meant to speak only to fashion-conscious city slickers who've supported Jawbone's baseline products. Rather, it'll be "affordable" and come in a range of colors, and it's meant to become a seamless accessory rather than a fashion statement. "It's about the same size as a Livestrong band," says Bogard. "I've worn it constantly for the last two months, even in meetings where we were talking about the product to raise financing. But no one noticed. That tells us the product is working as we intended."
In fact, constant wearability was one of the chief problems that Bogard's team wanted to solve. While devices such as Fitbit promise to provide data about your workouts, their utility is limited by the fact that people don't wear them all the time. "We looked at the products out there, and there's so much friction around wearing these devices all the time," says Bogard. "But if you wear something like Up all day, there's all sorts of interesting things we can plug into our software."
For now, Jawbone declines to announce the price, but they say Up will be available by the end of 2011 in target countries, including the U.S.