Jawbone, the wearable activity tracker pioneer, will not be moved by the move toward smart watches. Later this year, Jawbone will release the Up3, the third iteration of its subtle, slim and stubbornly screen-free wristband, as well as a small, inexpensive tracker called the Jawbone Up Move that can be worn either as a clip or popped into a wristband accessory.
Neither will let you know about incoming texts, show a few lines of incoming email or let you call for a car. Instead, Jawbone said, the $50 Up Move is designed to interest a whole new audience in small, easy to wear and cheap activity trackers—and boasts a six-month battery life. (Fans of the Misfit Shine will notice a striking similarity.)
The intriguing new Up3 is designed to be worn 24 hours a day and will use cutting-edge sensor technology to create a picture of a person’s health that is remarkably complete. Also, wonder of wonders, some versions of the Up3 might end up being attractive, even jewelry-like.
The band, scheduled to be released before the end of the year, is smaller and slimmer than the existing Up24 band from Jawbone. The device has been redesigned to sit flat against the wrist in contrast to the slightly protuberant wraparound design of the current model.
It will come in black, initially, with twist-like ridges along the top. It is waterproof up to 10 meters, with a battery that lasts a week. Jawbone plans to release red and silver models, and to encourage partners to develop versions that look even more like bracelets than activity trackers.
But the band’s tracking capabilities are the really interesting element. The underside of the $180 Up3 band is adorned with various sensors for temperature and motion, and with four electrodes that send small electrical signals into the tissue on your wrist. Using an analysis process called bioimpedance, the band measures how your body conducts those currents, and can take several measurements from that information.
When the band is first released, the new sensors will measure resting heart rate and perform sleep tracking so precise that it can actually tell the difference between deep sleep and REM sleep (as it turns out, they’re quite different). Of course, the band will do basic activity tracking, such as of steps and calories burned.
But over time, Jawbone said it could update the bands with more features, including the ability to measure respiration, how hydrated you are and even whether you are stressed or fatigued. All that information will be fed into Jawbone’s software platform, which has always offered cool data analysis and health with a focus on sleep and fitness. Now the app will pull together data from its tracking devices into a program called Smart Coach, which will offer tips related to your workouts, how much sleep you are getting or what you are eating.
Certainly, anyone can do a lot with that much information—be healthier, stronger, more active and more aware of the factors that influence overall health. All that capability starts to raise an interesting question: At what point does such specific, accurate and holistic tracking start to cross into the realm of medical information? A Jawbone spokesman said the company’s goal was no less than a “glimpse of people’s entire lives.”
Jawbone has made a habit of collecting (anonymised) user data and putting together blog posts with interesting tidbits like whether people were able to fall back asleep after the recent Napa earthquake and how people eat on various days of the week.
Jawbone maintains that the Up3 is a consumer device and that the Up platform is a data-gathering machine designed to help consumers live healthier and more rested lives. But with its focus on minute-by-minute data, the company may be quietly building a health empire that Apple HealthKit and Google Fit can’t even begin to touch.