It's official, Jawbone is rising from the ashes. After the wearable maker closed its doors back in 2017, we've now got our first real glimpses of the venture that's been in the works since it burned through $1 billion of funding.
It's not returning to the hardware space, though. Instead, it's leveraging machine learning and clinical-grade sensors to serve up a subscription-based health platform with the aim of preventing lifestyle diseases. The hub, which also sees healthcare professionals weigh in on individual records, will be called Jawbone Health.
There's still no indication of a launch date, or how much it'll actually cost to have your health continuously tracked through the platform, but a new video has shed light on how it all works. Add this to the job adverts and rumours we first heard a couple of years ago, and the picture is now much fuller.
Stay locked to this page for all the latest news and developments related to Jawbone Health, and read on for everything we know so far.
Jawbone Health: What is it?
As the video above outlines, the new startup will be more focused on combining medical-grade tech with a software platform that can track, analyse and suggest a course of medical action. This has all essentially been confirmed by the introductory piece, which details exactly how users of Jawbone Health will interact with the system and shows off a device that looks a lot like a Jawbone UP3.
From first glance, it's essentially taking all the tracked elements from a wearable – something that monitors activity and sleep around the clock – and then running it through a platform that can actually, well, do something useful with that data. This is also combined with the expert opinion of real-life health professionals, making Jawbone Health an equal combination of AI and humans.
Read next: How wearables actually monitor sleep
The aim, we imagine, is to leave less room for user interpretation or confusion over data, and instead boil down the numbers to the point of action.
So, for example, if your tracker monitors sleep, Jawbone Health will pull the data in to its Smart Coach AI and analyse it for different potential health conditions before feeding back to the user. This will then also cross the path of a human in order to review the data and interact with members using Health Cloud.
For those who may be waking up in the night to go to the toilet, as an example, it's useful to know that this may be an indicator of diabetes. If this is recognised by Jawbone Health, it can then trigger a question to the user and ask for confirmation. Then, based on other factors in a user's health profile – such as age, weight, previous or existing conditions and more – it may grade the chances of diabetes as high. This data would then be reviewed and healthcare professionals are able to suggest going for a checkup and getting blood tests.
Now, imagine that same process repeated and covering everything from heart conditions like atrial fibrillation to sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
While we initially suspected Jawbone would pair Health with a tracker of its own, it now looks more likely it will simply welcome all wearables that build in clinical grade sensors. We already knew the Apple Watch Series 4 will be compatible, as this was confirmed by CEO Hosain Rahman back in September 2018, and the video also states as much.
Jawbone Health: Who's working on it?
Jawbone Health has been in the works for more than two years, with the first signs of the project surfacing through job openings just after the demise of Jawbone itself.
On Glassdoor, there were a bunch of job openings for the startup in San Mateo, California, including for a VP of engineering. Jawbone Health initially offered 15 postings on the site, advertising for product managers, a head of mobile development, machine learning & product design engineers, an art director and a brand writer.
Essential reading: Top wearables to keep track of your stress levels
Some of the text in the job descriptions was also quite illuminating, such as this description of the company: "Jawbone Health is at the forefront of revolutionizing primary care for millions of patients worldwide. Combining more than 20 years of proprietary wearable technology with clinically relevant signals, Jawbone Health connects patients and physicians like never before with continuous, data-driven dialogue. This unique position of daily directed guidance stands to redefine primary care, while helping people live happier, healthier and longer."
According to LinkedIn, Health now around employs 50 people. Some worked with the company previously, such as VP of engineering Jonathan Hummel (previously a senior engineering manager at Jawbone between 2015-17), though many are new and match the company's recent emphasis on health.
Jawbone Health: When will it launch?
With the meatier details only now cropping up, it's tough to put a gauge on Jawbone Health's launch date. With the introductory video now live, though, it appears more likely that we'll see a commercial release before the end of 2019.
However, even if Jawbone Health is set for launch over the second half of this year, we don't know exactly what form it will take yet – only how the platform will work.
Will there be a free tier or trial available to users? Which third-party devices will be supported? How much will it cost to be a subscriber?
These are some of the immediate questions that spring to mind, but there are plenty more, including the obvious one: do people even want this kind of premium health tracking – so much that they're willing to pay for it?
We won't know until the curtain is pulled back by the startup, but there's not exactly a track record for the concept; people are used to receiving health tracking for free, albeit at a more basic level, through platforms like Fitbit and Apple Health.
Jawbone Health: Is hardware in the future?
From what we know so far, it doesn't appear to be, with Jawbone Health seemingly focused on letting third-party devices tap into the upcoming platform. However, with a dearth of consumer-facing, medical-grade devices actually sitting on sale, the question remains open as to whether Jawbone Health may hurry things along with collaborations or its own wares.
There's also form for bespoke hardware that follows the Health model.
Way back when, Jawbone and Spectros created a bracelet based on a T-Stat oximeter – a large machine that measures oxygen in tissue. That would allow the bracelet to detect a heart attack or heart failure when tissue wasn't receiving enough blood. The plans also included a potential partnership with Microsoft, who would distribute devices and software to corporate employees.
The goal, seemingly, was to eventually sell medical-grade health wearables. The aforementioned heart attack-sensing bracelet, blood pressure monitors, wearable devices for diabetes and stress management wearables are just some of the potential products we could see if Jawbone Health decides not to leave it up to third-party makers.
Some of Jawbone's plans for such devices, according to the documents, were quite detailed. The stress management wearable, for instance, would measure respiration, galvanic skin response, skin temperature and blood pressure. There would also be a companion app with exercises to reduce stress, which would cost $7 a month.
Will it happen eventually? Well, we'd say it's unlikely. This is a niche startup, after all, and we've already seen the perils of smaller hardware companies trying to compete with the biggest names in the space. This is especially true in health and wellbeing sector, where competition is only set to increase over the next five years and beyond.