Jawbone is no more and we've known that for a while. It's been replaced by Jawbone Health a more health-focused platform that does still involve a wearable but more of the clinical-grade kind as opposed to a Fitbit Charge 3 rival.
Since the transition from Jawbone to Jawbone Health, the company has been very quiet on all things concerning its move away from the UP devices it once sold. CEO Hosain Rahman has decided to talk a little more about what we can expect from Jawbone Health including playing nice with Apple's smartwatch. He also tells us what went wrong before it shifted to serious health tracking.
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Rahman was speaking to Recode for the latest episode of its Decode podcast and a transcript of the chat reveals how Jawbone Health will work.
"So, what Jawbone Health is building is this personalized subscription service where we take all of this continuous health data about you and we combine that with a lot of machine intelligence, so AI plus human doctors. They go analyze all this data. The idea is to catch issues going on with you, health issues, particularly in the lifestyle," said Rahman.
Rahman explained that the company learned that they had to have clinical grade sensor technology to be able to deliver those sort of insights described above. Doing that involved getting its tech used in clinical trials and getting approval from the appropriate governing bodies. It's already produced studies that prove its tech is 99% accurate at predicting atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that both Apple and Fitbit is also exploring with their wearables.
The service will be based on a monthly subscription model that includes a device built by the company to track your data. But it is also going to let people build on its sensor technology and Rahman said it's going to integrate the Apple Watch now that they've gone to a "clinical grade level".
The Jawbone fall out
There's loads of other interesting insights from Decode's chat with Rahman, particularly when they delve into the demise of the Jawbone we once knew. They get into details of how the company was formed and Jawbone Up. Its very first fitness tracker launched in 2011 and was well loved by a whole lot of people (including ourselves). Apparently it sold faster than anything Jawbone had ever made. But then came the first round of Jawbone Up issues as the interview transcript reveals:
"People were really excited about it. But we started to get reports from the field that they were breaking, and we couldn’t get them back fast enough to figure out what was happening. And finally when we did, we realized that what was happening is water was getting into the device."
Rahman talks about pulling the device off the market due to the device's inability to deal being in contact with water. It offered everyone refunds and went back to the drawing board and relaunched in 2012. But then the money problems hit the startup. "We needed the cash, and that’s one of the things that happens with a hardware company is you’ve gotta ... If you have a successful product, you hit another wall, which is how do you fund all that growth efficiently, and equity’s not a great way to do it."
By the end of 2013 and and the beginning of 2014, Rahman explains that there were two deals on the table and we're talking billion dollar deals not millions. The two deals apparently split the company. The decision was made to take the larger valuation deal but ultimately things didn't work out as planned and it sent Jawbone into financial turmoil in 2014.
Rahman also gets into Jawbone's long-running dispute with Fitbit with the two companies finally agreeing to a settlement in December 2017. "The other thing that happened to us in early ’15 is that we realized that six of our ex-employees had systematically stolen 365,000 documents, which was basically all of our trade secret information, and gone to Fitbit."
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He also outlines some of the mistakes he believes the company made highlighting the difficulty of the hardware business model, the decision to not move to services faster and overvaluation.
What Rahman doesn't touch on is the company's (poorly communicated) transition plan to ensure owners of its UP trackers could at least still make use of them after moving its services over to Health. That transition was supposed to have been completed in May, but Jawbone users have been complaining about not being able to sync their devices to UP since then.
We are sure there are a fair few Wareable readers that would've appreciated an update on what the hell was going and whether it's finally time to ditch those UP fitness trackers for good.
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