It was just about two months ago that Jawbone snapped up mobile health startup Massive Health, and now the company has acquired an even more prominent player in the health monitoring space.
Jawbone has just announced that it will acquire Pittsburgh, PA-based BodyMedia, a maker of wearable health tracking devices —the company wouldn’t comment on how much it paid for BodyMedia, but reliable sources close to the deal said the figure was “north of $100 million”.
Jawbone is a curious company in that it builds products and experiences for two largely unrelated markets: audio and fitness. With this latest acquisition on the books you can’t be blamed for thinking that the company is starting to focus more on one side of its business than the other, but CEO Hosain Rahman maintains that Jawbone isn’t going to become a strictly fitness-focused company.
“Audio will definitely not fall by the wayside,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We love it deeply.”
That may be the case, but he adds that Jawbone sees “a world where everything in your life is going to have a lot of computing power and a lot of sensors.” If sensors are what Jawbone is after, then the BodyMedia deal makes perfect sense. The company was founded in 1999 and quickly became an early pioneer of the wearable health tracker concept — what sets their wares apart from the sort of products that Nike, Fitbit, and yes, Jawbone currently offer is what they’re capable of detecting.
Rather than just relying on an accelerometer to detect and keep track of the wearer’s movement (which really isn’t all that accurate), BodyMedia’s FIT line of fitness gizmos are also capable of monitoring skin temperature and galvanic skin response to get a better understanding of the intensity of your activity. Your Jawbone UP may be able to tell you how many steps you’ve taken in a day, and how quickly you take those steps over a period of time, but it never really tell how hard your heart is working — an important distinction to some health-conscious users.
But even with all that said, over $100 million is an incredible amount to shell out for a single company, although Jawbone has raised something like $202 million in venture funding from Vinod Khosla, Kleiner Perkins, and Deutsche Telekom since 2006. Naturally, it’s Rahman’s belief that the deal is well worth it, primarily for the patents that Jawbone will have access to — as he puts it, BodyMedia has an “absurdly powerful IP portfolio” of about 87 patents pertaining around multi-sensor body tracking tech, as well as “lots of clinical chops in science and medical communities.”
In a way, it seems as though Jawbone could be trying to legitimize itself as a maker of full-fledged health monitoring devices rather than just quantified self gadgets. Frankly, with BodyMedia’s know-how in the mix, it’s hard to think of these developments and not imagine a revamped version of the Jawbone UP that gets tagged with the same FDA Class II medical device classification that devices like the BodyMedia FIT series have. It doesn’t hurt that the entire 60 person BodyMedia team will be folded into Jawbone, and that current BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins will stay onboard to work with Rahman to lead the newly combined company’s business efforts — Rahman notes that he sees plenty of opportunities with insurance companies and physician’s clinics, and Robins will be able to help run with those.