The Future Of Jawbone Could Be In Wearable Identity Tech

Wearables so far have a pretty limited audience overall in terms of the global consumer market, but they could become a lot more integral to the lives of average people in the future. On stage at Disrupt NY today, Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman talked about what we might see in UP bands down the road, and there was a lot more than just activity tracking involved: worn tech knows you, he explained, and that means it can help other things know you, too.

Rahman described future wrist-worn devices that allow a user to interact with connected devices and connected homes to automate personalization of your environment and software, which is not something that Jawbone does currently, but is something that other startups have also started to pick up on. Nymi, the heart-rate sensing armband by Toronto startup Bionym, for instance, is building a wristband that uses your unique heartbeat signature to identify you in various settings, for instance, basically pitches their device based on exactly the kind of interconnected future Rahman described on stage.

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Currently, Jawbone only tracks a limited number of data types, but it still builds gigantic databases. Rahman described its sleep tracking features as the largest open sleep study project in the world. All of this data doesn’t exist in isolation outside of context – it actually has value as a part of a larger identity signal, too. Jawbone is clearly preparing for a time when it goes beyond its current range of activity tracking, but it already has a tremendous amount of data tied to specific individual users, and that’s more than most startups interested in this space can say.

Rahman very clearly described the immediate next steps for Jawbone, which involve expanding the type of information gathered by its wearables, but also about building software and services that make that information relevant to users.

“Tomorrow is all about more information, more signals, more understanding of yourself, but then taking all of that and really crunching it,” he said. “Taking all that data, contextualizing it for the use and turning it that into understanding which leads to data [is the goal].”

That could provide some significant improvements in terms of attracting new users, but it’s only a first step. Wearable tech has yet to prove its usefulness to the broad consumer audience, but identification, authentication and automation are three axes that could change that. These devices need to add value, not just satisfy a mild curiosity, and it sounds like Jawbone and Rahman are aware of that and are planning the requisite next step as a result.