Life360, the maker of mobile applications for iOS, Android and Windows Phone that help keep families connected, has acquired Chronos Mobile Technologies, a startup behind a number of mobile apps that passively collect data from users’ smartphones in order to highlight trends and connections between various behaviors. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Chronos had closed on a small seed round from Maven Ventures, Draper Associates and Major League Baseball earlier in 2015.
Chronos first made its debut at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 with a simple time-tracking application of the same name designed by Stanford Business School grads Charlie Kubal, formerly of Pandora and Google, and Dylan Keil, previously a mechanical engineer.
The app itself was then designed to appeal to “quantified self” enthusiasts, who wanted an easier way to gather data about their activities, including things like how long they were at work, how long they slept, how much time they spent commuting, and more.
A later release allowed users to automatically track whether they reached certain goals, like spending a certain amount of time of the gym, or spending more time with family, for example.
In the years following the launch of its flagship app, Chronos added to its collection of apps to also include Waldo, an app that automatically alerted friends to your whereabouts; Tip Top (beta), which helps you find the best spots around the world as determined by friends and experts; and Steps + Sleep, which more narrowly focused on tracking those two health-related activities.
Given Life360’s focus on tracking family members and their daily activities, it’s easy to see why the company was interested in Chronos’ technology.
According to Life360 co-founder and President Alex Haro, the two companies became connected with one another as both were a part of the StartX network, though Life360 was aware of Chronos for some time.
“Their contextual-awareness technology and work on using passively-collected data to connect close circles is really closely aligned with our mission at Life360,” explains Haro. “The power of this is to eventually create new form of passive communication for families.”
One potential use case for Chronos’ technology within Life360 is with its alerting feature. Today, the company’s active users receive on average over 159 Place alerts per month (alerts received when family members leave or arrive at important places like work, home, school, etc.) By integrating a contextual awareness engine into this system, Life360 could make its alerting feature smarter, doing things like asking users to share photos while on a trip, or setting reminders for tasks like picking up milk when one family member leaves the office, while also informing the user the ETA to their next destination.
Haro says it was the IP and Chronos’ contextual awareness technology that first attracted Life360’s interest, but he’s also excited to bring on the two Chronos founders as part of the acquisition. The founders will join full-time to help run Life360’s location and context team.
“They’ve spent a lot of time thinking about a lot of the same things that we’re focused on: the future of location sharing, how can contextual awareness improve your connection the people you care most about,” notes Haro.
More importantly, perhaps, is the the tech that Chronos built was designed to be very efficient – though it’s using a lot of the phone’s sensors, it does so without rapidly draining the battery. That’s a challenge that Life360 can relate to and understand. In addition, Chronos’ contextual engine gets smarter over time by learning from user behaviors.
“The opportunity to bring in industry-leading context and location technology is very compelling to us,” says Haro. “A majority of what they’ve done was on our product roadmap, but buying Chronos allows us to get there more quickly.”
Following the deal, which was a combination of both cash and stock, Chronos will continue to operate its standalone products up until the point that the Chronos technology is integrated into Life360, whose app today is used by 50 million families. At that point, current Chronos users will be transitioned to the Life360 app instead.
Once inside Life360, the Chronos technology will offer users more insight into their family’s day-to-day activities – letting them see where they each spend their time, and what they’ve been up to.
It’s arguable that some family members may not appreciate this level of detail and scrutiny, but Life360’s current product has respected user privacy in the past by offering flexible location sharing combined with automated Place alerts for everyday check-ins. The added technology will just add another layer of data on top of the basics already provided, which should make Life360 feel more like a “quantified self” app than the tracking and messaging utility it is today.