Jawbone launches an API and acquires BodyMedia, and the connected device landscape continues to take shape

By Richard Nieva , written on April 30, 2013

From The News Desk

The connected device craze is here. We've got thermostats, locks and wristbands of all sorts, wi-fi enabled refrigerators, washing machines, scales, and TVs. One day the Internet may be embedded in our clothes. And while all of those things are (mostly) interesting on their own, how will these things work together?

Today Jawbone, the company that makes the wearable “quantified self” band UP, issued two announcements: it's rolling out an API so the device can integrate with other apps and connected devices relating to health and wellness. It's also acquiring BodyMedia, which makes an FDA-approved weight-loss device called FIT that’s been used on the TV show “The Biggest Loser.”

For those unfamiliar, the UP is a device with sensors that a person can use to monitor actions like running, eating or sleeping habits. Wear it on a jog, and it tells you how many calories you’ve burned. Or it can give you information on the quality of sleep you're having. It’s one of a slew of devices that collect data on a person’s habits in an attempt to shape healthy behavior. Others are the Nike Fuel Band, Fitbit, and Pebble.

The BodyMedia acquisition is a talent and intellectual property grab – it has 87 patents in its IP portfolio – but it will retain its name, continue producing the FIT, and keep its office in Pittsburgh open. The company is not disclosing the terms of the deal, but some reports have put the acquisition upwards of $100 million. It's is a smart move in building out the product's abilities in the future. BodyMedia has a medical bent, so surely future iterations of UP will pay more attention to things like disease monitoring.

But the really intriguing news is the API. It will allow partner apps to be able to tap into a user’s Jawbone data so she can find out more about her health and wellness habits. For example, a user can log onto MapMyFitness and view workout data in UP. Or he can step on a Withing scale – another connected device – and import his weight into up and see it in the context of sleeping and eating habits.

This is in line with other products that have been trying to connect the real of connected devices. For example, Osito, a virtual assistant app, wants to build out a platform for developers to create predictive intelligence experiences in the coming months. The plan is to do things like unlock your house when the platform senses you are close to home. And IFTTT (pronounced like "gift" without the G and short for "If this, then that") is a platform that lets users make the connections between services. For example, one command allows you to put your coffee machine on a timer every morning by plugging it into a wifi enabled Belkin WeMo switch. Meanwhile IFTTT is one of the apps partnering with Jawbone for its API. It lets users set up quick "nudging" commands like "If the weather is sunny, send me a text reminding me to run."

These use cases are pretty tame for now, but the potential is there. Personally I'm waiting for my own remote controlled robot that will know when I'm thirsty and hand me an ice cold lemonade on a hot day.

Travis Bogard, the company’s vice president of product management and strategy, says the ultimate plan is to open the platform to other developers a la Facebook Connect, though Jawbone wanted to first test the waters with partner apps. That's good for the connected device market. Allowing smart developers to build on a platform will likely lead to a more mature -- read: actually connected -- ecosystem.