Jawbone gets into health, offering a small companion

 Wireless gadget creator Jawbone is hoping to solve the challenge of getting consumers to become engaged in their health with the introduction of UP, a device that automatically engages with consumers. UP is a small wristband designed to be worn 24/ 7 to track and record measures of health including activity, sleep and eating habits. It will be publicly available Nov. 6.

The wristband continuously records information while it nudges people toward behavior change. For example, if a person has been sedentary for too long during the day, it vibrates to remind him to get up and move. The device uses technology from MotionX, the company that developed the sensing platform used by Nike+ GPS, an app that maps and tracks runs. UP’s small sensor measures calories burned, steps, distance, pace, intensity and active versus inactive time. The wristband can last up to 10 days on one charge.

The device is used along with an iPhone, iTouch or iPad app to track users’ daily activity on the “Me” screen as well as provide a personal health timeline with the “Lifeline” feature. Users also use their devices to create a meal log by snapping a photo of each plate. Meanwhile, the wristband observes where and when users are eating, and the app asks how they feel after digesting their food. This information is pieced together to help make better choices.

Sleep quality is measured through tracking the hours a person slept, observing the time it took a person to fall asleep and measuring deep versus light sleep. Morning is another time when UP intervenes. The wristband vibrates to rouse a person at the right moment in his natural sleep cycle.

UP ties in social engagement, too. Friends can use the app to encourage each other to reach their health goals. A feed also gives up-to-date information about what other users are up to.

UP’s capabilities compare with Fitbit, a device that counts steps and calories, and Zeo, which measures sleep quality. The Eatery, which just launched this week, is an iPhone app that lets users create a food journal in pictures. Jawbone is previously know for developing wireless products including ICON Bluetooth headsets.  With the company’s first venture into the health care space, it offers competition for other more specialized products.

There’s also Basis, a wristwatch that aims to be an all-in-one health companion. It measures heart rate, calories burned, elevated physical activity and sleep, and it, too, employs a social component. The verdict is still out on how the Basis watch compares to the Jawbone wristband; Basis is waiting until the end of the year for its public launch. At $99.99, UP does beat out the Basis watch, which will sell for $199. But in the end, the competition just might come down to the waterproof test — UP is water resistant up to one whole meter.

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