We're reading rumours that Jawbone is to allow access to it's proprietary UP software for a number of platforms, including the Apple wearable, Windows Phone and of more interest, Android Wear. To date, Jawbone's software and UP bands have gone hand in hand: you needed both to work. These plans will allow the software to use data from alternative hardware, such as the Fitbit or indeed anything that your Android smartphone recognises as a wearable activity tracker. As a refresh, the Jawbone UP wearable is available in two flavours: the UP 24, which is an always-connected (via Bluetooth) device that talks to a companion app on a smartphone, or the UP, which must be plugged in to synchronise. This change will effectively divorce the hardware from the software and take advantage of the increasing number of smartphone devices that have built-in low power sensors designed to work with lifestyle tracking bands. This means that consumers will be able to pick the hardware band that suits them or their pockets and use the Jawbone software; Jawbone must be hoping that their stylish UP 24 will be a tempting prospect for customers.
By a wearable lifestyle device, what I mean is a unit that logs your physical activity, including steps, exercise and sleeping patterns. Together with the necessary software, this can help shape people's lives and habits by providing guidance. We have seen something of an arms race to bring these products to the customer, with companies both large and small getting in on the act. In the case of the Jawbone UP, this smooth, flexible wristband is rain, splash, swear and shower resistant, has battery life of up to ten days. The software is able to monitor how long it takes you to fall asleep, how long you are in light sleep compared with deep sleep. The software also tracks your food intake (even via photograph, if you want). This information is presented to you in the form of a dashboard to help you plan your activity and recognise patterns. You can also use the software to plan when best to wake you.
From a business point of view, this feels similar to BlackBerry opening up BBM to non-BlackBerry hardware. Yes, you're allowing access to something that was an exclusive to that particular platform but by demonstrating to customers how well your software works, you might just persuade a few to buy the hardware. UP have been working hard on their software, for example not only does the UP system log your fitness, sleep and nutrition applications, it is also a Works With Nest product. From Jawbone's perspective, this venture is not without risk but it's forward thinking and recognising that sometimes, you have to work together in order to get ahead. And sometimes, working together causes problems, as Jawbone and Apple have had a strong relationship until now (but I imagine Apple moving into the wearable healthcare industry might put this on ice).
Do you use a lifestyle band to help track your activity? Do you like the UP? Would you like to use the UP software with another device? Hit us up in the comments or on Google+ and let us know.