On Wednesday, Jawbone introduced the latest version of its Up wristband, a rubber-coated device and associated smartphone software for tracking exercise, sleep patterns, and other activity. The new version, Up 24, features a small but significant upgrade: it can wirelessly sync your activity with an iPhone throughout the day by using the newer, lower-power Bluetooth standard, Bluetooth Low Energy, to transfer data. The existing version of Up only transfers data when a user plugs it into an iPhone or Android smartphone.
The wristband’s ability to sync more often with an iPhone allows the software to automatically let you know how you slept in the morning or alert you when you’re close to hitting a fitness goal. But the added capability could also let Up 24 use your activity as a catalyst for all kinds of actions. A refreshed version of the Up smartphone software continues to support third-party apps including IFTTT (If This, Then That), which lets you use the Web to automate responses to certain triggers.
While the existing version of Up could be connected to IFTTT in a way that would, for instance, record any photo you upload to Instagram, Up 24 and the new Up software could also use IFTTT to do things like turn off “smart” Internet-connected lights in your bedroom when you hit the single button on the wristband that lets it know you’re going to sleep, or—even smarter—turn them on gradually once Up 24 knows you’ve been asleep for eight hours. Jawbone says that the new software and wristband, available Wednesday, will initially only be able to trigger actions through IFTTT when you get up after sleeping; they will soon be able to spark actions when you are going to sleep, too.
“You can start to see how this Internet of me can start to work with me at the center of this device here,” said Travis Bogard, Jawbone’s vice president of product management and strategy, during a briefing in Jawbone’s San Francisco headquarters last week. “It’s really connected to this broader set of things that might operate in servitude to me.”
Up 24, which costs $150 ($20 more than the current-generation Up), is the same size as the previous version, but it replaces the former’s textured zigzag design with a wave-like one, and the battery on the new version is expected to last for a week, rather than 10 days. Initially, the wireless sync feature will only be available for iPhone users, though Bogard said an Android version of the updated app that enables it is expected to come “shortly.”
Bogard said the idea of using the Up wristband to control other devices was something Jawbone had in mind from the start. The company got off to a rocky start, however, when it released Up in 2011, because many users’ bands quickly failed due to water exposure. The company offered users’ money back and released an improved product late last year.
In that same time span, interest in the so-called Internet of Things—the idea of connecting traditionally unwired devices to the Web and to each other to greatly expand their capabilities—has blossomed. In the consumer electronics space this has happened with the arrival of gadgets like Nest’s smart thermostat and forthcoming smoke detector, and SmartThings’ smartphone-connected sensors. An estimate from networking equipment maker Cisco determines there are 10.9 billion “people, processes, data, and things” connected to the Internet, and the company expects this to rise to as high as 50 billion by 2020.
While Up gains wireless connectivity later than competing devices like Nike’s Fuelband and Fitbit’s array of wrist-worn and clip-on activity trackers, Bogard said Jawbone wanted to wait until Bluetooth Low Energy was more common on smartphones. The wireless protocol is still not available on many handsets, but it’s on the rise: it has been included on the last several versions of the iPhone, and on several BlackBerrys and Windows-running smartphones. Google added support for the standard to Android over the summer.
Bogard expects people will use Up 24’s continual connectivity for simple things at first, saying it’s “really early days” for applications like setting your coffeemaker to turn on in the morning when Up detects you’ve started moving around. “This is probably more of a sign of where this is starting to go, rather than ‘everyone’s going to go do that today,’ ” he said.
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