What Google’s Fitbit Buy Means for the Future of Wearables


Pebble, in fact, was finally acquired by Fitbit, which makes Google’s buy at the moment a form of “wearable turducken,” as CNET’s Scott Stein put it on Twitter. Jawbone failed, badly. Basis Science bought itself to Intel. Misfit went to Fossil. Lark develop into a software program firm targeted on continual situations. Mio Global was break up into two companies; the software program nonetheless exists beneath a unique title, whereas its {hardware} turned part of Lifesense. Microsoft by no means bothered to ship one other Band.

Fitbit continued to develop new wrist wearables at a gradual tempo, evolving its product line from clip-on trackers to wristbands to a sport watch to smartwatches and again once more to light-weight wristbands. Since its inception, Fitbit has bought almost 100 million units.

“Fitbit has really been an early success story,” says Jitesh Ubrani, analysis director at IDC. “They were early in the space, and they became the de facto standard. Consumers would look at other wearables and still call it a Fitbit.”

That wouldn’t at all times be the case, although, and analysts say two main elements contributed to this: The launch of the shiny, covetable Apple Watch within the spring of 2015, and the squeeze from Chinese electronics giants Xiaomi and Huawei. Xiaomi’s Mi Band, launched in 2014, value simply $15, and will do many of the issues a $130 Fitbit may do.

On the day that Fitbit turned a publicly-traded firm, in June of 2015, Fitbit cofounder and CEO James Park sat for an interview on Marketplace that may be haunting him a bit at the moment.

“Let’s say, just for argument’s sake, Tim Cook comes to you and says, ‘I’ll give you, James, $2 billion for your company.’ What do you say?” the reporter asks Park.

“Um,” Park says, and after a pause continues, “We’ve never really been focused on exits as a company. Really, the key to our success has been being really heads-down and focused on growing the business over the years.”

Well Worn

Now that Google has scooped up Fitbit, the query turns into whether or not it’s good for the non-public health-tracking market that few wearable startups nonetheless exist, and that the facility and management over our knowledge lies within the fingers of some giants: Apple, Google, Samsung, and distinguished Chinese firms whose inside operations are much more opaque.

That’s what regulators will seemingly be asking as they study the deal. In the instant time period, Google says it’ll “never sell personal information to anyone” and that “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.” Fitbit, likewise, says the corporate by no means sells private info, and that Fitbit well being and wellness knowledge gained’t be used for Google adverts. (Both firms declined requests for interviews.)

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One of the potential negatives for customers, says Ubrani, is that even when Google vows to not promote adverts in opposition to your well being knowledge, it may discover different artistic methods to monetize no matter you’re sharing by your wrist.

“They have the data, so they can tie software and services together to try to sell more of their other services,” he says. That’s each the upside and draw back of interoperability, of your software program working throughout your cellphone, your laptop computer, your smartwatch, or doubtlessly even your good glasses—when it really works, it really works, nevertheless it’s one other entry level into your life for one of many tech giants.

Consumers can also be rightfully involved about privateness and safety. Facebook’s privateness missteps have been a “watershed moment” for these points within the tech sector, Ubrani says, and privateness insurance policies are being scrutinized extra.

But in the end, it’s these similar giant tech firms that ought to, in idea, have the sources to handle privateness and safety issues as they pertain to shopper well being, too. “When it comes to my own data, I would trust a much larger company that has checks and balances in place and the resources to secure my data,” Ubrani says, “because they also have the best talent that’s out there.”

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