Fitbit chief certain it's right time for smartwatch play - Mobile World Live

Fitbit chief certain it’s right time for smartwatch play

02 SEP 2017

LIVE FROM IFA2017, BERLIN: James Park, CEO of wearables company Fitbit (pictured), explained the reasoning behind the company’s entry into the competitive smartwatch market, as well as detailing how several acquisitions had boosted its proposition.

“This is something that was in the works at Fitbit for quite a while. We’re not just entering a category for the sake of entering a category. For us, smartwatches are a really amazing platform to deliver some of the most powerful health tools the market has seen,” he said.

With the company having built a leadership position (until recently) based on fitness bands, Park said the form factor of a smartwatch opens up possibilities in its core health market.

“When we talk about trying to integrate a lot of advanced sensors to provide a rich interactions for fitness and wellness, and increasingly more healthcare use cases, when we think about trying to do this with amazing battery life, we needed a larger form factor device, which is where smartwatches and our launch into the category came into being,” he said.

He also trumpeted some manufacturing innovation of which the company is taking advantage.

“We’ve launched built-in GPS with industry-leading accuracy and low power consumption, and the way we’ve done that is through a manufacturing process called nano-moulding, which literally fuses aluminium and plastic together. This has allowed us to incorporate the antennas of the device, including GPS, into the housing itself. Literally the housing itself is the antenna – and that is the first time I believe it has been done in the world,” Park said.

Acquisition activity
In the path to launching its smartwatch, Fitbit has made a number of high-profile acquisitions. The executive pointed out how these have enabled it to bring its new product to market.

“We really focused on this idea of a phone-free exercise and workout experience. So with Ionic you are able to store personal music and play it back, and not only that, if you are on a run or a workout outside and you don’t have your phone with you, you can pay for some water, a snack to give you some energy, using Fitbit Pay. This is the result of our acquisition of a company called Coin a while back, and Coin’s team and technology has allowed us to integrate very quickly with the major payment networks around the world,” he said.

“Also exciting is that through the acquisition of Pebble, we are introducing the idea of apps to Ionic. Not only will there be first party apps but partner apps at launch, ranging from weather, to music, to food, other partners. There will be an open SDK as well, so Ionic will be the easiest wearable platform to write apps for as well. Using standard web technologies such as JavaScript and CSS, you can write an app,” Park continued.

Health benefits
With Fitbit’s strength being built on health-conscious consumers, Park also talked of the potential of healthcare monitoring to benefit the wider community.

“When we look at several complex systems today, from automobiles to planes to people, which one of these is not continuously monitored? Planes and cars have thousands or dozens of sensors today that continuously monitor systems for any sign of trouble. But for some reason, people are not, outside of standard annual doctors check-ups,” he said.

“We could screen you well in advance for any serious health conditions, we could get a true and complete picture of your health, and a baseline of what it means to be normal for you versus a population average, which is how we determine if you are sick today,” Park continued.

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Steve Costello

Steve works across all of Mobile World Live’s channels and played a lead role in the launch and ongoing success of our apps and devices services. He has been a journalist...More

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