Step UP

Jawbone UP

When Jawbone (by Aliph) hit the mobile device accessories scene in December 2006, the bluetooth headsets took the market by storm and garnered high marks from nearly every reviewer and consumer alike.  Since then Aliph has released a number of new headsets that introduced and/or improved their unique designs, skin contact microphone, and NoiseAssassin adaptive signal processing technology (originally developed for DARPA to reduce communication background noise for the military).  The Jawbone 2, Jawbone Prime, Jawbone Icon, and Jawbone Era (featuring an accelerometer) – all of which continued to receive awards and accolades for thoughtful, elegant design as well as innovative, useful technology.  Aliph also pioneered a wireless “smartspeaker” called Jambox that combines music streaming with conference calling capabilities.

While the subsequent enhancements to the headset product line are admirable and the creation of the Jambox seems like a natural move, both represent the kind of incremental innovation that relegates brands to be forever “one trick ponies” and allows competitors to eventually overtake their lead.

Enter Jawbone/Aliph’s newest creation – the UP health system that includes an eye-catching and high tech wristband and iPhone application “…that tracks your activity and sleep and inspires you to move more, sleep better and eat smarter.”  Jawbone UPThe $99.99 system is certainly a marvel of technological innovation (see diagram to the right) packing a sophisticated motion sensor, vibration motor, and rechargeable battery into a sweat-proof, water-resistant hypoallergenic rubber housing.

The uses of the UP system can be broken into three different areas – exercise, sleep, and diet.

Since you’re supposed to wear the UP wristband around the clock it will be measuring all of the movements you make throughout the day including steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, pace, intensity level, active versus inactive time, etc. and it can even be programmed to vibrate when you’ve been inactive for too long.

Once you put the UP wristband into sleep mode it will record hours slept, light sleep versus deep sleep, awake time, and overall quality of sleep.  It can also wake you up at the ideal time during your sleep cycle (before your desired wake time).  Unlike the exercise functionality which essentially operates like a pedometer on steroids, it isn’t entirely clear how UP differentiates between different types of sleep and provides qualitative assessments.  The frequently asked questions portion of the UP web site simply says “[t]he UP band’s built-in motion sensor detects micro movements while you sleep and uses sophisticated algorithms to generate personal sleep phase graphs.”

The food consumption functionality is perhaps the most subjective and least scientific of the features touted by Jawbone/Aliph.  Apparently the included Apple iOS application allows you to snap photos of the food you are eating and later on respond to questions about how the food made you feel.  I suppose this is one way to approach the problem of overeating and poor nutrition but it seems a bit too unscientific and “soft focus” to be truly useful, although real-world use will no doubt prove to be interesting.

Given that approximately 74.6% of Americans are either overweight or obese (the highest rate in the world) and between 100,000 and 400,000 deaths a year are directly related to all this extra weight (not to mention the $146 billion price tag associated with America’s overly Rubenesque figure), the UP system is a terrific step forward in optimizing how well (or lack thereof) we are tending to the needs of our bodies and improving our health.  Personal data tracking is all the rage  and there is definitely a Hawthorne Effect-esque (i.e., changing one’s behavior simply because you know that you’re being observed) benefit to knowing that every minute you spend watching Annoying Orange noshing on pork rinds is going to come back to haunt you.

[Thanks Josh]

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