Jawbone Photo: jawbone.com

Jawbone recently took another step toward becoming a leader in health and fitness tracking tech. Long known for its Bluetooth audio devices, Jawbone first entered the health tech space in 2011 when it released the UP bracelet, which tracks metrics including movement and sleep habits. Now, it has acquired BodyMedia, the makers of wearable sensors such as the Fit Link, an advanced sensor that tracks a greater variety of metrics to determine users’ activity level and calorie burn.

The acquisition opens the possibility for new products that integrate BodyMedia’s innovative tracking technology with Jawbone’s modern, wearable designs. Jawbone has also updated its software platform so users can integrate data from other health and fitness-tracking devices such as Withings and MyFitnessPal. Both these developments signify Jawbone is serious about becoming a big player in health tech.

What’s the Deal?

The $110 million deal with BodyMedia comes just months after Jawbone acquired mobile health startup Massive Health and design firm Visere. Now, Jawbone is poised to take advantage of BodyMedia’s impressive resources. For one thing, BodyMedia started selling armbands and other wearable sensors way back in 1999, and since then it has accumulated a vast amount of data about the way users interact with tracking technology. Jawbone will also acquire BodyMedia’s 60 employees and 87 patents for multi-sensor body tracking technology.

In another big move, Jawbone announced it was updating its iOS application for the UP bracelet so that users can integrate the system with other health trackers, including LoseIt!, MyFitnessPal, and RunKeeper. Similarly, MapMyFitness, one of the largest fitness-tracking companies around, now allows users to automatically sync their data to the UP bracelet and vice versa (with the exception of sleep data).

Why It Matters

Although Jawbone plans to continue selling BodyMedia devices in their current form, the company’s acquisition could help push more advanced tech in the health tracking space. Right now, Jawbone’s UP bracelet is designed to track sleep, nutrition, and physical activity. But BodyMedia’s Fit devices (less sleek armbands with bulkier sensors) are registered with the FDA as class II medical devices, and they’ve helped medical professionals in clinical studies on obesity and related issues. Unlike many other trackers that rely purely on accelerometers to track movement, the BodyMedia devices pick up on changes in skin temperature and galvanic skin response (in addition to movement) to measure activity levels.

Other media outlets have predicted Jawbone’s devices could soon be registered with the FDA as well, and the company might eventually integrate BodyMedia’s tech into new hardware for a wide audience. The combination of better tracking technology with a more consumer-friendly design could push Jawbone to the forefront of a booming industry — and perhaps make health and fitness a little more accessible for everyone.

What products do you envision coming out of the partnership between Jawbone and BodyMedia? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.

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