New wristband harnesses Apple gadgets for fitness

Wireless earpiece maker Jawbone is once again blending fashion and technology to help people make healthier choices with a little help from their beloved Apple gadgets. The company this week unveiled UP, a smartly engineered wristband that synchs with software for iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices to steer users toward better habits when it comes to eating, sleeping, and being active. "UP is Jawbone's first step in giving people tools to become engaged as consumers of their own health," said Jawbone founder and chief executive Hosain Rahman. "As the global health crisis mounted, we felt a strong sense of responsibility to see if we could leverage our resources and talents to make a difference," he said. Jawbone has crafted a power-efficient wristband that looks like a simple piece of jewelry but senses body motions and sleep patterns so well that it can tell how many steps a person takes or how deeply he or she is slumbering. Users can even track their meals by using Apple gadget cameras to snap pictures of what they eat. Free UP software lets wristbands feed the information to iPhones, iPads, or iPod touch devices. The application even asks how people feel after they have had time to digest meals. UP presents data in bar graphs and timelines that expose patterns and show how close people are to achieving goals they set for themselves. "It's a system designed to integrate seamlessly into one's total lifestyle, 24 hours a day," Rahman said. "And thanks to the success and adoption of the iPhone, millions of users already have beautiful displays and robust computing platforms in their pockets." "We harness that amazing display with a fun, engaging iPhone app to bring the band to life." UP wristbands will be priced at $100 when they go on sale Sunday at as well as Apple Stores, Best Buy and other shops featuring smartphones. They will be available in Britain beginning November 17 and are to be rolled out globally by year's end. Jawbone sought the advice of health experts because changing lifestyles can be tough, especially when it comes to getting people to improve diets and add more exertion to daily routines. "Being healthy is the thousand decisions you make every day, not the three times a week you hit the gym or opt for a salad," Jawbone vice president Travis Bogard said while giving AFP an early look at UP. "The only way to solve that problem is to get smart about the behavior." Jawbone figured that since smartphones have already given rise to habits such as checking email at restaurants and socializing online, they might also be harnessed to lead users towards better physical fitness. "You spend an hour on Facebook, (and) not because you planned it. You just fall into it because they laid crumbs that led you there," Bogard said. "We want to do those same things for health." UP wristbands track users' level of activity, whether they are exercising, pacing in an office, or snoozing in bed. Sensors also record how long and how soundly UP users sleep. The wristband can even be set to wake someone by vibrating gently at an appropriate point in a light phase of sleep, in order to make rising easier. UP can also vibrate "Get Up and Move" prompts when wearers have been sitting too long. UP applications meanwhile let people set up networks of friends with whom they can share goals and progress. A game component lets users challenge friends to competitions, such as who can get the most sleep in a weekend or walk the most steps in a week. Friends can also form teams and "train" together. "We are trying to measure, engage, and then nudge people into action," Bogard said. "Lifestyle diseases are killing more people than communicable diseases... We were actually blown away by the statistics." Jawbone has partnered with the nonprofit Alliance for a Healthier Generation, DailyFeats, GE Healthymagination and the gym chain 24 Hour Fitness to create challenges people can sign up for at launch. "We think the magnitude of this health epidemic requires an entire community to effect real change," Rahman said. "We created our system as an open platform enabling health experts to connect with individuals in fun, engaging ways that have never been possible before."