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Fitbit’s Push for Pebble Could Stir Up the mHealth Wearables Market

The top producer of fitness bands may be signalling a new focus on mHealth and remote monitoring devices with its pursuit of the once-popular smartwatch pioneer.

- Healthcare providers looking for an entry into the wearables market may want to wait a while.

New reports today have Fitbit, the biggest and best-positioned developer of consumer-facing fitness bands, offering as much as $40 million for Pebble, the upstart smartwatch pioneer which earlier this year laid off a quarter of its staff amid a less-then successful attempt to market its own fitness band.

Fitbit, which is slowly building biometric tracking capabilities into its wearables, is reportedly after Pebble’s OS software platform. That could give the company a boost in developing products that cater to the healthcare sector.

Pebble, which secured $40 million through Kickstarter in 2012 and another $12.8 million last June, rejected two previous attempts to purchase the company – a $740 million bid from Citizen in 2015 and a reported $70 million bid more recently from Intel.

The news comes amid a smattering of rumors that wearables are falling out of favor. Microsoft recently announced plans to ditch its Band fitness tracker, while Jawbone is denying reports that it’s closing up shop.

Intel, meanwhile, has stopped production of its Basis Peak and Basis Ruby smartwatches, amid plans to downsize its New Devices Group. The company has refuted news reports that its plans to exit the wearables market altogether in favor of the Internet-of-Things market, including artificial intelligence-powered devices and self-driving automobiles.

“Intel is in no way stepping back from the wearables business,” Intel officials said in a press release. “We have several products in the works that we are very excited about, as well as prior launches that highlight our wearable technology such as the TAG Heuer Connected watch and recent Oakley Radar Pace smart eyewear,” the company said.

According to IDC, Fitbit leads the wearables market with a 25.4 percent share in the second quarter, followed by Xiaomi (14 percent) and Apple (7 percent, though that was just before Apple launched Apple Watch 2.0). Garmin followed with a 6.9 percent share of the market, but is expected to make a charge this holiday season with an array of wearables.

While Fitbit has a number of ongoing healthcare partnerships, the company did report mixed Q3 earnings and weaker guidance for the upcoming holiday season.

Apple, which launched the Apple Watch in 2014 and unveiled an updated model in September – alongside the iPhone 7 – has the chops to stay in the market. With an mHealth platform that includes HealthKit, ResearchKit and HomeKit and partnerships with health systems across the world, it’s working to make the elusive connection between a consumer-facing wearable and a clinically validated remote monitoring device.

Dig Deeper:

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