The long road that led Nike to put the brakes on FuelBand

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 22, 2014        

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Nike’s FuelBand may be the first big failure of the wearable activity tracker market — or the company may be pivoting into an emerging paradigm of software-based tracking, possibly related to the upcoming iWatch launch. Either way it seems a chapter is over in the life of a company that has been one of the longest running and most high profile companies in the mobile fitness and wellness space. Nike was doing mobile fitness tracking before the iPhone even existed — and now it looks poised to continue doing so, even if the iPhone is supplanted. Read on for a timeline slideshow of the history of Nike and mobile fitness.

May 2006: Nike+iPod Sport Kit

A later version of the Sport Kit is still available.

A newer version of the Sport Kit, which is still available.

Nike teamed up with Apple for the first time a year before the first iPhone came out, with a smart shoe, a clip-on receiver, and software built into the iPod Nano. The Sport Kit could track data on time, distance, calories burned, and pace, and display them all on the iPod Nano’s screen, as well as delivering audio feedback through the headphones. It also introduced nikeplus.com, a website where users could analyze tracking data. The system cost $29.

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Health-sensing smart sock for babies, Owlet raises $1.85M

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 22, 2014        

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OwletProvo-based newborn wearable device maker Owlet has raised $1.85 million in funding from a mix of investors that included R/GA, Techstars, Azimuth Ventures, Life Sciences Angel Network, Utah-based Peak Ventures, Eniac Ventures, ff Ventures, Brand Band Project and John Ason, an early investor in Diapers.com, according to a report from Dow Jones.

Owlet did not respond to a request for more information by press time.

Owlet crowdfunded its ankle-worn, health sensing sock for babies last year. It raised about $300,000 from supporters to build the device, which will connect to parent’s smartphones via Bluetooth 4.0 (low energy).

The “smart sock” is intended to be worn by the baby as they sleep, and it tracks heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygenation, and sleep data that is transmitted to the cloud and accessible through an app on the parent’s phone or via any internet-connected device through a web portal. The wearable is rechargeable and it sends an alert to the parent’s phone when the juice is running low. The smart sock also offers a “roll alert” for parents of newborns concerned that their baby might roll over onto their stomach, which can sometimes obstruct their breathing. As long as the app is running in the background on the parent’s phone, they can get these alerts.  Keep reading>>

Fitnet raises $1.4M for its instructional video fitness app

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 22, 2014        

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FitnetInstructional video fitness app maker Fitnet raised $1.4 million from Valleys’ Ventures and CIT Gap Funds for its fitness app, Fitnet. Before this funding round, Fitnet was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and with some startup capital from the founder, the company’s total funding to date is just under $2 million.

Fitnet’s iOS apps offers users guided workouts that range from cardio and strength training to yoga classes. All classes are five minutes and when the workout is completed users can choose another workout or select the three-minute cool down option.

“The core experience for Fitnet is a virtual studio where the camera watches you workout and grades you in real time, it uses computer vision algorithms to watch your movements and compares it to the human trainer,” Bob Summers, Fitnet founder and “chief geek” told MobiHealthNews. “The score is what makes it really unique compared to other types of video fitness applications. Right now it starts with a sensor that everyone has on their mobile devices, which is a camera. You can turn this camera into a biometric sensor, essentially watching a person do physical activity.”

During the workout, the app shows users how close their movements are to the trainer’s and after the workout, users are given a score based on how well they did. While the company refers to the camera as a “biometric sensor”, it doesn’t actually sense any of the user’s biometrics. The app costs $0.99 per month for a full-access membership.

Fitnet will use the funds to add more developers to its team of six, expand its library of workouts, and add integration with fitness devices such as Jawbone and Fitbit. The fitness devices will add supplementary information to Fitnet’s algorithms so that the program can more accurately gauge if the user is doing the workout properly.

Fitnet’s next iteration might also be more social. In the current version, the app can only track one person at a time, but the company is considering ways to allow more people to work out in one session. The company plans to allow thousands of trainers to upload their own content to the app, which will be curated by the Fitnet team. Eventally, the app could even support physical therapy programs.

“If there’s post cardiac therapy that’s being delivered by a certain physical therapist, they could make that material available to their audience via Fitnet,” Summers said.

The app first launched January 2014, and Fitnet reported that they now have users in 180 countries and all 50 states. So far, according to the company, users have burned more than 1.25 million calories collectively.

Similar apps to Fitnet include Rock Health alums Skimble, an app that provides users with thousands of workout videos, and Wello, an app that connects people to professional trainers via two-way video messaging. Just yesterday, rumors surfaced that Weight Watchers is in talks to acquire Wello.

Healthbox raises $7M from Intermountain, HCSC, its first since founding

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 22, 2014        

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jill

Jill Seidman

Chicago-based digital health accelerator Healthbox Global Partners, Healthbox’s parent company since 2013, raised $7 million. The round was led by Intermountain Healthcare, Health Care Service Corporation, and Chicago Pacific Founders. Healthbox will use the funds to launch three new business units.

Since its founding, this is the first time strategic investors have invested in Healthbox’s parent company. Typically companies invest in the individual accelerator programs that Healthbox launches in various cities.

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Rumor: Weight Watchers to acquire Wello

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 21, 2014        

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WelloWeight Watchers is in talks to acquire virtual fitness coaching startup Wello, according to a report from TechCrunch. Wello, a Rock Health company, launched in July 2012. The company connects people to professional trainers via two-way video messaging. Users can choose a trainer or discipline that’s most interesting to them.

In November 2012 they raised $1 million from Kleiner Perkins, Mohr Davidow, Aberdare Ventures and Mayo Ventures as well as Morado Ventures, S1Cubed Capital, PhilQuo Ventures and angel investors — their only public funding raise to date.

“We are a fantastic solution for people for whom the gym does not work,” Co-CEO and Co-founder Leslie Silverglide told MobiHealthNews in an interview at the time. “People who are constrained by time, don’t have ability to get to gym, or don’t like working out in public. It’s a convenient way to work out, to not waste time, and you can do it anywhere with an Internet connection. …What we do is the real person, real trainer, designed just for you, correcting form to make sure you are doing everything right.”

In late 2012, the company had about 150 trainers on the system, and was showing a high retention rate — they said two-thirds of people who tried a session came back, and registered users completed 5.5 sessions a month on average. Notable to the rumored Weight Watchers acquisition, the company has also added group sessions, that allow friends around the world to work out together with a Wello trainer. Group meetings are a large part of Weight Watchers’ strategy: In fact the company published a study last year suggesting that in-person meetings were still a better predictor for weight loss than the use of apps or online tools.

Weight Watchers, a longtime stalwart of the weight loss industry, admitted in its 2013 second quarter earnings call that the “sudden explosion of interest in free apps and activity monitors” was hurting the company’s business. However, Weight Watchers also launched a new app for its members, focused around holiday meal planning, in December 2013. Just last month, it launched a new employer program — also mobile and web based — for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Wello is not the first Rock Health company to be acquired, nor is it even the first fitness coaching-related Rock Health startup to be acquired. Last year, online coaching startup Sessions was acquired by MyFitnessPal, one of the “free apps and activity monitors” that apparently have Weight Watchers running scared. Sessions CEO Nick Crocker previously called out Weight Watchers in an interview with MobiHealthNews, suggesting that, though effective, it’s methods might be outdated.

“We know Weight Watchers works,” he said in a statement last year. “It’s a good program, but we also know that technology is going to allow us to build something so much better. Weight loss shouldn’t require you to have to drive to a weekly meeting after work to get weighed in front of a bunch of strangers.”

Nike’s rumored FuelBand exit is likely onramp to Apple’s iWatch

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 21, 2014        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsOver the past few days much has been written about Nike reportedly laying off a majority of its FuelBand engineering team — a story that CNET exclusively broke late last week. According to the report, as many as 55 engineering employees of Nike’s 70-person strong hardware team were let go or possibly recruited by other divisions within Nike.

CNET also reported, citing anonymous sources, that Nike has pulled the plug on all future iterations of the FuelBand and all future physical devices under development in its Digital Sports division.

“The Nike+ FuelBand SE remains an important part of our business,” Nike said in a statement in reaction to the reports. “We will continue to improve the Nike+ FuelBand App, launch new METALUXE colors, and we will sell and support the Nike+ FuelBand SE for the foreseeable future. Nike is committed to Nike+, to NikeFuel and to driving innovations that bring richer experiences for all athletes. We will continue to leverage partnerships to expand our ecosystem of digital products and services, using NikeFuel as the universal currency for measuring, motivating and improving.”

It’s well known that Nike has long had a cozy relationship with Apple. Apple CEO Tim Cook has sat on Nike’s board for nine years, and he has been spotted wearing a Nike FuelBand in years past. Some version of Nike’s Nike+ software has been featured at almost every major launch of new Apple devices over the years.  Nike also responded to questions about working with Apple:  Keep reading>>