The deal, revealed Monday, allows Fitbit to transmit data and insights from devices like the Versa smartwatch to electronic medical files using Google’s cloud, machine learning and health-care-oriented software tools. The companies will also work with Twine Health, which Fitbit acquired last February, to make collaboration easier and help patients manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. The overall goal is to support better patient outcomes and positive returns for employers, health plans and hospitals.
Despite Google offering its own WearOS smartwatch operating system, née Android Wear, no plans are in the works to release a Fitbit WearOS device. Still, Fitbit hopes the relationship will help it “reach more people around the world faster, while also enhancing the experience we offer to our users and the health-care system,” said James Park, Fitbit’s cofounder and chief executive officer. “This collaboration will accelerate the pace of innovation to define the next generation of health care and wearables.”
Fitbit shares shot up six percent after the announcement.
The fitness-tracker company’s interest in health care puts it in competition with Apple. Fitbit has partnered with Dexcom and United Healthcare, and participates in the FDA’s tech precertification program and the National Institutes of Health’s Precision Medicine Research Program. Meanwhile, the iPhone maker has partnered with numerous health-care companies and offers tools like HealthKit, ResearchKit and CareKit to software developers, so they can build apps to support tracking, research and medical care. These tools all tie into Apple Watches.
Apple’s efforts and the increasing popularity of its watch make for an attractive proposition in the health-care sector. According to IDC’s global wearables report in March, the tech giant’s worldwide wearables shipments surged in the last quarter of 2017, allowing it to speed past Fitbit and Xiaomi to nab the top spot. Apple’s grip seems all the more significant, considering the growth of the wearables sector overall: IDC reported that global shipment volumes hit 37.9 million units, a 7.7 percent growth in the quarter compared to the year-ago period. The market grew 10.3 percent over the whole year.
“User tastes have become more sophisticated over the past several quarters and Apple pounced on the demand for cellular connectivity and streaming multimedia,” Ramon Llamas, research director for IDC’s wearables team, said at the time. “What will bear close observation is how Apple will iterate upon these and how the competition chooses to keep pace.”