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Jawbone goes the health monitor route with wrist sensor

Fresh off its latest $70 million funding round, Jawbone is now turning its eyes to the growing opportunity in wearable health monitors with a wrist sensor product. Called UP, Jawbone’s first non-audio product, is a wristband equipped with an application that combines tracking and analysis of user movements, nutrition and sleep patterns.

Jawbone has made its name with stylish Bluetooth headsets and late last year started selling a portable speaker called the Jambox. UP will leverage Jawbone’s work in wireless technology and will also tap the company’s ability to make small wearable devices with long battery life. The price has not been announced but the device should be available later this year.

The move will also put the company into the growing market for portable health monitors. I recently wrote about Basis, a wrist monitor from Pulse Tracer that monitors not just movement but heart rates, temperature and skin response. Affectiva, an MIT spin-off, also recently released Q, a wrist sensor that monitors motion, temperature and electrodermal activity, which can measure stress, relaxation and arousal. The upcoming devices shows that companies are able to pack in a lot more sensors into small wearable units.

The wristwatch form factor makes a lot of sense because people are already used to wearing them and they can be easily integrated into people’s daily lives. It’s still harder to make devices that are really capable but also very compact. But as we’re seeing with the success of Fitbit and Nike+ (s nke) as well as mobile applications like Runkeeper, people are interested in various tools that can help them stay on top of their health management and tracking.

CEO Hosain Rahman, who unveiled UP at the TED Global conference, told Techcrunch that the goal was to help users tackle preventable health problems. He said UP can use Jawbone’s large distribution and scale to help get people to buy the product. And he said it shows where Jawbone can expand to in the future.

“It seems like a big departure, but once we start talking about the things it takes to make this whole category work, we get into things like making it tiny, having a long battery life, making it fashionable, making it waterproof, working with smart phones, having a rich, visual experience on your smart phone and making it social. This is all stuff we do anyway. It comes back around to the mission of your mobile lifestyle.”

I like where Jawbone is going and it makes sense to branch out in this way. We’re getting to the point where technology can really aid health and wellness and the more companies looking in this direction the better. Jawbone will need to figure out the health sensor details of this product but it’s got some good assets to bring to bear on this product. And hopefully, it will also shine a light on the power of portable sensors in helping people understand their health.

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