Tens of thousands of people have fitness trackers of some sort. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo recently purchased 11,000 Jawbone Ups for the company’s staff. Data from IHS iSuppli estimates that a total of 250 million performance monitors will ship from the beginning of 2013 through the end of 2017. That number includes heart rate monitors, running computers, outdoor pursuits computers, cycling computers, activity monitors, and pedometers.
But aside from monitoring their steps, what are those people actually doing with the data those devices give off? Where will all the data go? How can we change the nation’s overall health (or the world’s for that matter) with connected devices? An Austin, Texas startup called Filament Labs wants to answer those questions. It does so by providing an app built on your existing health data that offers recommendations to actually make you healthier. And because they’re aware that the healthiest people tend to buy fitness apps, which isn’t really where the most change needs to happen, they’re aiming their algorithms at the insurance and doctor markets.
“You have to work with the hospitals and health plans,” said Jason Bornhorst, co-founder. “The people who need this most aren’t in the iTunes store.”
I met the company last week at our Austin internet of things meet up and loved the premise. First, I like that the company isn’t reinventing the wheel with a new device. Its founders Colin Anawaty (pictured left) and Bornhorst (pictured right) know the value in the internet of things is data, and they are trying to find a place where they have access to it. So, for Filament Labs, the real value will be in the algorithms that offer advice based on the data, as well as their experience building out a mobile user interface — experience that will help the end user (the consumer) follow the advice dispensed by their doctor.
OTher startups like Tictrac and Human API also want to help consumers make sense of their personal health data with apps and services tat analyze device data, but they’re not eyeing the insurance and doctor market as closely.
The company does also have a consumer-oriented mobile app called HealthSpark, which is where people can input some of their tracking data and get recommendations that range from a suggestion that you should take a walk to recommending you drink some water. But it’s on the professional end where they hope their app will make waves. So far, Filament Labs is one of 30 startups chosen to operate on insurance giant Aetna’s CarePass platform. The eventual goal is that you can integrate your doctor’s data and recommendations with your own health data and run all of that through Filament Labs’ algorithms to get help in managing a chronic condition or just get healthier.
The pair believes their mobile experience will help them build apps that can offer recommendations for managing chronic conditions such as diabetes in a user-friendly way. Bornhorst explains that unlike an app a doctor may write, the Filament founders want theirs to be fun and help patients form new habits. In fact, the Power of Habit, a book published in 2012 was the genesis of the company.
Bornhorst read it and realized that he could change his own life and the lives of others using data and the smartphones already in people’s pockets. With apps such as Moves and Noom’s Walk that track data continuously once it is installed on the phone, Bornhorst saw opportunity. “Picking up your phone and taking it with you is already a habit for people,” he said. “They don’t have to learn anything new, like wearing a fitness tracker.”
Thus, everyone, even people without Nike Fuelbands or Jawbone Ups will have a chance to gather activity data. And when devices like Scanadu come on the market, Filament Labs aims to integrate that data into it’s app. Bornhurst, who used to head the mobile team at Expedia, explains that he thinks the healthcare industry is about to undergo a huge shift around mobility and user data that Filament Labs wants to take advantage of. And it’s a shift he’s seen before.
“Healthcare seems like what travel was about eight years ago,” he said. “Each site had a one-stop service where you would buy a ticket from Expedia and get a hotel on a hotel site and beyond the transaction, there were no other services. Now it’s buy a ticket from Expedia and I have the app that will hold my hand throughout the travel process, showing me my gates, delays and everything. With medicine, now I walk into the hospital and get a 15 minute consult with a diagnoses, but it will trend to full service with apps from health plans and hospitals that will help manage the after-care.”
That’s Filament Labs’ hope anyway. The four-month-old startup is mum on the money it has raised so far and hopes to sell its software platform to hospitals and insurance companies. So far it doesn’t have a paying customer, with Anawaty noting that these organizations are a tough nut to crack on the sales side, and the deals themselves take a long time.
This post was updated at 11am to correct the captioning for the featured image of the two founders.