BodyMedia snaps up $12M for fitness trackers

Krystal Peak · May 23, 2012 · Short URL:

As bikini season draws closer, the health gadget market seems to be warming up

Tech products in the field of health and wellness have greatly improved since all you could use to gauge your activity level was a treadmill tracker or a pedometer. One company focused on more accurately tracking the activities of everyday people, BodyMedia, has just announced that it landed a $12 million round. 

This latest round, led by Comcast Ventures, will help the company expand on its tracking services to include diabetes management, sleep tracking and elderly assistance care.

Already, BodyMedia's FIT tracker, a medical-level armband that is able to store various health metrics, is in a busy field with other devices such as the BodyBug, Jawbone UP, FitBit, and Fuelbands.

BodyMedia's FIT uses skin temperature, sweat and heat dissipation to monitor your overall daily activity as well as sleep cycle and connects to computer software where users can update their weight, log meals and track other metrics to give an overall idea of their body fitness. 


Existing investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, ePlanet, Draper Triangle Ventures, Ascension Health Ventures, and InCube Ventures joined Comcast Ventures in the funding round.

Founded in 1999, BodyMedia has raised a total of $49 million in funding, some of which was even federal funding -- for its work on a diabetes prevention and management solution.

Other health products in tech

Just last month, Fitbit finally started selling its new Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, which measures weight, body-fat percentage and body-mass index.

Originally previewed at CES this year, the scale connects to a person's Fitbit account and can be accessed on the computer, iPhone, or Android app.

This new device supplements the already popular Fitbit activity monitor very well by helping track progress to achieve weight and fitness goals.  The scale automatically uploads via Wi-Fi and can recognize up to eight users. The set-up time is promised to only take a few minutes and, as a default, all the weight users are set to private unless you choose otherwise.

The Fitbit service then can track trends with free graphs and charts as well as provide motivation and badges to reach different goals. 

The San Francisco startup, founded in 2007, is in a growingly busy space now that Nike, BodyBug and Jawbone are all trying to get people with a fitness focus to wear their devices 24-7 - but it is also a tricky industry with high expectations. 

Just before Christmas, Jawbone raked in $40 million from several investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Deutsche Telekom and Yuri Milner -- which brought the total funding for the company to $210 million. 

And, in January, Nike announced its own activity tracking wristband called the Fuelband -- the same month that Fitibt announced that it has pocketed $12 million more for its growing services and products.

The company's signature device is the Fitbit Ultra, which tracks your steps, running activity, and how much you walk up stairs -- it can also track your sleep.

The device looks like a plastic clip and can be worn on a wristband, in the center of a bra or on a belt to track activity.

FitBit products are sold at more than 5,000 locations including 24 Hour Fitness, RadioShack, Target and Brookstone.

FitBit's biggest competitor up to this point has been Jawbone'e UP device which has been valued, by the International Business Times, at near $1.5 billion.

Jawbone ran into some public relations and service issues in the last few weeks when users of its $99 UP wristband were reporting syncing, monitoring and use issues and the CEO, Hosain Rahman, issued an apology two weeks ago and a promise of full-refunds AND replacements to all those interested.

"We recognize that this product has not yet lived up to everyone’s expectations – including our own," Rahman wrote to consumers. "Jawbone remains deeply committed to addressing all issues with UP, investing in the category and giving our customers the tools to live a healthier life. We’ve temporarily paused production of UP bands and will begin taking new orders once these issues have been sorted out. In the meantime, we’ll continue to release app updates for existing users."

The refund program was launched on Dec. 9 and applies to any UP bracelet purchased from a Jawbone retailer in 2011.

The new Nike FuelBand is a wrist-band, similar to the Jawbone UP that was pulled from the market for faulty readings, and syncs your activity data to a PC or iPhone.

This new device brings a major sporting company even further into the health technology sphere -- with an even deeper partnership with Apple.

Last year, Nike created a geo-location based app for the iPhone that lets runners track their routes while listening to their workout tunes and now they are brining food and other activity tracking to the iPhone so that active people are able to track their progress.

"The NIKE+ FuelBand is a way for Nike to further evolve the exciting possibilities of merging the physical and digital worlds," said NIKE, Inc. President & CEO Mark Parker, in a statement. "Nike has always been about inspiring athletes, and the NIKE+ FuelBand will help motivate them in a simple, fun and intuitive way."

With summer around the corner, this may be a hot time for companies helping people stay on track for their swimsuit bods.


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