Jawbone buys BodyMedia to go big in wearable technology and health tracking

Over the past couple of years, Jawbone has been building up its position in wearable computing and health tracking with the launch of its Up wristband and the purchase of MassiveHealth and Visere. But with the acquisition of BodyMedia – a pioneer in wearable body monitoring technology – Jawbone is showing its deepest commitment yet to the space.

Announced Tuesday, the acquisition was a cash and stock deal valued at north of $100 million, according to sources close to the matter. With BodyMedia’s technology and expertise, Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman said, his company plans to further its innovation in health and wellness, as well as uncover new applications for wearable computing in general.

“We think that everything in the world is going to be smart and interconnected with lots of sensors,” said Rahman. “The more interconnecting points you have, the more signals you integrate in that system, the more intelligent things you can do for the user.”

BodyMedia: more than 500 trillion sensor points collected and analyzed

In the past few years, health tracking has become more en vogue with the launch of devices like the Nike Fuelband, Fitbit (see disclosure) and Up. But BodyMedia’s creators John (Ivo) Stivoric, an early innovator in wearable sensors and the co-founder of two design studios at Carnegie Mellon University, and Astro Teller, a former Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and entrepreneur, launched their company in 1999.

Since then, the company says its multi-sensor body monitors (like the armband worn by contestants on the TV show The Biggest Loser) have collected and analyzed more than 500 trillion sensor points. Unlike other consumer fitness trackers, BodyMedia’s devices have also received FDA clearance and are backed by clinical outcomes. In addition to selling direct-to-consumer, the company targets health professionals with wearable monitors that enable them to help people with obesity, diabetes and other conditions.

The 14-year-old company has raised $49 million from investors including Comcast Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson ePlanet , Draper Triangle Ventures , Ascension Health Ventures and InCube Ventures.

Three phases for the wearable computing market

Right now, the wearables market is mostly in the accelerometer phase, said Rahman. With that technology, the Up wristband, for example, enables Jawbone to collect and provide users with information on their activity and sleep. But, he added, the BodyMedia acquisition will allow Jawbone to stake out a leading position in the next two phases of the market, which will revolve around multiple sensors on the body and the services and applications that connect and make sense of all that data.

As part of the acquisition, BodyMedia’s 60 employees will join Jawbone. For now, Rahman said, BodyMedia’s devices will continue to be sold under the BodyMedia brand. In time, he said the goal is for all of the devices to be part of the same “unified service system.” For example, if a person who uses an Up wristband to track day-to-day activity needs to share health information with a clinician for a condition, he could use a different monitoring device but it would integrate with the same software system.

“You have different events in your life that you need to be able to track and understand – this broadens and enriches our [suite of products] we can [offer] in the context of all of those life moments,” Rahman said.

The shift to passive tracking

Beyond health care, he added, “everything in the world is moving to passive tracking.” Consumers increasingly want their devices to just know where they are, how much they slept, how much they moved and what they might be interested in. More sensors means Jawbone can better understand its users and provide better services, he said.

In addition to announcing the BodyMedia acquisition, Jawbone said it had launched an “Up Platform” for iOS (s AAPL) with 10 partners, including IFTTT, LoseIt, MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, Notch.me, RunKeeper, Sleepio, Wello and Withings. Users can merge their data from those apps with their Up data. For example, they can log a run in RunKeeper and then view the data in Up or step on a Withings scale and then monitor their weight in Up.  The company also said that it soon plans to extend the ecosystem of Up-integrated services by opening its API.

Jawbone declined to disclose how many people use the Up wristband, but said, in aggregate, the system tracks more than a billion steps and 610,000 hours of sleep each day and that, on average, users check their app five times a day and sync their data twice a day.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.