Fitbit’s OS update unveils new features and APIs

Fitbit unveiled a bevy of updates to its smartwatch line on Monday that directly compete with the offerings of rival Apple.

Fitbit declining share global wearable market 2018Business Insider Intelligence

The Fitbit OS 3.0 update — available for the Ionic and Versa smartwatches — includes expanded tracking of sleep, water intake, and weight data alongside new health and wellness apps. Fitbit also released two new application programming interfaces (APIs) — the frameworks developers use to create new apps — to facilitate the creation of new health and fitness apps for Fitbit devices.

The updates provide the foundation for new applications that could make Fitbit devices more valuable to health firms:

  • Payers could use Fitbit’s new illness prediction app to reduce admissions. The new third-party app — which was spun out of a collaboration between Fitbit and achu — is currently only consumer-facing, but could eventually be used by providers and payers to stage earlier interventions that preempt hospital visits.
  • And the new APIs give healthcare developers a framework to use consumer data for personalized health apps. These software development platforms allow developers and healthcare professionals to tap into the wealth of health data stored in consumers’ devices to develop apps that can improve chronic disease management and clinical trial design, for example.

Fitbit’s new smartwatch features are a direct response to the expanding digital health functions of the new Apple Watch. For example, Apple launched ResearchKit and HealthKit — APIs that make it easier for developers to tap into consumer health data stored by the iPhone and Apple Watch— in 2014 and 2015. And Apple made a big splash in September 2018 when it announced it received FDA clearance for a new Watch feature that can detect atrial fibrillation (aFib), a form of irregular heartbeat.

Fitbit’s narrowed focus on digital health in 2018 has stemmed its bleeding market share — but Apple still has the upper hand. Likely anticipating that smartwatches will continue to cannibalize fitness tracker sales, Fitbit has released its first two smartwatch products since August 2017.

In addition to providing new revenue streams, smartwatches better align with employers’, insurers’, and healthcare providers’ interest in using wearables to depress medical costs and improve patient outcomes. Fitbit’s still operating in Apple’s shadow, however, with Apple capturing 13% of the global wearables market in Q3 2018, versus Fitbit’s 11% share, per IDC.

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