TIME Gadgets

Fitbit CEO: Here’s What’s Coming Next

James Park, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fitbit Inc. in San Francisco on Aug. 22, 2014.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images James Park, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fitbit Inc. in San Francisco on Aug. 22, 2014.

Stress tracking, blood pressure monitoring, and new fashion partnerships are all possibilities

Fitbit’s fitness trackers already gather tons of information about users’ activity. Depending on the device, they know how many steps they’ve taken, how many flights of stairs they’ve climbed in a day, how many hours they’ve slept the night before and more. Next, CEO James Park says the company is looking at ways to start collecting other kinds of health data, too.

 

“We’re definitely going to be releasing devices with advanced sensors that help people track not only more accurate metrics on what we’re doing today, but additional metrics as well,” says Park. “I can’t talk specifically, but things people are going to be interested in in the future are blood pressure, or stress, or more stats about their athletic performance. Those are all things that we’re working on and we’ll continue to release over time.”

For Fitbit, adding more sophisticated technology to its health trackers could be a way to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. From technology giants like Apple and Microsoft to more fitness-focused companies like Jawbone and Garmin, the number of health-oriented wearables out there is getting larger every day.

Microsoft, in particular, has attempted to differentiate its Microsoft Band from rivals by integrating sensors that aren’t common among other fitness bracelets, such as a UV monitor for measuring sun intake. And Apple reportedly planned to build sensors into its Apple Watch that could measure things like stress and blood pressure, but it struggled include those features in the first incarnation of the device, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Fitbit now seeks to maintain its ranking as the top seller of fitness trackers by developing more personal devices. In addition to working on more advanced sensors, Park says Fitbit plans to strike partnerships with fashion brands as it has done with Tory Burch in the past.

Looking beyond hardware, Fitbit is also looking to find new ways to make the data from its devices more usable. “Up to this point it’s been about gathering as much data as we can and the presentation and the visualization of that data,” says Park. “Now I think a lot of that effort is going to go into making that data actionable, whether it’s through coaching, insights, or guidance.”

Fitbit and its competitors have experimented with different ways to influence wearer behavior rather than just displaying health metrics. The Apple Watch, for instance, lightly pings your wrist throughout the day to remind you to stand. Jawbone’s app looks at your activity and provides suggestions and insights about what you can do to reach your fitness goals based on your behavior.

The ideas Fitbit has for improving the software experience stretch beyond just adding improvements to its app. When asked if future Fitbit devices would be able to run full apps rather than only delivering notifications to the wrist, Park says third parties will be able to tap into a future device “in some ways.”

“With a more advanced device in the future, yes absolutely,” says Park. “We’re going to allow third parties in some ways to tap into the power of having an always-on device on someone’s wrist.”

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