Jawbone vs. Fitbit

Recently, the wearable devices maker Jawbone went into liquidation. Some speak of “death by overfunding” (e.g. Business Insider). By contrast, Fitbit, another wearable devices maker, is doing well. Why?

In order to get a better sense of what led up to the current situation, I looked at temporal patterns across several Mergeflow data sets, from 2012 until 2017. The data sets I used include venture investments, patents, scientific publications, industry news, and technology blogs. For each data set, our analytics platform calculates growth and share of your topics, and how they develop over time.

Here is how the average across all signals, from R&D to business to finance, looks for Jawbone vs. Fitbit:

While Jawbone's momentum across R&D and business has decreased from 2012 to 2017, Fitbit has picked up momentum during the same time frame.

You can clearly see how Jawbone and Fitbit moved into opposite directions over the last five years.

What is driving this development?

In order to address this question, we can zoom in to see how the underlying signals across different dimensions developed. Below is a chart that shows emergence scores for all signals:

From 2012 to 2017, Jawbone has received more venture funding than Fitbit. But Fitbit has stronger momentum in science publications and in patents during the same time frame.

Emergence scores are between -1 (worst possible development) and 1 (best possible development) of size and growth of a signal over time.

The chart shows that…

  • …VC investments went up for Jawbone and Fitbit (remember the “death by overfunding” story to which I referred above?).
  • …in all other signals, Jawbone moved down, and Fitbit moved up.

Perhaps a bit surprising, at least to me, was how the “Scientific Publications” signal developed. So I took a closer look at scientific publications related to Fitbit. First, here is how the publications are distributed across sources:

Most science publications related to Fitbit are from the life sciences and medical domain.

By far the biggest single source is PubMed. PubMed is a fantastic resource for medical publications.

Of course, I wanted to know what these publications are about, and who some of the leading experts are. Below are three of the biggest author social networks extracted by Mergeflow:

A group at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice:

R&D team at the University of Dartmouth, using Fitbit.

A group at the Department of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin:

R&D team at the University of Wisconsin, using Fitbit.

A group at the Seattle Children’s Hospital:

R&D team at Seattle Children's Hospital, using Fitbit.

These and other groups cover a wide range of topics, although they all revolve around promoting physical activity. Below are a few examples, in case you want to dig deeper:

Mobile and Wearable Device Features that Matter in Promoting Physical Activity

Piloting a mobile health intervention to increase physical activity for adolescents with ADHD

Wearable devices and mobile technologies for supporting behavioral weight loss among people with serious mental illness

A Mobile Health Application to Track Patients After Gastrointestinal Surgery: Results from a Pilot Study

Why do I think this is important? Because I think it shows that wearable devices should be taken seriously. Perhaps particularly by makers of specialized, high-cost medical devices.