Google plus Fitbit opens up new possibilities — and questions — for the smartwatch

    The Fitbit Versa 2 has Alexa. Now think about that with Google Assistant.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    The anticipated factor occurred: Google is buying Fitbit for $2.1 billion. What this all means, effectively… is dependent upon who you might be. Fitbit? Google? The wearer of a Fitbit or a Wear OS watch? Google’s {hardware} head, Rick Osterloh, confirmed the information Friday morning and in addition immediately confirmed that there are Made by Google wearables to come back.Having reviewed many, many Fitbits, together with the just-released Fitbit Versa 2, and having worn many Wear OS watches, I’ve ideas on the place that is going. And why it is occurring.

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    Why Google might use Fitbit


    Google’s Pixel watch will get a killer health platformOsterloh’s affirmation of a Made by Google wearable is not shocking: We’ve been anticipating one for years. Much like Nest was to Google’s sensible dwelling ambitions, Fitbit’s going to supply a transparent, present, strong health platform for that watch to be a part of. Maybe overlook about calling it a Pixel watch, and simply name it a Fitbit?There have been so many Wear OS watches, I’ve misplaced observe.
    Josh Miller/CNET
    So many watches, powered by FitbitFitbit is about knowledge. The firm’s years-long gathering of steps, sleep, weight, coronary heart fee and extra builds databases that flip into insights, demographic observations and much more for the corporate.That knowledge will belong to Google now. How that will get dealt with, effectively, we do not know but. But the extra units that acquire knowledge, the higher the information is. Fitbit has a variety of health trackers, however Google has dozens and dozens of Wear OS watches, together with tons from Fossil Group.Now think about all these watches, saying “powered by Fitbit,” and funneling into one database.Wear OS will get its model recognitionGoogle tried to broaden its footprint by partnering with conventional watch manufacturers like Fossil, however that did not essentially make extra individuals conscious of Wear OS. Fossil makes loads of smartwatches, however lots of its smartwatches look similar to common watches.Fitbit, nonetheless, is a identified amount. People say “Fitbit” as an alternative of “fitness tracker.” Fitbit was a high 5 wearable firm this 12 months. Maybe Google ought to preserve Fitbit as a product identify, and eliminate the identify Wear OS.FDA-cleared well being prospectsFitbit was alleged to be pursuing FDA clearance on each sleep and coronary heart fee measurements, most certainly for coronary heart arrhythmia and checking for indicators of sleep apnea. Fitbit by no means unveiled any of this, or an electrocardiogram just like the Apple Watch has, on its health wearables. But perhaps Google will.Gartner analyst and Senior Director Alan Antin sees some benefits to Fitbit already being in an FDA clearance quick observe program, however provides that Google’s guardian firm, Alphabet, “already had something like this going with Verily and Project Baseline. I don’t know that they added a ton there.”Fitbit CEO James Park discussing Fitbit’s collected knowledge at an August occasion.
    Scott Stein/CNET
    Did I point out knowledge?I keep in mind attending Fitbit’s Versa 2 occasion late this summer time and being reminded of Fitbit’s large quantity of collected knowledge. Fitbit’s footprint in enterprise and medical insurance and wellness packages can also be large. Let’s assume Fitbit’s present {hardware} finally will get changed. It’s the information and the subscribers to Fitbit’s service that actually matter. Fitbit at this time has over 28 million energetic customers, in accordance with the corporate. Fitbit’s app has a variety of neighborhood options. If Google can discover a strategy to harness all of that (and never make it creepy or invasive), that is an enormous kickstart to wherever Google’s planning to go together with wearables subsequent.”This is really more like a long term play. Fitbit has, because of tens of millions of users, quite a database of health information,” says Gartner’s Antin. “It instantly gets Google a big footprint.””By buying Fitbit, Google is acquiring customers and data. I think it’s a good move given Google has failed so far in wearables and Apple is so far ahead with [Apple] Watch,” agrees analyst Patrick Moorhead, who additionally sees loads of motive for client concern. “I think customers need to be asking the question about privacy and what Google is going to do with all of their personal health information.”In Fitbit’s press launch asserting the Google acquisition, it acknowledged that the corporate “never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.” A Fitbit spokesperson declined to remark additional on the acquisition. “Fitbit will come under Google’s privacy policy,” mentioned Heather Dickinson, head of company communications for Google Cloud. “Similar to our other products, including Fit, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads and we’ll empower Fitbit users to review, move or delete their data.”We’ll additionally honor the privateness commitments that Fitbit has made. User privateness is essential to us as we offer consumer selection, management and knowledge portability. We present instruments for customers to manage their knowledge, together with deletion and correction. Google has been a frontrunner in offering customers with the power to export their knowledge if they need and we’ll be bringing Google’s sturdy knowledge safety and portability requirements to Fitbit,” Dickinson said.Read more: How to download and manage your Google dataAnd, AI”I additionally suppose wearables are an vital piece in ambient computing, which is one other space the place we noticed Google’s curiosity,” says analyst Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies. Ambient has been Google’s catchphrase for the past year, between emerging technologies like Jacquard and Soli and smart home solutions. Google has had plans for deeper coaching and AI-driven guidance in health and fitness, and this is what Google’s next watch (or, Wear OS platform) was expected to introduce. Fitbit’s Alexa-enabled Versa 2 tried to glom an assistant on, but it didn’t weave it into the watch’s core functions at all. Fitbit’s recent dip into subscription coaching services could open up another path. So far I haven’t been wowed by Fitbit’s Premium offerings, but Google could bring more expanded capabilities.My biggest concern, and I’m sure Fitbit owners will agree, is where all this fitness and health data goes next. While Google is pledging privacy, it’s a lot of very personal info that’s suddenly living inside a much bigger ecosystem. It’s unclear what will happen next. Gartner’s Antin sees not much reason to panic: “These guys are tremendous cautious about anonymizing knowledge. People needn’t fear.”The data, in the long run, may be more about coaching and subscription services. “I do know there may be a variety of speak about knowledge and search and promoting, however I began to suppose that not all the pieces Google will likely be doing sooner or later will likely be about that,” says Milanesi. “Data will matter extra for AI than adverts and I count on Google to maneuver extra into paid providers.”(Updated at 3:15pm ET with feedback from Google on the acquisition)

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