​Jawbone sets up its enterprise health play with Groups

Wearable makers smell units, volume and money in corporate wellness programs. Jawbone makes its move with UP for Groups.

Jawbone, which makes fitness trackers via its UP band and app, launched UP for Groups, an effort to target enterprises, health care cost improvements and move units. Rest assured the Jawbone UP for Groups model will be followed by other wearable device makers.

In a blog post, Jawbone said that UP for Groups is available to any group with 10 or more participants. That level will hit every company from a small business to a Fortune 500 enterprise. In addition, Jawbone gets into the wellness program and behavior change business. Bottom line: Jawbone has the potential to make more money with wellness programs than it does selling to consumers. Why sweat the scrum that is wearable devices when there's a B2B play to be had.

Jawbone's UP system for individuals tracks sleep and exercise and then coaches. The UP app is well done and the actual band you barely notice. In a group setting, admins---likely a benefit plan administrator or HR, can use UP to understand how employees tackle wellness in aggregate. A company could tell if there's a lull in activity, sleep deprivation near big projects and other wellness metrics.

CNET: Jawbone Up3 and Up Move coming this year -- and neither one's a smartwatch (hands-on) | Top wearable tech picks | ZDNet: Jawbone announces affordable UP Move and high-end UP3 activity trackers | Startup tackles SMB corporate wellness initiatives | Salesforce.com adds Jawbone, Oculus Rift, smart devices to wearables platform | Canalys: Wearable band shipments up 684 percent, FitBit and Jawbone lead

The idea here is that companies can coach their employees to be more fit---and lower health care costs.

Naturally, there are likely to be a few wrinkles to ponder. Jawbone already tackled the privacy issue. UP for Groups data is aggregated and anonymous and no admin can see individual data. In addition, a group needs at least five participants to show data. Bands will be discounted for groups.

More: Companies expect wearables in the workplace, but few have polices in place yet | Wearables: Now you see them, but soon you won't | Wearables: An all-body network of marketing pitches?

You see where this is headed. Jawbone rivals will launch similar programs. Wearables will be used to track employee well-being---for discounts on health care. And the big dog to watch will be Apple with its Apple Watch. It's not much of a stretch to see an IBM-Apple partnership revolving around the Apple Watch in the future.

In the not-too-distant future, this movement to change culture and lower health care costs via wearables and gamification will become really interesting.

By 2017, 30 percent of wearable technology will be unobtrusive to the eye and largely hidden, according to Gartner. Gartner's bet is that technology including sensors, alarms and tech components will be hidden into designs that will revolve more around fashion. Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann's prediction about hidden wearables revolves around a bevy of crowdfunded projects for things like smart contact lenses and jewelry.

The big question will be how many of these wearables---as well sensors in smartphones---will be sharing data with your company in an effort to make you healthier and cheaper to insure.

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