An employee of Fullpower Technologies, rigged for a sleep study in the company’s lab. Right: The “head box” transfers input from body sensors to a base station that processes the data to create a personal polysomnogram. Photographs by Ian Allen for Fortune
Large-scale computing power, combined with input from millions of fitness trackers, could help unlock the mysteries of our national insomnia.
I’m playing tennis with Marissa Mayer, and oddly, the Yahoo YHOO -2.07% CEO is wearing a pearlescent purple gown and sipping from a teacup. Her dress is just long enough to obscure her feet, so she appears to be floating across the baseline. As she strikes the ball, she tips her chin skyward and laughs in slow motion.
Meanwhile, I’m perched in the lotus position atop a manta ray that’s hovering above the ground like some kind of Landspeeder. And I’m panicking. How can I keep my balance and still hit the ball—especially with my shirt collar pulling at my neck the way it is? Can’t swing my racket. I jerk my head left. Then right. I claw at my jawline. The ball has cleared the net, and it’s headed my way. If only. I could. Just. Move. My head.
And poof. She’s gone. I open my eyes in a strange room. It’s pitch dark and completely silent, but I manage to find my bearings. Santa Cruz, Calif. Breathing heavily, I carefully disentangle a gaggle of wires twisted around my neck and roll over to glance at the clock. Just after 3 a.m.
This scene, I now know, was merely one of 18 REM-sleep interruptions that I experienced between 11:18 p.m. and 6:16 a.m. during one long February night. What a strange setting for the only dream I’ve ever had about a chief executive: in a laboratory, tethered to a byzantine apparatus designed to monitor my brain activity as well as every breath, eye movement, muscle twitch, and heartbeat.
Let me explain. Like you and probably everyone you know, I’ve always been confounded by my sleep routine. Why do I one morning rise ready to tackle the day and the next seem barely able to lift my head? How much rest can I be getting if I wake up sideways with the covers on the floor and my wife in the guest room? Most important, what can I do better? I don’t want a magic pill. I’ve tried those. I know the rules of thumb: less stress, more exercise, better diet, no afternoon caffeine, put down the damn phone. But I’d kill for a personalized formula.
So I subjected myself to a polysomnography test, or PSG, hoping to unravel some of the mysteries of the night. My procedure was administered in the offices of Fullpower Technologies, one floor down from where I had spent most of the evening talking with the company’s founder and CEO, Philippe Kahn.
A French expatriate who grew up in Paris, Kahn, 63, is a Silicon Valley oracle whose track record predates the web. He founded Borland Software (acquired by Micro Focus) MCFUF -1.09% in the mid-1980s, followed by Starfish software (Motorola) and LightSurf Technologies (VeriSign) VRSN -1.53% . In 1997, while anticipating the birth of his daughter, he paired a state-of-the-art Casio CSIOY 0.51% camera with a Motorola Startac and became, he claims, the first person to transmit a digital photo over cellular airwaves. He’s also been a leader in wearable technologies.
Philippe Kahn says Fullpower is “operating a huge sleep experiment unlike anything anyone has ever done.” Photograph by Ian Allen for Fortune
That’s precisely the focus of Fullpower, which licenses its software to other companies. Nearly five dozen framed patents for wearable-related software and devices hang on the wall in the company’s lobby. The oldest dates to 2005, long before tracking steps became such a phenomenon. In the conference room there’s an assembly of chairs and tables around a full-size bed, making obvious Kahn’s latest obsession.
Fullpower built the lab about a decade ago to capture data from sleep patterns. Of course, test subjects don’t typically snooze deeply with wires glued to their skulls, chests, legs, and arms. But almost everyone manages to at least nod off for a while, and the data that subjects generate are valuable and often surprising. “What we found early on is that sometimes you sleep less and feel more refreshed,” Kahn says. “It’s because you woke up in the light part of the sleep cycle.” The insight led him to develop a sleep-cycle alarm that could determine the best time to alert a person within a certain window. “Sometimes it’s better to get up at 10 of seven than at seven,” he says.
Kahn insists that he’s on the cusp of many more such discoveries, and he’s intent on dispelling some of the conventional wisdom that stresses people out. “People say that if you can’t sleep for eight hours without waking up, something’s wrong with you. That’s such a fallacy,” he says. “Before electricity, people used to sleep in two shifts. That’s how I behave. Sleep for four hours, get up and do an hour and a half of work, and then another four.” He’s also skeptical of the notion that a quiet room is the best environment for shut-eye and dismisses the perceived deleterious effects of repeated rousing. “The sign of good sleep hygiene may not be how many times you wake up, but rather how rapidly you fall back to sleep. Sleep should be like hunger. Eat only when you’re hungry and until you’re satisfied.”
Fullpower has oceans of data to back Kahn’s theories. The company provides the sleep-tracking and activity-monitoring software for the Jawbone UP and Nike Fuel NKE -1.09% wearable devices as well as a new line of Swiss-made smartwatches and the forthcoming Simmons Sleeptracker Smartbed. The products transmit a mother lode of information (with users’ consent) to Kahn’s team. He thinks that by combining qualitative lab data and quantitative real-world data with machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other analytics technologies, he can unlock the secrets that so many of us walking dead are looking for: a better night’s sleep. “We’re operating a huge sleep experiment, worldwide, unlike anything anyone has ever done,” he says. “We have 250 million nights of sleep in our database, and we’re using all the latest technologies to make sense of it.”
Kahn is not alone. He’s part of a movement of brilliant entrepreneurs, data scientists, engineers, and academics who are looking at demographics, geographies, and lifestyles, and even into our genomes. They’re the beneficiaries of a historic explosion in sleep data, and they’re using many of the same technologies that are busily decoding some of the world’s other great mysteries. Tiny sensors, big data, analytics, and cloud computing can predict machine breakage, pinpoint power outages, and build better supply chains. Why not put them to work to optimize the most valuable complex system of all, the human body?
It’s not an exaggeration to say lack of sleep is killing us. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it a public health epidemic and estimates that as many as 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder. Sleep deprivation has been linked to clinical depression, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving causes 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually in the U.S. There are 84 sleep disorders, and some 100 million people—80% of them undiagnosed—suffer from one of them in particular: Obstructive sleep apnea, generally indicated by snoring, costs the U.S. economy as much as $165 billion a year, according to a Harvard Medical School study. That’s more than asthma, heart failure, stroke, hypertension, or drunk driving. And the study doesn’t account for tangential effects, like loss of intimacy and divorce. BCC Research predicts that the global market for sleep-aid products—everything from specialty mattresses and high-tech pillows to drugs and at-home tests—will hit $76.7 billion by 2019.
The financial upside for anyone who can crack the sleep code is obvious. And so the race is on. “I believe that 15 years from now, if we do this right, we can actually tackle epidemics like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and any number of lifestyle diseases,” says Kahn. “We’re going to help people live longer and better lives.”
Using a wristband to collect sleep data, an app to help learn new habits, and online tutorials for tips, Observer corespondent Alice Fisher works on getting better sleep with the Jawbone Up.
“I used the Sleepio app in conjunction with a Jawbone UP wristband. The band tracks movement and sleep, information that’s stored in your smartphone and online in your Sleepio account. It’s very easy to use. Wear the wristband to collect data and add any extra explanatory information into a simple online diary along with your subjective experience of last night’s slumber. Sleepio analyses it for you.”
BMR reviewed its first Jawbone UP in August 2013. Fresh out of the box, it was impossible to miss the play taken from Intel’s book, which was the statement imprinted inside the band that this was the “UP by Jawbone with MotionX”. Combined with the copyright notices in the phone app, we had all the motivation we needed to start the journey to learn just what MotionX is all about.
That journey quickly led to Philippe Kahn, CEO of Fullpower, the makers of MotionX. If that’s a familiar name it’s with good reason – Philippe is the former CEO of Borland, founder of Starfish Technologies, inventor of the camera phone, leader of the Pegasus Racing sailing team, and holder of endurance sailing records (a pursuit that calls for performance and decision making optimization under conditions of serious sleep deprivation). There’s plenty more, but back to our topic.
What follows is based on recent exchanges with Fullpower intended to bring greater clarity to what MotionX does and why it’s important. Currently, MotionX solutions can be found in the Jawbone UP and UP24, Nike+ running products, and the MotionX 24/7 app found in the iPhone App Store (where it alternates between first and second place on Medical category’s top seller list). Let’s start by digging into the technology’s various facets:
Wearable device algorithms.
Apps for iOS, Android, and Windows.
Cloud infrastructure to support interaction, data retrieval and presentation, updates, etc.
On their own, fitness bands contain a fair amount of miniaturized technology which typically includes processors, an accelerometer, a battery, and an antenna, usually Bluetooth. That’s just the hardware. Software is required to make these components function and work together properly to support power management, communications, and critically, data interpretation and collection.
On its own, an accelerometer can detect movements and send those signals to be processed and stored. From this point it gets complicated in a big way – particularly if accuracy and reliability are high priorities. The key challenge is how to interpret the signals coming from the accelerometer and distinguishing between a stride, a run, a handshake, or another Dorito chip.
It turns out that Fullpower has mastered this interpretive process the hard way – with time and painstaking effort. To begin with, activity monitors are usually worn on the wrist or arm, or carried in a pocket. As a result, products like the Jawbone UP must be carefully calibrated or “tuned” in order to accurately interpret and estimate what the wearer is doing.
There are different approaches to solving this problem. One way is to adapt commonly available algorithms like those designed to protect laptop hard drives in the event of a fall; another is to partner with research institutes which have a focus area on this topic and then adapt their work; and a third is Fullpower’s.
In broad, suitable-for-publication terms, Fullpower has invested many years of effort developing a rigorous approach to measuring and estimating natural human motion. Part of this process is includes video footage, inertial measurement unit (IMU) recordings and other undisclosed techniques, all performed 24/7, because sleep has to be studied too. These data are compared to the data being reported by the activity monitor with the net effect that this comparison and verification process greatly reduces errors in the estimation process by eliminating questions like “did the subject just twitch their arm or did they roll over while asleep?” Or, “is the subject running or are they just shaking their leg during a meeting?”. The video analysis can be conclusive and this knowledge can be factored (literally) into the algorithm development process. Repeating this process over the course of years, with many different people, activities, and situations yields a high level of precision backed by a very large and unique data set which only gets more accurate over time. This process doesn’t just apply to tracking steps – it plays a central role in developing sleep cycle alarms and more.
As an aside, another result of this kind of original research is a substantial intellectual property (IP) portfolio of early, seminal patents that have been awarded with many more awaiting approval. In Fullpower’s case, these patents cover more than just algorithms – they go on to include wearable devices, health/fitness/medical patents, sensor-related patents, and more. The net effect is that Fullpower has created a significant asset that can be licensed to produce current, ongoing revenue streams that complement the rest of the company’s efforts. In light of the early stage of wearable technology, this is a significant achievement.
Once precision has been assured and the required computational power has been designed to minimize power consumption, the question turns to how to offload the data that has been collected and stored on the device. Today, some devices require a cable connector to transfer data to a phone or computer. Others can use a cable or Bluetooth, and yet others use Bluetooth alone. It’s possible that the low energy feature of Bluetooth v4.0 will become the standard of choice for activity monitors, but we’re still early in the evolution of these products. The MotionX platform is compatible with cable- and Bluetooth-based channels.
We’re now ready to leave the device and move through the rest of ecosystem starting with phone apps. Innovation in this part of wearable technology is alive and well – in the course of its review process BMR always includes an analysis of the associated phone app. Some are rudimentary, others are considerably more sophisticated. Regardless of the features there are some basic functions that need to be fulfilled, including retrieval of data from the device, displaying it on the phone, delivering updates, and possibly provide connections to social media. Oh, and this all has to be done reliably while maintaining an engaging and satisfying user experience. Regardless, apps are an essential part of the experience and form another important part of the overall wearable ecosystem.
From the phone, the data are sent to a cloud-based platform that does the heavy lifting of managing user accounts and their associated data, and generally serving as the coordinating management platform for these devices once they’re in the wild.
MotionX is an end-to-end ecosystem designed expressly for wearable technology. It provides all the primary functions required to make a wearable technology product work, and it does so with a very high degree of accuracy and reliability. In the course of developing MotionX, Fullpower has amassed a substantial intellectual property (IP) portfolio, and its value is likely to increase as wearable technology continues to expand its footprint in our daily lives. If MotionX is another home run, it would be perfectly at home with the rest of Philippe Kahn’s successes.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwired – Jan 30, 2014) – Fullpower® today announced the new MotionX-24/7 App for iPhone.
MotionX-24/7 leverages patented algorithms at its core to deliver the highest quality medical-grade 24/7 sleep monitoring, snore/apnea, and resting heart rate detection and activity tracking available for the iPhone. The algorithms for sleep monitoring, apnea and snore detection, and heart rate tracking have been significantly improved in this version with the help of the feedback of millions of MotionX users. This is a milestone in that the quality and accuracy of MotionX is on par with state-of-the-art polysomnography equipment, yet run on an iPhone.
“We’d like to thank the millions of enthusiastic MotionX users around the world for their feedback,” said Philippe Kahn, founder and CEO of Fullpower. “We are proud to launch the new 24/7 which includes state-of-the art medical-grade technology for sleep, snoring, heart rate and activity tracking.”
The Fullpower patent portfolio includes more than 40 issued patents and more than 70 patents pending. Broad coverage for the MotionX Technology Platform introduces a new and necessary approach for continuous activity and sleep monitoring and analysis, with applications spanning a variety of health and fitness, medical, and navigation applications. Fullpower’s ongoing innovation translates to continually broadening and deepening of the IP related to the MotionX-24/7 Plug & Play Ecosystem for Wearable.
“Fullpower’s MotionX leadership position in powering wearable ecosystems is measured in years — no one else comes close,” said David Provost of Body Monitor Review.
MotionX-24/7 version 8.0 is immediately available from the App Store on iPhone or at www.AppStore.com/MotionX. For a limited time get MotionX-24/7 for $0.99, an 80% discount from the regular price of $4.99. This upgrade is free to current MotionX-24/7 users.
About Fullpower Technologies
Founded in 2003, Fullpower’s world-class team leads the wearable revolution with the MotionX Plug & Play Ecosystem for wearable. MotionX powers market-leading wearable solutions from Nike, Jawbone and others. The Fullpower wearable patent portfolio includes more than 40 issued patents and more than 70 patents pending.
Wearable technology and the Quantified Self movement are pretty trendy nowadays, especially since the launch of the ultra-popular Jawbone UP powered by MotionX technology. Today, Fullpower-MotionX, MotionX-24/7 for the iPhone and iPad, an activity tracker and sleep monitor optimized for the iPhone 5S M7 processor and iOS 7.
SANTA CRUZ, CA– (Marketwire – November 29, 2012) – Fullpower®-MotionX® today announced Sleep by MotionX version 4.0, the first app for the iPhone that measures resting heart rate and correlates resting heart rate with sleep quality.
Sleep by MotionX encapsulates seven years of research and development in the biomechanics of natural human motion and sleep optimization to bring the best professional medical-class tool to the iPhone. Sleep by MotionX provides the tools to help improve your sleep in a natural and non-invasive manner.
It is the first solution for iPhone that:
Helps measure and correlate resting heart rate with sleep quality
Provides the most advanced and accurate sleep-cycle alarm solution
Implements smart alarms for optimal length power-naps for the first time on any device
Delivers advanced automatic “Get Active” alerts
“We carefully analyzed the feedback of tens of thousands of active MotionX users to take sleep monitoring and optimization to the next level,” said Philippe Kahn founder and CEO of Fullpower-MotionX. “We integrated a very accurate heart rate monitor with our sleep monitor to track resting heart rate which research shows can be an indicator of overall health.”
Founded in 2003, by Philippe Kahn, the creator of the camera-phone, Fullpower-MotionX leads the wearable sensing revolution. With a broad IP portfolio including several dozen patents, the MotionX technology platform powers leading solutions from companies such as Jawbone, Comcast, Pioneer, JVC, Nike and others. Fullpower sees iPhone and iPad applications as a showcase for the MotionX technology platform. MotionX applications have established leadership in Health, Fitness and Navigation.
Santa Cruz, CA — June 28, 2012 — Fullpower-MotionX, maker of the critically-acclaimed MotionX navigations apps, announces the latest update to their MotionX-Sleep App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, which includes four new features: Sleep Sounds, PowerNap Mode, Weekend Mode and the ability to export sleep data to Numbers. With these new features, individuals can sleep better, wake up refreshed, and be more active while enjoying soothing sounds as they fall asleep.
The latest update to MotionX-Sleep takes an all encompassing approach to sleep health, improving both overnight sleep and daytime naps. MotionX-Sleep’s new PowerNap Mode banishes the grogginess that typically accompanies short lived naps by waking sleepers at the optimal time before they transition from light to deep sleep. Users can also analyze their sleep patterns and plan ways to improve their sleep by exporting the app’s collected data.
“MotionX is very proud of all the latest improvements to MotionX-Sleep,” said Philippe Kahn, founder and CEO of Fullpower-MotionX. “The app is a great example of how our advanced sensing technology can help improve people’s health.”
What’s new in this update:
– Sleep Sounds: Listen to white noise or music from your iTunes library to fall asleep optimally, with intelligent automatic fade-out.
– PowerNap Mode: Avoid grogginess by taking naps during the day and wake up refreshed using MotionX Sleep-Cycle intelligence. Automatically detects when users fall asleep, no manual alarm necessary.
– Weekend Mode: Users can set different alarms for different days to make those weekends in bed count.
– Export Sleep Information: Efficiently analyze and optimize your sleep sessions by exporting data to CSV file format.
The MotionX-Sleep App is available for $0.99 from the App Store on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore.
Fullpower-MotionX leads the wearable sensing revolution with a broad IP portfolio. The MotionX® sensing platform powers leading solutions such as Nike+ Running, the Jawbone UP wristband, and the Pioneer AppRadio. With continual innovation, MotionX is the leader for Health, Fitness and Navigation on the iPhone and the iPad.
SANTA CRUZ, CA–(Marketwire – Apr 19, 2012) – Fullpower®-MotionX® today announced its 2.0 update of the popular MotionX-Sleep App for iPhone and iPod touch, adding five new enhancements based on direct user feedback. MotionX-Sleep is a next-generation health and fitness app that tracks your sleep and daily activity directly from your iPhone or iPod touch.
The five new enhancements include:
Feature 1: New Alarm Clock Interface
The intuitive alarm clock makes setting your Smart Sleep Cycle Alarm quick and easy.
Feature 2: New Improved iPhone / iPod touch Placement
Optimize the placement of your iPhone or iPod touch with the new audible placement test.
Feature 3: New Sleep History Visualization
View your full sleep history, sleep graphs, and sleep statistics in 1-day, 7-day, or 30-day summaries.
Feature 4: Improved Accuracy
More accurate sleep tracking with optimizations for all mattress types, including Tempur-Pedic®.
Feature 5: New Facebook and Twitter integration
Post your sleep graphs and statistics for your friends and followers to check out.
“Feedback from customers and continual innovation have been the keys to our success as an iOS developer,” said Philippe Kahn, founder and CEO of Fullpower-MotionX, “With the latest version of MotionX-Sleep, we’ve added five great new features to help users sleep better, wake up refreshed and be more active.”
SANTA CRUZ, CA— March 8, 2012 — Fullpower®-MotionX® is proud to introduce the MotionX-Sleep App for iPhone and iPod touch, available now on the App Store. MotionX-Sleep is the next-generation health and fitness app that tracks your sleep and daily activity directly from your iPhone or iPod touch.
MotionX-Sleep uses innovative third-generation MotionX technology and the sensors in your iPhone and iPod touch to analyze your sleep and help you wake-up refreshed. MotionX-Sleep picks the optimal time in your sleep cycle to wake you and helps you be more active during the day, to help you sleep better at night.
“MotionX-Sleep helps everyone sleep better and wake-up refreshed,” said Philippe Kahn, founder and CEO of Fullpower-MotionX. “Through continual innovation MotionX has developed the broadest IP portfolio for health and fitness solutions.”
MotionX-Sleep visualizes your sleep with easy to understand graphs and statistics. You can now see how long it takes you to fall asleep; patterns of deep and light sleep, as well as overall sleep efficiency and quality.
Wake Up Refreshed
The MotionX smart sleep cycle alarm wakes you at the optimal time in your natural sleep cycle so that you get up feeling refreshed. Set the smart sleep cycle alarm for the time at which you want to wake-up and MotionX picks the optimal point in the 30 minutes before your set time to wake you.
Be More Active
MotionX-Sleep tracks your activity during the day, and notifies you when you’ve been sedentary too long so you can get up and move so that at night you will have better sleep. The MotionX technology keeps track of your activity, steps, distance and calories through the iPhone whether it’s in your hand, pocket, purse or backpack. MotionX-Sleep also includes a voice coach, so that you can hear your progress without looking at your iPhone display during a brisk walk.
Fullpower-MotionX leads the wearable sensing revolution with a broad IP portfolio. The MotionX® sensing platform powers leading solutions such as Nike+ GPS, the Jawbone UP wristband, and the Pioneer AppRadio. With continual innovation, MotionX is the leader for Health, Fitness and Navigation on the iPhone and the iPad.