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.
- Communications capability.
- 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.
Read the Original Article @Body Monitor Review