Fitbit CEO On The Company’s New Ambitious Health Watch And Mental Health Focus

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American fitness wearable brand Fitbit’s just-announced new product seems like a direct answer to the current pandemic times: a smartwatch with a sensor that detects skin temperature and can alert users of a potential fever. But Fitbit cofounder and CEO James Park assures it was just a coincidence.

Fitbit New Ambitious Health Watch And Mental Health

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“Developing the sensors and the algorithm, and getting the certifications took at least a couple of years,” says Park. “I suppose this is good timing for our technology, but bad timing overall because no one wanted this pandemic.”

The ability to detect potential fever is just one of three new health features of the Fitbit Sense, which Park calls a “true health watch.”

The Fitbit Sense is also equipped with an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor, used in the field of psychology and general healthcare to detect stress level. The Sense is the first commercial wearable to make use of this technology.

The third new addition is the ability to conduct an ECG (electrocardiogram), which can detect irregular heart rate, a symptom of atrial fibrillation.

This more in-depth heart health monitoring should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Fitbit—the company did, after all, pioneer the 24/7 heart rate sensor on a wearable; and the Apple Watch had introduced the same ECG sensor to much fanfare last year.

The sensors of the new Fitbit Sense.

But the new focus on mental health—treating stress and being mindfulness—is a new direction for the company.

“I think more people are now seeing fitness and health as one thing,” says Park, who initially co-founded Fitbit in 2007 because he felt out of shape. “There’s more of an awareness for benefits of holistic body health. And we want Fitbit to go from being just a fitness tracking company to a health company.”

The Fitbit Sense.

The EDA sensor works by detecting small electrical changes in the sweat level of our skin caused by the body’s sympathetic nervous system. To scan, the wearer simply place their palm over the watch face, and within seconds get information on their stress levels.

Park says the company’s team of research scientists worked closely with medical experts at leading U.S. academic institutions. And yes, they’ve taken into account the humidity of certain regions too, such as Hong Kong.

A promo image showing a user demonstrating the EDA sensor to test for stress level.

Along with the Sense, Fitbit also introduced two other wearables: the Fitbit Versa 3 and Fitbit Inspire 2. The former is also a smartwatch like the Sense, but lacks the headline grabbing EDA sensors. The Inspire 2 is a fitness band more in line with Fitbit’s initial line of products. Together with the Sense, they’re priced in the typical three-tier system of consumer gadgets: a premium all-out device (the Sense); a mid-tier affordable one (Versa 3) and a budget entry-level one (the Inspire 2).

Fitbit’s new Inspire 2.
Fitbit’s new Inspire 2. BEN SIN

In the Android space, however, there is no shortage of competition: Samsung, Huawei, Opp

Oppo and Xiaomi are just some of the big names pumping out smarwatches and fitness trackers. So how does Fitbit plan to stand out—aside from the obvious benefit of being an “official” Google product?

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