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Fitbit is surging after it announced a big health partnership

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Fitbit today came out with some additional news that might give Wall Street some signs of life as it looks to compete with an increasingly complicated fitness tracking environment — and the stock is surging this afternoon as a result.

Fitbit’s shares are up more than 11 percent after it announced a partnership with Dexcom, which would introduce glucose monitoring on the Ionic Smartwatch. This somewhat nudges Fitbit beyond just fitness tracking into something that’s more in the vein of health tracking in general. Starting in 2018, the Fitbit Ionic will show users data from a Dexcom G5 mobile sensor. It’s a collaboration that’s aimed at developing and marketing products to better manage diabetes.

Fitbit is well known for its fitness trackers, but increasingly there’s been a proliferation of trackers that focus on all areas of health. The Apple Watch is trying to move further into something that’s broader than simply fitness, and there are startups like Proof looking to pick away little niches like tracking blood alcohol content. The sum of all these little niches may end up as a comprehensive health tracking device, though cramming them all into one piece of hardware may prove more challenging than initially expected.

It’s a nice jump and a reprieve from a pretty ho-hum month for Fitbit, which has seen a slight bump in its performance.

Still, any sign of life that alters the calculus of the kind of business Fitbit can build means there’s likely going to be a big stock price swing like we’re seeing today. Fitbit has barely sustained “unicorn” status, but it’s nowhere near where it was when it went public, and has had to fight to convince Wall Street that it’s a real, healthy company.

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Fitbit is teaming up with Dexcom for glucose monitoring on the Ionic Smartwatch

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Comments are closed Fitbit is teaming up with Dexcom for glucose monitoring on the Ionic Smartwatch Comments are closed

Wearable fitness makers are increasingly interested in tracking our vitals. Now Fitbit has announced a collaboration with glucose monitor company Dexcom to develop and market products to help those with diabetes better manage the disease, starting with Fitbit’s Ionic Smartwatch.

Starting in 2018, the Fitbit Ionic will show users data from the Dexcom G5 Mobile sensor, which is worn just under the skin and can show vitals every 5 minutes. This means you will have to insert the $900 sensor first.

The Dexcom sensor is also supported by the Apple Watch, via a reroute through the iPhone but will soon be on the Watch itself through core Bluetooth, which is coming in watchOS4.

Tracking using Fitbit and Apple Watch is still rather difficult if you can’t afford Dexcom’s monitoring device. However, for those with the device already implanted it could prove useful. More than 422 million people around the world have diabetes, a fraction of whom are presumed to be using a wearable for tracking their blood glucose levels.

“The collaboration between Dexcom and Fitbit is an important step in providing useful information to people with diabetes that is both convenient and discreet,” said Dexcom CEO Kevin Saye in a statement. “We believe that providing Dexcom CGM data on Fitbit Ionic, and making that experience available to users of both Android and iOS devices, will have a positive impact on the way people manage their diabetes.”

Featured Image: lya S. Savenok / Stringer/Getty Images

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Why I still wear the Apple Watch

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The starscape on view from James Ward Packard’s window in Warren, Ohio, was magnificent. In the summer, Draco, the dragon, would have wheeled above, clawing at Ursa Minor. Gemini would have ridden across Clinton Street and up the old Canal as Ursa Major reared and fell. And, with the help of his powerful, handmade, bespoke watch, Packard would have been able to plot the locations of all these constellations and more.

Packard – he of the Packard Motor Car Company and Packard Electric Company – was a watch collector and an amateur astronomer. Like so many rich men in that era, he wanted the best of the best and he was in competition with Henry Graves, a New York millionaire with a watch fetish. A few hundred miles separated these two millionaires – Packard in Warren, Ohio, and Graves in Manhattan – but they both swore to have the most complicated watches in the world. Described in the beautiful book A Grand Complication, their friendly rivalry resulted in the apex of the watchmakers art when, in 1927, Packard announced delivery of his Vacheron Constantin grande complication (or supercomplication), a watch with 24 features or “complications” including a star chart of the night sky over his home in Ohio.

Graves, for his part, wanted an even better watch. He ordered a similar watch from Patek Phillipe. These men spent millions of dollars and hired countless men and women to create some of the most complex mechanical gearwork in the world. They were the early early adopters, the proto-techies who had to have the best of the best. And that quality cost them dearly.

This war, one that exerts so little weight on our lives today, marked the apex of the mechanical watch. The years that followed led to a plateau in the watch market. Hamilton and Rolex sent watches to war and pilots strapped Glycine Airmen to their jungle-hot wrists. Every hippie and policeman at Woodstock had some kind of Timex either on their person or in a box at home and by 1970 it looked like the mechanical watch industry was could easily begin its comfortable and untrammeled dotage.

Then came the first quartz watch, the Seiko Astron, a piece that cost as much as a nice car back in 1969. It flopped but, when quartz got cheaper, its progeny took off. Quartz continued its ascendance when Hamilton launched the first digital watch in 1970. These timepieces – accurate, trustworthy, and most of all, cheap – became the world standard and, in the end, nearly gutted the mechanical watch industry.

In about 40 years we went from Graves and Packard hunting for absolute precision to watches that were given away in cereal boxes. Fast forward 50 years later and the world that Packard and Graves wrought is no more. Mechanical watches are playthings for the rich or tools for the working world. On the low end you have G-Shocks and Fossil and on the high end Patek Philippe, F.P. Journe, and a dozen others fighting for cash from the rich collector. There was, until recently, little middle ground.

That middle ground is the smartwatch. And when I say smartwatch I mean, quite simply, the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch is the last watch most of us will ever wear. Watches, as a fashion statement and a tool, are fading and things like the Apple Watch are the last vestige of these strange objects that William Gibson called “the very finest fossils of the pre-digital age.” The Apple Watch is a hyper-evolved version of the watch that Packard tucked into his waistcoat, the culmination of centuries of work in miniaturization and design. It is also the Omega, the last of its breed. Sure, obsessives like me will still wear mechanical watches as my primary daily wear pieces – most recently I’ve been most enamored by the aforementioned Airman SST Purist edition, one of the few watches with a 24-hour-dial. But even obsessives like me will wear the Apple Watch because, compared to every other electronic watch I’ve tested, barring a few higher-tech Casios, the Apple Watch is still the only – and last – wrist-worn computer worth buying.

Don’t yell yet. Let me explain.

It is not a particularly rugged watch, nor is it particularly attractive. The interface is clunky and the Digital Crown a silly addition to a watch that could be controlled entirely with gestures. The original watch was nearly useless and it only got better as we humans got more accepting of the watch’s countless pings and buzzes. In short, the Apple Watch is a nozzle designed for the management of our information firehose. It is not a fashion watch, it is not a utility watch. In some respects it is not a watch at all.

I consider smartwatches to be small chunks of screen space separated from our phones. They are not designed, as were the Montre à tact and the minute repeaters, to help us tell time in the dark. They do not just keep us apprised of the fullness of the moon. They do not only help us measure the speed of our cars, planes, or rockets as were the Rolex Daytona and the Omega Speedmaster. They do all of those things and more simply because those are the things our phones now do. The Apple Watch is not a watch but an extension of our attention, a small nugget of electronics that, ultimately, is as dumb as the green screens of yore.

However, thanks to a few additions, it is also a solid standalone health device. It measures our heart rates and reminds us to breathe. It rewards us, albeit digitally, for our physical feats and it sits, unnoticed, until we wake it up. It spits out water like a sea anemone and sloughs mud and dirt like a smooth stone. It is as far from a watch as possible, which is why it is the last watch most of us will wear.

I’m a poor runner and bad swimmer. For this reason the Apple Watch also wins. Because it doesn’t expect me to note split times and personal bests – although, thanks to the complication-like apps installed, I could do this – it is a friendly face to my irregular sprints. It does not judge or define me like an Ironman quartz or a Polar smartwatch and it doesn’t look like a hockey puck like some bigger Garmins. While I love all of these exercise watches – I’ve written about many and once ran a marathon in a Garmin GPS watch that looked like a melted bar of soap – the Apple Watch has replaced them all.

Apple made a good choice in making the piece waterproof. This means a sloth like me can hit the showers in the watch or even try a little swimming in the hotel pool. Because you can easily swap out bands and because it doubles as a window on your calendar you can wear it from boardroom to pool to sauna to bed. This is unique in the exercise watch community and the only other watch that could feasibly say this is the Fitbit Blaze, a fairly stylish watch that does its level best to ape the big, bold face of the Apple Watch.

Why am I singling out the Apple Watch? Why not say that I would wear any smartwatch? First it’s because I do still wear the Apple Watch despite having a number of Android Wear devices lying around and second because, anecdotally, I’m simply not seeing many Android Wear devices out there. I still wear the Apple Watch for many of the same reasons everyone else I see wears it: because it works well with my phone. It is not perfect, but until that lozenge is rammed inside my head next to my brainstem I, like so many of us, will have to get my ancillary notifications on my wrist.

Ultimately we are at a point of convergence where AR and VR are ascendant and the closest thing we’ve yet created to true augmented reality – staring into a small phone screen while walking through town – is descendant. This descent includes the Apple Watch. At some point in the near future the small lozenge of electronics we wear on our wrists will become obsolete, replaced by something beyond our ken. But until then it remains one of our best helpmates to reduce our cognitive load.

The Apple Watch is far from perfect and I’ve heard many people say exactly that with disgust, even as they flick their wrists to light up the time, weather, and see email notifications. The impetus to disparage the new is strong in us – our minds our conservative while our hearts are all-encompassing. And we say the Apple Watch sucks even as its competitors flounder and we see countless Apple Watches in the wild, parading past on leather bands and white rubber, Nike straps full of holes, and custom NATO nylons that relate a history that is lost in a world of silicon.

Because the Apple Watch is the best there is – for now – and it deserves a place in the timekeeping pantheon. Remember: back before quartz even Rolex was fighting its way to prominence. There were no clear winners in the mechanical world, only companies that knew how to market to soldiers and retiree gift committees (“Thanks for your 50 years of loyalty, Frank, here’s your gold Rolex.”). Until quartz gutted the industry and made it rethink its priorities – and story – there was no tall tales of little old Swiss watchmakers hunkered over a centuries-old workbench making parts by hand. The old watches were commodities, built quickly and on the cheap for a world that wanted something good enough to keep time throughout the course of a single day.

Watches, mechanical watches, no longer serve that purpose. They are fashion statements or artistic choices, admonitions against a fast culture and reminders of our morality. I always say that the only thing Ben Franklin, if he were to come alive today, would recognize out of our kitbag of modern devices is the wristwatch. Tablets and phones would be black magic and the laptop a miracle. Hearing aids and pacemakers would be witchcraft. But a ticking watch on our wrists? “My, how small these have gotten,” he would marvel.

And you could easily show him an Apple Watch and get the same reaction. It is connected by strands of time to past glories, the Pateks, the Omegas, the Breitlings. It is as waterproof as an Oyster, as reliable as a Timex, as shock-resistant as a Casio. It exists in a time between the old and the very new and shows us the way forward.

It won’t last. But then again no watch does. But while it’s here I’d argue that our love for it has always been simply this: it’s a good watch that does everything we ask it to. That’s more than sufficient and, like the Packard complications, that’s amazing.

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