Why Withings is Doing it Right

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While there is a vast amount of startups out there that tries to capture the current quantified-self trend, only few of them ship products that actually make sense. The Jawbone Up or the Fitbit are well-designed and nifty devices, but I do not have the feeling that they actually make people healthier, let alone is there any prove for that.

Sure, they look good and it’s a product category, which has not been in existence five years ago. Now they are becoming more and more part of people’s daily lives and a lot of data is collected through them. However, human beings still must act themselves, and such devices cannot take away the burden of doing sports or eating healthier.

The problem I see, in a more business sense, is that they do not actually solve a problem. Prior to Fitbit et al., who has asked him- or herself, “how many steps did I make today and how many calories have I burned?” I doubt many people saw that lack of knowledge as a “problem”. Introducing a new category of motion sensors, body trackers and comparable devices leaves out a very basic fact of human behavior: existing patterns.

It is incredibly difficult to educate people and change their routines, which is also the reason why online food markets are still not catching up on a large scale. People are used to going to the supermarket and have been hunting for food -or going out for food- for ages.

This is where Withings comes in, a startup founded in France and making hardware and software on the forefront of quantified self. What makes Withings different from its competition is that it has not, until very recently, introduced a new product category. What it “simply” has done, is taking products that already existed, that people knew and where using and enhanced them trough a software part. It might be boring to produce a scale instead of a wearable motion sensor, but the former surely makes more sense to people.

Withings not only has a scale in their portfolio, but also a babyphone and a haemodynamometer. Products that are well known to patients and do not need much explanation. The beauty of this “boring” approach is that you don’t need to change people to live healthier. They continue measuring their blood pressure or weighing themselves but with a suite of simple and informative apps allowing them to get more information out of a process they are used to.

The pitch is thus not “track yourself and live healthier” but rather “do what your doctor has prescribed That is: weigh yourself and measure your blood, and then get healthier through learning from your tracking.”