Fitbit, the health and fitness app that tracks your activity, exercise, sleep, weight and a myriad of other elements all designed to help you feel great in body and soul, is a class leader in a field that, despite the tech world’s best efforts, has sometimes struggled to live up to the hype.
Wearables, and the internet of things were two of the most talked about new tech phenomena of 2016, but this year progress has been teeth-grindingly slow, and public expectations have been dampened somewhat. We will have to wait for our talking fridges, it seems.
There are few standout companies that have successfully implemented wearables and / or contactless / IoT technology and created something life-enhancing and meaningful – but Fitbit is certainly one.
Now, the company are branching out and leveraging some of the “disruptive” themes that have dominated 2017, namely payments and financial technology.
Fitbit pay has now launched in the UK. A direct rival to the likes of Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Android Pay, the difference is that Fitbit Pay users will need to get hold of the company’s flagship Ionic smartwatch to make contactless payments in stores, plus the service is currently available through just one bank – the fintech “Challenger” bank, Starling.
Just for good measure, Starling has also added Apple and Android Pay to its app in the past few months.
Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch was only recently launched; the first Fitbit product to extend its focus beyond activity tracking, the stylish Ionic costs £300 in the UK, and provides auxiliary services like music storage (up to 300 songs), built in GPS, 4 days of battery life, smart notifications, and a range of complimentary apps.
And of course, there are the health and fitness elements – heart rate and sleep monitoring, step counters, personalised fitness regimes, real time pace and distance measures, and – an added bonus for swimmers – the Ionic is waterproof.
Starling customers can simply add their MasterCard debit card to their Ionic device, and they are instantly enabled to make payments with just a flick of the wrist. Starling even suggest that the Fitbit Pay and the Ionic mean give “freedom to users to leave their smartphone and wallet at home”.
That is a big call, but it’s great to finally hear a disruptive technology firm pushing the wearable agenda as a replacement for a piece of kit as essential as a wallet, or a smartphone. By tech standards, it has been a long time coming.
Fitbit boasts enhanced safeguards relating to transactions also. Card information is stored “using an industry standard tokenization platform”, card details are never shared with merchants or with Fitbit, and a protected pin code provides a final layer of protection.
Fitbit’s Des Power says that the firm are “delighted to work closely with Starling Bank, expanding the reach of Fitbit Pay to even more markets across the globe.”
“Fitbit Pay presents an opportunity for us to bring our mission of helping people around the world get healthier to millions of people by delivering new and exciting experiences through their banking partners.”
There’s lots to admire about this tech tie-up, not least the ability of two tech firms with contrasting ambitions – one fitness, the other finance, to recognise cross-synergies between the two fields, and do something about it.
Perhaps wearables will be to the fore again in 2018, alongside fintech. At this stage, the likes of Fitbit and Starling seem eminently more sensible propositions than VR headsets, and talking fridges.