Girls Rule the World, Beyoncé has told us. But not when it comes to digital health…at least until 2018, as Fitbit has announced a woman-focused smartwatch called the Versa which is expected to hit the market in April 2018.
The waterproof Versa will measure heart rate, do the usual fitness tracking metrics, and enable women to track their menstrual cycle. Fitbit has been quite clear that the device isn’t for conception or contraception.
The watch will be priced at $199 at retail, a much lower price-point than the Apple Watch at $329. So here Fitbit also has an argument for financial wellness, along with health and fitness.
I’ve witnessed the growing presence of femtech at CES since I started attending the mega-meeting over the past six years. “Femtech” is the abbreviation for “female technology,” which covers digital tools that track, manage or and/or enhance reproduction, maternity, fertility, nursing, and sexual health.
Let me share some market history through my own experience at CES, which provides some useful context for Fitbit’s announcement.
First, femtech was about pink: specifically, pink bands for wrist-worn activity trackers, like the ones shown here on a Fitbit “pink timeline.”
In the first years of activity tracking, when it came to female-focused devices, it was about fashion-meeting-sensors. Tori Burch designed jewelry that fit a Fitbit tracker (shown in the third picture). Swarovski crystals surrounded a Misfit Shine. In 2016, after Fossil acquired Misfit, the Kate Spade brand (part of the Fossil Group) created whimsical watch faces that housed sensors to track steps.
But honestly, all I’ve wanted these years since beginning of quantifying myself with the Fitbit “Classic” in 2009 was a way to organize the many facets of my health-life in one app. There are dozens of niche apps which target one or two women’s health issues, but getting the continuum of female wellness and healthy living in one dashboard has been a long time coming.
So I welcome Fitbit to the streamlining of femtech, a personal Holy Grail.
That streamlining is important as period-tracking data can mash up with other data in the very large Fitbit database. “Female health tracking will empower women with a greater understanding of their menstrual cycles in conjunction with their physical and mental health, as they start to recognize what are normal trends over time versus what could be an issue to share with their doctor,” Dr. Katharine White, MD MPH, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine and Fitbit Advisor, said in the Versa press release. “The nuances of the menstrual cycle have not been as widely studied across populations as have other areas in healthcare. This exciting development by Fitbit could help potentially create one of the largest databases of menstrual health metrics in the world, providing healthcare and research professionals with an unprecedented ability to study menstrual cycles and women’s health with real world data.”
Fitbit’s announcement is getting a lot of media attention. This morning’s UK Financial Times featured an article in the Technology box titled, “Fitbit launches fitness tracker for children,” within which the “female-focused Versa smartwatch” is featured. When it comes to femtech, the world is flat.
As Lauren Goode wrote in The Verge, Fitbit’s design is, “more thoughtful than just pinking and shrinking a smartwatch.”
Health Populi’s Hot Points: We are all patients and consumers at some point, and a plurality of us who have self-tracked activity have done so on a Fitbit. The brand has, until recently, led in market share among activity trackers. IDC reported earlier this month that Apple became #1 in wearable tech volume ahead of Fitbit and Xiaomi.
Mainstream women are not all 18 to 34 years of age who shop at Lululemon or run marathons. We work, we live faith-based lives, we volunteer in communities, we mate, we parent, we caregive to those parents and/or to our kids, we work in the home, we work outside the home, and we are usually the Chief Health and Houeshold Officers in those homes. Life is good, life is complicated, life is difficult, sometimes all at the same time.
There are dozens of apps in the femtech digital health landscape across the continuum of women’s health: for fertility, period tracking, making babies, sexual health, and nursing, as CB Insights’ picture illustrates.
You’ve seen one app, and you’ve seen one, and adding more complication to our lives takes time away from living. This is why women seek streamlining in daily life, and consolidating clicks and apps is one of these demands. If Fitbit can add value to daily living by doing this at an accessible price point for those mainstream women, Beyoncé and we might feel Crazy in Love about it.