I’ll admit right away that this post is more about the trend, and not the product itself. Withings is a french start-up that introduced a wi-fi enabled weight scale in late 2009. The device can send your data (weight, BMI, body fat, lean mass etc) wirelessly over the internet. So you can track it for free either online on Withings.com website or through an iPhone app. It made some waves recently by announcing twitter integration. You can program it to tweet your weight and other info daily/weekly/monthly or every time you step on it.

Yes, I’m thinking the same thing. Why would you want to tweet something like that? And who the heck wants to be spammed by other peoples weight info?

Those obvious questions aside, its the trend that I find interesting. As the commodity devices that measure one or more of our vitals become web-enabled, ‘wellness’ goes beyond just being about purchase of a product. It gets transformed into a service. Withings is already compatible with a growing list of partners like DailyBurn, FitOrbit that provide fitness and personal training services. They also integrate with the big PHR platforms – Google Health and Microsoft Healthvault. So in theory, someone struggling with obesity could very well use the regular measurements from Withings device, social support from twitter followers, professional coaching through FitOrbit and health record from Google to try and achieve their ideal weight.

‘Connected Appliances’ are what Withings team envisions. They are not alone. I’ve written about several  analogous monitoring devices with some sort of web-integrated service (Read about Zeo, FitBit, Directlife, BodyMedia…). Although most of these focus on ‘wellness’ currently, they are setting an important precedent for managing ‘health’ conditions in a similar way. Consider the ‘how-does-work’ visual from the Withings website:

Now replace ‘weight’ with ‘Blood Pressure’ or ‘HbA1c‘ and you get the framework for managing health conditions (hypertension or diabetes, respectively). Take J&J’s spinoff, SymCare, for example. They are following the same framework for evolving the traditional glucometer. Lookout for more medical devices to move in the same direction.

January 2011 Update: Not that Withings team is reading Multiplyd for product strategy, but they just announced a Blood Pressure Monitor. I think that takes them one step closer to serious medical condition management tools company. Wellness is not going to be a sustainable product category for long, so this is a smart move.

August 2011 Update: Bought the Withings BP Monitor, using it to keep tabs on someone on the other side of the planet. It’s working very well so far. Very easy to use. The graphs and analysis functionality is not quite mature yet, but it works. I’ll definitely recommend it to others.

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