Google is buying Fitbit, bolstering the tech giant’s quiet push into digital health and setting up wearables as its next big hardware initiative.
Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of devices and services for Google, confirmed the heavily rumored deal in a blog post Friday morning. Google is paying $7.35 per share for Fitbit, which went public in 2015, valuing the company at $2.1 billion.
Google already has a version of the Android operating system designed for smartwatches, Wear OS, and a fitness app. Google doesn’t make a smartwatch of its own, but with Fitbit under Google’s umbrella, Osterloh suggests that may soon change.
“We see an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market,” Osterloh wrote.
Later in the blog post, he wrote “by working closely with Fitbit’s team of experts, and bringing together the best AI, software and hardware, we can help spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.”
Perhaps anticipating concerns about the company’s use of customer health data, Osterloh said Google won’t use Fitbit personal information for ad purposes. Google will give Fitbit users the option to review, move, or delete their data.
Osterloh only briefly mentioned health in the blog post, noting Fitbit’s focus on “wellness and helping people live healthier, more active lives.” However, a secretive deal to acquire a University of Washington startup in 2018 revealed that Google has serious healthcare ambitions, and Fitbit could play a role in that push.
GeekWire reported last year that Google quietly acquired Senosis Health, a startup founded by University of Washington computer scientist Shwetak Patel that focused the idea of using the enhanced cameras, accelerometers and microphones of modern-day smartphones as a new type of health care diagnostic tool. Public records obtained last year indicated the deal was part of a plan for Google-owned Nest to move into digital health products, a potential new line of business for a company that made its mark in smart thermostats and other connected home devices.
Adding Fitbit’s collection of devices, 28 million active users and experience collecting and analyzing health data would certainly dovetail well with this digital health push.
Google isn’t the only tech giant that sees big potential in wearables, particularly smartwatches. Samsung and Apple have been making smartwatches for years. Apple made waves when it added a heart tracking feature for Apple Watch.
Amazon recently introduced a new wearable device, though it goes on your finger, not your wrist. The new Echo Loop, an Alexa-powered smart ring, is part of a group of new hardware products that Amazon is testing with customers.
Earlier this year, Microsoft ended support for its Band fitness tracker, two years after taking the device off the market, killing off the star-crossed device for good. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant continues to invest in the healthcare industry but with a focus on enterprise.
Amazon too is investing heavily in healthcare. The tech giant is part of a healthcare joint with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway that is focused on access to primary care, simpler insurance benefits, and lowering prescription drugs prices.
Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all part of a group of tech companies that have joined together to promote healthcare data sharing.