We've wrapped up another day at the TechCrunch50 competition. If you missed our first day round-up and background on the event, take a few seconds to catch up. Fitbit, Swype, and Devunity are Ars Technica's picks from the second day of the event.
Fitbit presented their product in the "mobile" category, which is only partially accurate. The Fitbit is actually a consumer electronics device that helps individuals maintain their health and well-being.
The key to this product is the hardware: it’s an unobtrusive wireless device that you can snap on your belt, pocket, wristband, or in a similar location. Fitbit claims that these traits make it the the first 24-hour personal monitor for the masses.
The Fitbit device
During the day, while clipped to your person, the unit constantly gathers data on the distance you travel, whether your are walking, jogging, or running.
While you sleep, the device can be clipped to a special wristband that uses physiological responses generated during REM sleep (tremors in your wrists) to detect how long you take to fall asleep, how long you take to wake up, and how many times you wake up in the middle of the night. From this data, the device and service can calculate how long you were in bed and how long you spent in REM sleep.
The Fitbit charger/wireless dock
The device uploads this information to your account on the company’s website. It wirelessly synchronizes new data to the service via a docking station whenever you walk within 25 to 50 feet of your computer.
The Fitbit website takes this data and combines it with manually entered food data (they maintain a very large database of calorie and nutrition data for a wide variety of foods) to create a holistic view of where your health stands at any given moment. There are additional social features that mimic a lot of the group functions of the Nike+ site.
The Fitbit dashboard
The Fitbit will be shipping by late December 2008 and sold for $99 (the web service is free). The company plans to make revenue beyond the one-time purchase price by creating premium add-ons for power-users and by selling an expanded line of personal health monitoring devices.
One of the more impressive demos of the day came from Swype, which is offering a new technology for quickly entering text into mobile devices—its creators claim users have achieved nearly 50 words per minute.
The technology was created by one of the same developers who pioneered the T9 text input system found in older cellphones. The system works on a variety of devices, from tablet PCs to touch-sensitive mobile devices (it works with either a finger or stylus). The Swype team hopes to license their technology to a range of manufacturers and envision that this method of input will become ubiquitous in the next generation of touch-enabled consumer electronics.
It works like this: the user quickly moves their pointing device from letter to letter on a virtual keyboard. The technology does quick calculations to guess the series of letters they intended and produces a word on the screen. It sounds simple and potentially error prone, but was surprisingly accurate. Here's a video of the technology in action (courtesy of CrunchGear):
The company plans to make money by licensing their technology to any consumer electronics company that would like to use it in their products.
Our final standout, Devunity, wants to help geographically-distributed web development teams write code together more efficiently. The product attempts to solve the problem of loosely connected, remote teams through a web application that combines several facets of development projects into a single site/interface. Many of the features of the site look a lot like SourceForge or Google Code Hosting (source-control, issue tracking, communication mediums), but there are some differences.
First, a team can keep their projects completely private until they're ready to release their products. Second, the company believes that developers will use their web-enabled code editor to work collaboratively with their teammates. I'm pretty sure that this portion of the product is its Achilles heel—developers are notoriously loyal to their text editor of choice.
The final differentiating feature is that the tool allows the team to seamlessly deploy their web projects to Google App Engine, Amazon's EC2, or an FTP server of their choice.
While the product looked really nice and supports Python (always a plus), I really think they could gain more traction by dumping the web-based code editor and focusing on the collaboration, deployment, and its tight integration of source-control, issue tracking, code review, and messaging features.
The company intends to make money by charging developers who want private projects a monthly fee for the service. Open source projects will be able to use the service for free.
We'll back back tomorrow with three more companies from the final day of TechCrunch50.Posted on