With Bluetooth 4.0 LE now a viable technology for products and Windows Phone, so-called “smart devices” are the next big wave in mobile technology. Windows Phone, up until this point, has been playing on the sidelines due to lacking hardware or drivers for the Bluetooth 4.0 stack. That, however, has changed as Nokia enables 4.0 on their Lumia hardware.
One big player in wearable technology is Fitbit. We’re big fans of the wrist-bound pedometer and activity level monitor. In fact, some of us own the One, Flex and Force in addition the Aria scale, making us prime candidates for an official app from the company.
Now, the firm has posted a job request on LinkedIn for a ‘Product Manager - Windows Mobile’. Before everyone gets into a tizzy of the usage of ‘Mobile’ over ‘Phone’ let it be known that this position is for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.
Currently, there is a decent Fitbit app for Windows 8 on the Store, so the company is not allergic to Microsoft in the least (they are, however, a small company with limited resources). The question has been if and when they would do a Windows Phone app and now we have that answer. From the job description:
We're hiring someone to product manage the Fitbit apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8. In this role you will do such things as:
- Manage the development and launch of the Fitbit app for Windows Phone.
- Manage the ongoing development of the Windows 8 app, currently available on the Windows Store.
- Define, prioritize, and scope user-facing features.
- Work closely with design in crafting simple, elegant, impactful experiences.
- Collaborate with various teams / groups to guide projects through development and bring high quality products to life.
If there was any doubt about Fitbit bringing an app to Windows Phone, let it be laid to rest now.
Bluetooth 4.0 SDK, MAP, wearable technology and Nokia
There are two reasons why Windows Phone has yet to have any wearable technology that can sync with the device directly: drivers for the Bluetooth 4.0 hardware and APIs for developers.
Starting with Update 2 and Nokia’s Amber firmware, low-end hardware began to have their Bluetooth 4.0 hardware enabled. This will continue with Update 3 and Nokia’s Lumia Black firmware for high end devices, like the Lumia 92x and Lumia 1020 (see the recent AT&T update). That solves one problem.
The other is the SDK or Software Development Kit. Developers need these tools developed by Microsoft (and Nokia) for using the 4.0 hardware. They use these tools, for lack of better words, to write the directions to sync the data from the Fitbit device to the phone (or any other wearables).
Currently, that SDK exists but it is internal only with very few firms having access (Adidas is one, since they released a heart rate monitor for Windows Phone a few months ago). Once finalized, it will presumably be released for all developers. We can also tell you that the Bluetooth stack is being completely rewritten for Windows Phone 8.1, giving even more power to developers later this spring or early summer.
Finally, Nokia is also embracing the Message Access Profile (MAP) for their apps like Transfer My Data, which can be used to send bi-directional messages to your car for hands-free use, your tablet, or other devices like wearable Bluetooth devices, including Pebble. Apple's iOS 6 received native MAP support and it should be no secret that Windows Phone will follow.
In short, Microsoft and Nokia are putting a renewed focus on Bluetooth 4.0 LE, wearable technology and Windows Phone (recall ‘Treasure Tags’). Some of this will be enabled with Windows Phone 8 Update 3 and more will come with Windows Phone 8.1, expected to be revealed at Build 2014 in April.
Besides Fitbit, we have also heard that Jawbone and other firms are exploring official Windows Phone apps to sync with their hardware. More of this will become clearer in the coming months, but we’re confident that Windows Phone will eventually have a leg up over the competition in this area. For example, Android still has issues with its Bluetooth stack, which is why the Fitbit app for Android is only available on a few handsets and why Nike is so far staying away as well. In this regard, Windows Phone 8 is much more uniform.
At least for now, we can take solace that Fitbit is on board with Windows Phone and an app should be forthcoming in early 2014.
Source: LinkedIn; Thanks, Art, for the tip!
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