We recently teamed up with Ace Hotels, Tumblr, and Jawbone on a health-based codeathon series to spur innovation in the health and technology space and set the standard for what a healthy codeathon environment looks like. As we gear up for our next codeathon this Friday, we asked Jeremiah Robison, Vice President of Software at Jawbone, a few questions about the intersection of health and technology.
Clinton Foundation: Tell us about your role at Jawbone and Jawbone's role in helping people live healthier lives through technology.
Jeremiah Robison: I run the software side of Jawbone’s applications and services for UP – the wristband and app system that helps you visualize and understand your sleep, movement, and eating habits so you can make smarter choices. Part of my job involves delivering the measurements that UP provides to users in a visual and engaging way so that they can understand the baseline of how they’re doing, all while having fun and interacting socially with friends. The other part, which is more challenging, is to deliver personalized recommendations and tools that are unique and tailored to a specific person, time and place. Because someone’s data can be so personal – especially as it pertains to health – we’re challenging ourselves to move away from the one-size-fits-all health model into a model built on very personalized insights that help you make meaning of the data to achieve your goals.
Clinton Foundation: You recently released the UP band. What's the impact you've seen so far with the product? How has the device helped more people make smarter and healthier choices?
Jeremiah Robison: It’s been really exciting to see a community of like-minded individuals form around healthier living, and to see more and more people achieving lifestyle goals through our system. We’re seeing people begin to share the idea that it can be fun and cool and sexy to be healthy, and it’s causing even more people to begin to be thoughtful and aware and more involved in their health. With UP, people are deciding to take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator for once, and friends are encouraging each other and holding one another accountable for their choices. We’ve seen tons of amazing success stories – incredible weight loss stories; stories about how UP helped someone manage their sleep cycle after having a baby; or about how the amount of deep sleep someone gets each night is an indicator of their likelihood of having a seizure that day.
SUPPORT A HEALTHIER GENERATION
For each UP Band sold, Jawbone will donate $20 to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Clinton Foundation: For this health-based codeathon, you released UP's API, allowing developers and designers to create unique programs that can utilize information about individuals’ current health habits to develop better technology solutions. What were some of the innovative ways in which developers and designers used the API data at the first health-based codeathon?
Jeremiah Robison: There were two projects built on the UP API at the codeathon that I especially liked. The first one, Git Sleep, was a developer tool that would block someone from writing and checking in code unless they got a certain amount of sleep – I loved the fact that it was a tailored solution to a very specific user problem. The second one was called FitCoin, which was essentially a virtual betting pool around people’s health. A group puts money into the pool and the person who was most active at the end of the week collects the winnings. FitCoin is still working on their idea today, and they plan to launch on our platform soon.
Clinton Foundation: How do you see technology currently intersecting with health? How do you think this will change in the next 5 to 10 years?
Jeremiah Robison: Right now it’s a tidal wave. You don’t have to open any technology journal to see the age of digital health is upon us. The amazing thing is that 5 to 10 years ago, the focus was on tech companies that could help you digitally track and manage your health records through doctor’s offices. Now the focus has shifted to consumers taking control of their own data in order to focus on preventative health measures and reducing their risk of disease in the future.
We’ve seen a surge in the amount of people wanting what UP offers: the ability to track their lifestyle so they can ultimately live better lives. I think in 5 to 10 years, we’re going to see consumers take their personal health information to the healthcare providers, rather than the other way around.
Clinton Foundation: Typically, codeathons are not known for being a healthy environment. For this particular health-based codeathon, how did you work with Ace Hotel, Tumblr, and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative to try to promote healthy habits?
Jeremiah Robison: We did this in a few different ways. First, we gave the developers at the codeathon visibility into their own health by distributing UP bands so that they could track their sleep and activity over the course of the weekend. We measured their progress at a team level, and created a dashboard of how each team’s health stacked up, which was displayed in the Ace Hotel lobby to help keep people accountable. Their progress was also factored into the judging criteria. Then unlike any other hackathon I’ve ever been to, the coders were required to take lunch breaks – healthy lunch breaks – and, we walked, we did yoga, and we participated in complimentary stretching and meditation classes exercises throughout the day lead by Exhale. Sodas and unhealthy snacks weren’t allowed. Not only did we encourage developers to build unique apps and new solutions around health, we also created a culture where each of us could work while being healthy.
Clinton Foundation: Do you think these activities made a difference in the end products that designers and developers made?
Jeremiah Robison: In a way, the activities limited the amount of time that people had to explore the problem space, which made it more challenging to create a complete solution. But on the other hand, time spent having lunch and stretching together led to a lot of great ideas from interacting with other groups, and it kept individual health (and the challenge of the time it takes to foster that) top of mind.
Clinton Foundation: What do you hope that these designers and developers will take away from this health-based codeathon series?
Jeremiah Robison: The lesson I tried to impress on the group that I hope they’ll take away is that addressing the challenges of personal health in our world is a much larger issue than any one company can tackle on its own. If companies like ours want to truly help people live better, it’s going to take a shared initiative between all players involved and a shared respect of a user’s privacy and ownership of their personal data to really tackle the challenge. The solutions are not going to work if they’re built on data-hoarding and closed ecosystems. We’re going to need to work together to help people find the right solutions for their very personal health goals. I think the fact that these developers came together to participate in a codeathon around health is a really promising sign of what the future holds.
Clinton Foundation: How does understanding the importance of making healthier choices affect designing programs and platforms to help others live healthier?
Jeremiah Robison: Through all of this, I’ve learned that – as I said before – one size does not fit all. Companies in the health space need to help people work out personal solutions for their own goals. If you look at my personal sleep data for example, for every hour later I go to bed I lose 44 minutes of sleep. As for Jawbone’s CEO, for every hour later he goes to bed he only loses 20 minutes of sleep, and if he goes to bed before 1am, he gets the same amount of sleep no matter what. So if Jawbone were to give him a recommendation of going to bed earlier, that solution that wouldn’t work for him. You have to craft a platform that has the ability to surface up what’s personally best for each individual.
We spend a lot of effort analyzing the uniqueness of human data, giving people personalized recommendations, and introducing them to content that fits their specific needs. And we created the UP Developer Platform to allow others to build on that. Now, with our API for UP open to the public, UP can be customized with very specific solutions that are unique to what a consumer needs, so that people can better understand their lifestyles and meet their individual goals.
Clinton Foundation: What suggestions would you make for individuals who want to start using technology to improve their health today?
Jeremiah Robison: First and foremost, you need a solution that you can have with you all the time. The consistency of observation is key – that’s the reason we’ve spent so much time focusing on the design, wearability, and battery life of UP. Knowing everything about your own lifestyle will provide you with the baseline for figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you. But beyond that, an individual must be ready to embrace what they learn about themselves and, with the help of UP, do something about it.
Ace Hotel, Tumblr, the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI), and Jawbone recently announced a series of three upcoming codeathons, taking place through the year and continuing into 2014. Building upon the powerful intersection of technology and data, the events aim to spur innovation in the health and technology space and set the standard for what a healthy codeathon environment should entail, and challenges developers and designers to build a completely original and functional application prototype, based on one of the social determinants of health (i.e. sleep).
Jeremiah is the Vice President of Software at Jawbone, where he oversees the company's software engineering and data science programs. Prior to joining Jawbone in 2011, Jeremiah was the Chief Technology Officer and founding member of the management team at Slide, where he headed technology strategy and development for the company's network of social entertainment applications. Jeremiah has also worked for Openwave, where he architected and built the first HTML browser for mobile phones; and Apple, where he contributed to the hand-writing recognition software for the first Newton electronic organizer. Jeremiah holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in Computer Science from Stanford University, where he also competed on the NCAA championship water polo team.