Fitbit IPO spurs questions about relevance to healthcare

Fitbit exceeded investor expectations with its $20-per-share IPO pricing, but chatter about the activity-monitoring company indicates that its perceived ubiquity—NPR reported that Fitbit controls 68% of the US fitness activity tracking market—does not mean it is without its challenges.

As noted by NPR, these challenges include things like understanding if, when someone like President Barack Obama uses the term Fitbit, he means the branded monitor or if he is referring to any device that tracks physical activity.

This distinction is important for reasons beyond brand dilution concerns—new tracking products and applications are fighting for consumers' attention. The brawl includes competitors like Apple, Garmin and Jawbone as well as apps like the one offered by Mango Health that offers users motivating messages about an array of activities, including medication adherence, glucose levels, blood pressure and exercise.

Fitbit's alliance with Biogen as a multiple-sclerosis assessment tool highlights the device's potential to go beyond prodding users to move a little more each day, but it is not alone in its effort to expand its healthcare relevance: For instance, biometric sensor developer MC10 announced a collaboration with the University of Rochester earlier this month to create devices that monitor and manage chronic care conditions, an effort that complements work it had previously done with pharmaceutical company UCB.