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The most interesting thing about Philips' new health gadgets is their FDA status

Jon Phillips | Aug. 2, 2016
Philips' new health watch, body analysis scale, blood pressure monitors, and thermometer scream "medical device" in both form and function.

Forget about fashion aesthetics and the squishy parameters of “fitness goals.” Today Philips enters the U.S. connected health market with five new gadgets, and while the devices aren’t particularly innovative—or even pretty—they do have one feature that less trend-conscious consumers may care about: recognition from the FDA.

The suite includes a health watch ($250), a body analysis scale ($100), an ear thermometer ($60), an upper arm blood pressure monitor ($100) and a wrist blood pressure monitor ($90). Each connects to a central mobile app for tracking your bio signals and activity data—all in the service of preventing and managing diabetes, heart disease, and all the other nasty conditions that send people to an early grave.

“Philips is not in the world of fitness,” said Eline de Graaf, Director for Philips Personal Health Solutions. “That’s not our mission, and as a healthcare company, we don’t think that’s where we can add value. We’re in the connected health space, and target consumer who are at risk of chronic diseases.”

philips health watch

The Philips health watch is neither stylish nor packed with features. But maybe the sober design and simple operation are what some people need.

Why this matters: Based on specs and features alone, none of the new devices is especially remarkable. But by going the extra step and listing these products with the FDA, Philips can potentially speak to a new market of consumers: less tech-sophisticated people who might be getting their gadget advice from doctors and medical groups, and not necessarily hipsters wearing Fitbits at the gym. 

Indeed, the FDA listing means that all clinical validation and testing is recorded with the government agency. This might give skeptical, at-risk consumers just a bit more reassurance in the efficacy of the devices. The FDA listing also opens a wider path for the devices to be recommended by doctors and even employers, de Graaf says.

“When you begin talking with health systems and physician groups, that medical-device part of the equation becomes more important—knowing that it’s been designed with the right clinical validation and protocols in place,”  de Graaf says.

The watch you buy for dad, not yourself

If you have any familiarity with connected health and fitness devices, you probably won’t be impressed by Philips new bag of tricks. In terms of basic features, the two blood-pressure monitors don’t do anything more than similar models I’ve seen. Philips’ body analysis scale, meanwhile, looks remarkably similar to scales from Fitbit and Withings (and the new Withings Body Cardio seems to do even more).

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