Behind Jawbone's transition from making earpieces to wireless speakers to fitness trackers

For a company that has had so many ups and downs, it should come as no surprise that Jawbone is in the midst of what technology companies like to call a pivot. It has begun hiring prodigious numbers of software engineers and data scientists, all to make the applications that connect users with its UP devices more magical—and functional. Rahman refers to the UP as a “24-hour context engine.” Users “engage” with their UP for 23 hours a day, he says, compared with 15 minutes for Facebook. (Facebook’s engagement time landed it more than $12 billion in revenue last year.)

The results so far are impressive. Jawbone has devised ingenious content to go with its app that truly prods users to eat better, exercise more, and pay more attention to the quality of their sleep. This content, in turn, offers opportunities for big brands to pay Jawbone to reach its active users, which number, Rahman says, in the “many millions.” Quaker Oats and skin-care-products maker Lab Series, for example, have paid to include messages in Jawbone’s app, which Rahman calls “brand activation” content rather than advertising. “I think of hardware as a customer-acquisition device,” he says. “We’ll know similar things to Facebook.”