Google’s parent company Alphabet announced Friday that it is acquiring wearable smartwatch maker Fitbit for $2.1 billion, marking the search giant’s latest push into the health market.
Google’s acquisition raises concerns about data privacy for Fitbit users. Google says Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads, but it did not specify where else in its empire it might use that data. The acquisition also gives more fodder to regulators who are already scrutinizing whether the company is too big and should be broken up.
The company said in a blog post that the acquisition is an opportunity for the company to invest more in its lesser-known operating system, Wear OS, and to bring Made by Google wearable devices to market. So far, Google has created an operating system but doesn’t have its own branded wearables.
It’s the latest move by the search behemoth to enter the hardware market, which many have pointed out is more lucrative for the data it collects than for actual device sales. Google has already made inroads here through its acquisition of smart home device maker Nest, as well as with its Google Home smart speakers. In January, Google also spent $40 million to acquire the tech behind Fossil’s smartwatch.
Google’s move indicates that it’s trying to keep pace with Apple and Amazon, which have also recently pushed further into health tech.
Amazon is offering its employees its own virtual health care, which it could presumably sell to consumers someday. Amazon says its smart assistant Alexa is compliant with health care privacy law, allowing consumers to communicate with health care companies through the assistant. And earlier this month, Amazon acquired digital health startup Health Navigator. It purchased online pharmacy PillPack last year.
Apple, with its Apple Watch, has expanded into health tech by allowing users to track their workouts, heart rates, and menstrual cycles. Apple Health Records app lets people store their medical information on their phones. The company has also been snatching up digital health startups.