Harnessing Cycle Tracking: Withings’ Commitment to Empowering Half the Population

Withings started previewing its cycle tracking feature in some markets in September 2023 when the ScanWatch 2 launched. “The menstrual cycle tracking feature was one of the top feature requests of our community. (Incidentally, it is possible to use temperature tracking as a proxy for cycle tracking, but you have to be very accurate with the measurement). By integrating menstrual cycle tracking, Withings acknowledges the complex and nuanced nature of health — and adds more features to help track, measure and predict. The market Withings is going after with its cycle tracking feature is absolutely mind-bogglingly large.

When conversing with individuals entrenched in the quantified self – the world of fitness and health tracking – there is often a quiet rumble surrounding the lack of attention given to a significant portion of the population. For those who menstruate, tracking menstrual cycles is a key indicator of health. Yet, all too often, this crucial metric seems to fall through the cracks.

In September 2023, Withings provided a preview of its new cycle tracking feature. However, it was only available in select markets alongside the launch of the ScanWatch 2. Now, the company has rolled out the feature globally for both the ScanWatch 2 and ScanWatch Light smart hybrid watches, as well as in the app for all users. Despite this advancement, Withings still lags behind its main competitor, Apple, who introduced a similar feature four years prior.

At the core, the cycle tracking feature allows users to log their menstrual cycle stages, including symptoms, flow, and period dates. It also enables individuals to record moods and emotions and have a clear view of where they are in their cycle. Along with predicting future period dates, the app assists users in creating personalized routines that align with their monthly needs and optimize sleep, activity, and nutrition.

“Why did it take you so long?” TechCrunch inquired when speaking with Etienne Trégaro, the product manager at Withings responsible for the company’s watches.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Trégaro stated, “The menstrual cycle tracking feature was one of the top demands from our community, and it was essential for us to implement it in the new ScanWatch.” It was no surprise that this was a highly requested feature, but what was surprising is the delay in launching it and the fact that it is a fully manual feature. Rather than using biometric data, such as heart rate or temperature, to track cycles more automatically, the feature relies on individuals inputting data manually. (Incidentally, it is possible to use temperature tracking as a proxy for cycle tracking, but it requires precise measurement.)

Trégaro continued, “We have been primarily focused on overall health, developing new biomarkers and innovative ways to track health. Selecting the next feature to develop is a challenging decision. So [cycle tracking] came a little later, but we wanted to first monitor activity, heart, and other metrics. We measure things that competitors are not doing, like 24/7 temperature tracking. No one else is doing that in the market except us. Therefore, we felt that our team was finally ready to launch this feature. As a man, I learned a lot from this development process, and working with female colleagues and professionals to understand the importance of launching such a tool was critical.”

While mildly surprised that the company could not find a product manager who had previous experience tracking their cycles, TechCrunch was curious to know what Trégaro learned during the process.

“One of the most significant realizations was that around 25% of women worldwide have irregular cycles. That is a substantial amount. Additionally, I learned from a physician’s perspective that [cycle tracking] is one of the most important metrics to monitor for overall health – as crucial as blood pressure for women,” Trégaro explained.

Building the functionality for cycle tracking required Withings to undergo an extensive development process. This process included adapting existing hardware and creating new algorithms. Trégaro and his team spent months researching and developing the feature, closely collaborating with health professionals to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Trégaro explained that Withings’ goal was not merely to add another feature. The team wanted to seamlessly integrate menstrual cycle tracking into users’ health monitoring routines, providing them with valuable insights to inform their daily lives.

In the United States, period tracking has been brought into the spotlight for not-so-great reasons related to abortion-related legislation.

It is reassuring that Withings has highlighted its commitment to privacy and security. With sensitive health data at stake, the company has implemented robust measures to protect users’ information. However, it has also opened the door for data syncing with platforms such as Apple Health.

It is worth noting the differences between Withings and Apple’s approaches. While the Apple Watch aims to be a mini-iPhone on your wrist, Withings’ watches take a different approach.

Trégaro stated with a smile, “We have our strengths over the Apple Watch. Our watches have an impressive battery life of up to 30 days, compared to only one or two days on the Apple Watch. Additionally, we have a beautiful design, nearly like a real wristwatch. This battery life is achievable because of our smaller screen. We prioritize continuous health measurement.”

Withings has been at the forefront of health technology for quite some time. The company consistently delivers high-quality, attractive equipment that individuals want in their homes or on their wrists. From smart scales to advanced wristwatches, each product release is viewed with anticipation and excitement. Persistent rumors of Apple wanting to acquire Withings continue to circulate, but neither side is willing to confirm or deny them.

Overall, the new cycle tracking feature from Withings represents a significant stride forward in personalized health monitoring. For too long, the tech industry’s approach to health has been somewhat generic, mainly focusing on step counting, heart rate monitoring, and sleep tracking. While these metrics are essential, they offer an incomplete picture of an individual’s health. With the integration of menstrual cycle tracking, Withings acknowledges the complex and nuanced nature of health and adds another valuable tool to help track, measure, and predict.

Maybe it is “late” (ironically, in the world of cycle tracking), but the introduction of this feature demonstrates Withings’ ongoing commitment to listening to its community and understanding the diverse needs of its users. In an overcrowded market of gadgets competing for attention, Withings has successfully carved out a niche for itself by concentrating on meaningful innovation.

The market Withings targets with its cycle tracking feature is astonishingly vast. The app stores are overflowing with tracking apps, and some analysts predict that spending on cycle tracking alone has already reached $750 million and will double by 2032. This demand required Withings to embark on an extensive development process, involving the adaptation of existing hardware and the creation of new algorithms. Trégaro and his team dedicated months to research and development, working closely with health professionals to ensure accuracy and reliability.

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Kira Kim

Kira Kim is a science journalist with a background in biology and a passion for environmental issues. She is known for her clear and concise writing, as well as her ability to bring complex scientific concepts to life for a general audience.

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