Airbnb acquires Russian startup that offered smartphone-connected health sensors

By Aditi Pai
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Lapka BamSharing economy lodging giant Airbnb has acquired Lapka, a Russian startup, that developed smartphone-connected sensor offerings, including a smartphone-connected breathalyzer. The strange deal appears to be more of a talent grab than anything else.

Lapka CEO Vadik Marmeladov explained in a post on their website that the company never saw its devices as medical devices. Instead, Lapka saw itsproducts as part of a lifestyle brand, which is also how Airbnb markets itself.

Airbnb and Lapka have not disclosed what their specific post-acquisition plans are, but Lapka said it will discontinue the company's operations. The company, however, is still providing full support for its existing customers.

In 2012, Lapka launched its first product, a smartphone-connected sensor pack called Lapka PEM, that monitors environmental factors, like radiation, carbon monoxide, humidity, and whether fruits are organic. It sold for $249. 

By the end of 2013, the company also launched a smartphone-connected breathalyzer. The breathalyzer, called Lapka BAM, measures the amount of alcohol in the users' blood through their breath. It then sends that data to the user's smartphone.The more drunk the user is when they blow into the device, the simpler the app's layout becomes. Lapka BAM works best if used 20 minutes after having a drink. It sold for $199.

Although Lapka hasn't brought a glucose meter to market, Marmeladov used it as an example to explain the company's process.

"People only resort to a glucose monitor company when they need to," Marmeladov continued. "We imagined a teenage girl needing a glucose monitor, but afraid to use one because of its experience. We thought, what if we could redesign the whole experience — how you get the monitor, how you found out about it, how its story is told. We realized it should be about anything but glucose and medicine. That's the vision that was set and executed for all our products."