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Fitbit

Smart earbuds for music and exercise tracking

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
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A Kickstarter project called ,The Dash, is offering the superhero of bluetooth earphones. The two small buds are packed with sensors such as an accelerometer, thermometer, capacitive touch, bone mic, Infrared LED and optical sensor and more.

All of this so you can listen to music (from a phone or from the onboard 4GB of storage) and track your exercise (speed, pace, distance, heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc.

It naturally blocks ambient sound (noise isolation) but can let through some sounds so you don't get hit by a car.

the product page spends a lot of time describing these interesting earphones that can be had for a mere $199 investment.

Kickstarter (link)

Atlas identifies and tracks all your exercises

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Most fitness trackers are glorified pedometers. The same pedometer technology we have been using for 30 years with some extra software to make it look more modern. To really track your workouts and help you improve, you need a much deeper level of information collection and a more mature set of data analytics tools.

Over a year ago, I loved the idea of a fitness tracker called Amiigo (link).

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Unfortunately the Amiigo is more than a year late to deliver their product and updates aren't very comforting. What I liked about the Amiigo was that was supposed to measure pulse & skin temperature in addition to the standard array of sensors so it could determine what exercise you are performing and how hard you are really working out.

Now a new entrant to the game called Atlas (link) is making some interesting promises.  Like the Amiigo, it is able to identify exercises (differentiating between similar movements like jumping rope and jumping jacks). It doesn't have all of the sensors that the Amiigo has but it seems much more capable than other quantifiable self devices (Shine, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit, etc).

They intend to make the app both IOS and Android compatible.

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It's important to remind you that this is still being developed by a small smart up and is dependant on funding from IndieGogo (link). Keep in mind that many of these great ideas never materialize or come to market months to years late.

I think this is a great little device and it would be fantastic if they can get it to market. We'll just have to wait and see.

Review of the Fitbit Flex fitness tracker

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Fitbit is one of the early pioneers in mass market self measurement devices. to stay current and hip, they released the Fitbit Flex bracelet style tracker and I went hands on.

In the bracelet style health monitors, the 3 main players are Jawbone UP, Nike Fuelband and the Fitbit Flex. The Fitbit Flex is cheaper than its competitors but seems to offer more value for the money.

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The design

The design a a clean bracelet style tracker that is easy to wear but that loses the instant feedback the other Fitbit devices offer with their screens. for this simple reason, some consumers may prefer the Fitbit one instead (which is a great device in its own right).

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The Flex has handful of blinking lights that show how close you are to achieving your self-set target.

It is a comfortable plastic design that is easy to wear all day every day. It comes in sizes small and large and should fit most consumers fairly well. 

Some call it stylish others call all similar trackers ugly so you'll have to decide this one. I think its discreet and nice.

You have a choice of 5 stylish colors including black, slate, teal, tangerine and navy.

The device

The fitbit flex is designed for all day tracking including movement during the day and sleep at night. 

Paired with the IOS or Android app, it gains the ability to track other activities (besides steps) and calories from food intake. all useful when trying to leave a healthier lifestyle.

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Similar to the one it offers a vibration based alarm (so as not to wake up your partner in the morning). The flex adds a new metric which represents the number of active minutes in a day.

You get a couple of days of use out of each charge.

The kit

The kit comes with the bracelet itself, a USB charger and a USB dongle for your computer (for wireless synchronization of data back to the Fitbit cloud).

It also comes with Bluetooth so you can sync the data on the run via your smartphone.

Start-up 

Start-up is a breeze. You download the small PC and/or smartphone app, create a Ftibit account or log in to an existing one, provide some information (such as age, sex,height, weight, etc)

Verdict

Fitbit is a trusted tracker who is financially solid (which means they will be around). The Flex is a stylish, easy to use and wear device that will gamify fitness and maybe help you lose a couple of pounds.

The Fitbit One is still my preferred fitness tracker but the Flex is a nice option for people looking for a bracelet style model (the One is a clip on).

 

Amiigo is the smartest fitness tracker

Health, technologyEdward KiledjianComment

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Amiigo is a new product currently being funded on crowd-funding site Indiegogo which is trying to make Fitbit, Shine, Jawbone and Lark Life obsolete. It is promising to use advanced algorithms and a bunch of sensors to do things none of its competitors can.

The main piece is the Amiigo bracelet which contains an accelerometer, skin temperature sensor and pule oximeter). In addition to the bracelet, it comes with a shoe clip which helps the device track “non-arm” exercises and also helps the system identify what exercise you are performing.

The Amiigo team is quick to point out that although the bracelet is state of the art, the real magic happens in the backend when all of the collected data is processed using state of the art algorithms and a huge database of over 100 exercises.

Not only will it provide much more accurate health information, it means the device can automatically identify what exercise you are performing, how you performed it, how many times and for how long. This detection and cataloging is done automatically without any user intervention (think distance, sets, reps, etc).

As customers continue using the system, it will start collecting millions of data points it hope to use for other health services. As an example it would like to use performance data to detect cardiovascular problems. There is no way to know if this end goal will ever be reached but the promise is enticing.

I will remain slightly skeptical until the device is released and tested in the real world but I find the direction of innovation promising. It takes these personal health monitoring systems in the right direction hopefully forcing the others to innovate which is wonderful for consumers. Additionally the automation features (where it auto detects what you are doing and how you are doing it) is fantastic because it keeps users engaged. Competing products require that the user enter exercise type and intensity data which eventually get’s tiresome and leads many to simply give up.

I don’t think the Amiigo is the ultimate device and even they have room to grow but it is fantastic to see everything they are doing.

 

Basis watch killer health monitoring features

HealthEdward KiledjianComment

The wearable technology market is exploding and we have seen a handful of very interesting health monitoring gadgets over the last year (Nike Fuelband, Lark Life, Fitbit, Withings Smart Activity Monitor, Shine).

Basis says the battery will last up to 4 days between charges which seems low. A longer life battery would be very desirable (ideally close to a week).

Basis was originally supposed to hit store shelved “early 2012” but obviously missed that target. In November 2012, Basis shared a blog post announcing that they were moving the device from the lab into field test mode, which is promising.

What is the Basis watch/band?

The Basis watch/band is a small watch like device that measures your level of physical activity. So far nothing too earth shattering. Bin order to differentiate itself in a very crowded market, it is adding additional capabilities to the Basis watch/band that are unique: will monitor perspiration, body temperature, blood flow and heart rate. It will then send all of this data to its website where it can be viewed and analyzed anyway you want. In addition to absolute numbers (total steps taken, total calories burned, etc) the web interface will attempt to discover patterns and share those with you. Things like when do you typically become more inactive?

From the information provided, the company has said they will release smartphone apps for the Basis watch/band however we haven't seen any product demoes yet so we have to wait and see.

Obviously the device is very clean and all of the monitoring functions are automatic. Although the company hasn’t provided the details of how it will track your sleep patterns, with all these sensors, it should (hopefully) be able to detect it automatically without the user having to press a button (like on the fitbit or Withings).

The Cons

Based on the information made available, here are the negative aspects of the product I see. Some of these may be addressed before the product is shipped.

Data will sync back to the cloud (and likely your smartphone) via bluetooth 2.1. Yes… you read it right, Bluetooth 2.1. What a disappointment here. I can’t understand why a device being released in 2013 doesn’t support the newer (backward compatible) Bluetooth 4 which is twice as energy efficient as its older brother.

Most of the competitors offer some kind of calorie counter to balance calorie inflows with expenditure however this isn’t something Basis has talked about at all. A Basis spokesman said their research shows users typically don’t use these food logging mechanisms so that is likely why it isn’t in the current iteration of the product.

Although they aren’t even taking pre-orders now, the original suggested price for the Basis was around $199 (real price may change when it is finally available). If they keep the $199 price range, it may be a tough sell in a market where most competitors are priced at $99. Are all of the added features worth an extra $100?

Wish List 

  • When the product is finally released, I hope they bring the product’s price closer to it’s main competitors ($99-$130 range).
  • It would be great if they replaced Bluetooth 2.1 with the newer version 4.0 but I won’t be holding my breath.
  • We haven’t seen the smartphone apps yet and I really hope these are properly designed to be clean, easy to use, useful and cross-platform (android and ios).
  • Even if half of their customers don’t use food logging, I think it is an important feature and hope they add it.
  • My last wish is that they adopt an open approach with the collected data and allow a customer to download it, share it or integrate it into their preferred health management platform (Runkeeper is one example).
  • No news on availability yet but here is hoping it doesn’t take the basis team another year to bring this little device to market.

Pictures

The back sensor