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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

 

Fitbit Flex wristband announced

HealthEdward KiledjianComment
Fitbit has just announced that it will be releasing a new device (bringing their total device count to 3) called the Flex. It is a waterproof wristband that clearly competes with the Jawbone UP 2. It tracks activity but unlike it's other products, the Flex does not measure altitude (aka number of steps climbed). It then connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to upload data back to the Fitbit mothership.
It also tracks your sleep but unlike the other Fitbit devices, it doesn't have a button to engage sleep mode. To turn on sleep mode, you have to use Fitbit's smartphone app. Jawbone auto-detects when you sleep.
A single charge should last 5-7 days (the UP lasts about 10). The only positive about the Flex (compared to the Jawbone UP) is the cheaper price, $100. The device should be available sometime this spring.
Considering the stiff competition in the health tracking market, I am surprised Fitbit is releasing something this bland and boring. 
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Withings Smart Activity Tracker

HealthEdward KiledjianComment
About 6 months ago, Fitbit released the Aria WIFI scale scale which competed directly with Withings. It seems Withings isn't about to play dead and has announced the Smart Activity Tracker as a direct assault to the Fitbit Ultra. 
This is a crowded field and this newcomer will have to compete with the liked of the Nike Fuelbank, Lark Life, Misfit Shine. An interesting new feature the Smart Activity Tracker brings to the table is monitoring of your pulse. The device has a tiny sensor on the back that you push your finger against and within seconds, it will detect and record your heart rate. It will of course monitor your daily activity, calorie consumption (via smartphone app) and measure sleep quality.
The device will upload data via Bluetooth 4 to your smartphone which means it is portable but the new bluetooth standard also is more energy efficient which means it can run for up to 14 days between recharges.
We'll have to wait and see the full software/hardware package before judging its competitiveness but competition is always great for the consumer. At the very least, it will drive innovation and hopefully push prices down.

Lark Life available in US Stores

HealthEdward KiledjianComment

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I haven't been able to reach the Lark website for the last 24 hours but a tweet from their official account probably made some people very happy:

The official company tweet says that the Lark Life is finally available in US Apple stores. A quick search of the online Apple store came back empty (no Lark Life)

If you see one in a US store, let me know. I will also try to get my hands on one so I can run it through its paces.