Folks who follow me on Facebook — and you can too, if you’d like — know that in addition to losing weight, I’ve also been improving my health by a daily workout at the gym. It’s a rhythm that’s far easier than I ever expected, actually, and I’m glad to see the results slowly come into focus after four rather rigorous months of activity and thoughtful eating.
One area of tech that I’ve been watching very closely for a long time is biometric monitoring. Used to be that if you wanted to collect any data on your exercise and health, you’d be stuck with a gadget that sat in your pocket, a pedometer that probably wasn’t even very accurate. And weight? Yup, you could write down the number on the scale every day if you were so inclined. Data over time? Long term trend analysis? You were on your own for that one.
All of this has changed in a way that has caught the popular zeitgeist in active communities, and now sports bands and monitoring are a big business, with some products even on semi-permanently backorder. On the scale side, I have both a Withings WS-30 wifi scale (shown on the right) and a Withings WS-50 “Smart Body Analyzer” (which looks the same, but is black). They’re exactly what a modern scale should be, recognizing each family member by weight, saving weight and body fat percentage data on a central Internet server, and even including some slick software for your favorite mobile device so you can see trends and ensure that your weight is heading in the desired direction.
For exercise bands, however, the competition is far greater, with a lot of consumer electronics firms in the race. An early entrant in this market was MOVband and they sent me one to play with almost 18mo ago. I liked it, but the device had terrible software so it now sits, unused, in my office. The next company to join the fray was powerhouse Nike, a company that makes a lot more than just sneakers. Nike introduced the Fuelband, and that’s what I have on my wrist right now. I really like it.
Their software is what makes them cool, and my friend Erica, who loaned me her Fuelband to try, shared that she’s now a huge proponent of the Up because of its social nature: in her monitoring app, she shares data with a lot of friends and they can all see how each other’s doing on a daily basis. Gamification + social = smart.
But the lack of feedback, the lack of any useful data on the monitoring device is something I don’t really like. Truth be told, just as when I go to the gym and ignore everyone, I look at health data as something I want to know about, not something I want to share on a daily basis with my circle of friends. Hence my preference for the Fuelband, which actually shows useful data at the push of a button and otherwise is just an interesting piece of tech jewelry on your wrist.
The Fuelband photo on the right is showing my “fuel points”, not steps like an old fashioned pedometer, though at its heart, the Fuelband really is a glorified pedometer or, to be more accurate, “The Nike+ FuelBand uses a sports-tested accelerometer to measure your movement in NikeFuel, a universal metric of activity.” Got that?
Put it in a different mode and it’s a watch, with the time displayed at the push of a button, which is actually rather handy, especially in situations where you don’t want to have a cellphone in the mix. It also shows steps, calories burned, and various other stats directly on the wristband itself.
For me, that’s a big win, as I like to see how I’m doing with my fitness goal as the day progresses.
Push the button just a second or two longer and it goes into SYNC mode, sharing its data with your smartphone and thence to your central Nike+ account. That’s where you see trend data and can compare days in a week or even months over a year to see when you’re most active and when you’re more sedentary, a key benefit of any of these devices.
In the app you can easily monitor information like activity versus time:
You can see that 2604 fuel points = 5553 steps = 2.7 miles = 1101 calories and if you were so inclined, you could do the math and figure out what each fuelpoint is worth, but I surmise that it’s also taking into account weight and height (as it should, since a 115 pound person walking a mile burns less calories than a 220 pound person does).
There’s a social component to the Nike+ App on my iPhone and I suppose it’d be interesting to hook in with a few other people to see how we compare on our daily activity, but I’m not rushing into it. For me, however, as a way to monitor my day by day activity, I’m really digging the Fuelband and am heading out today to buy an XL black one for myself. And this loaner from Erica? I’m going to loan it to my teen daughter and see what she thinks. And I’m sure the two of us will share app data, so we’ll see once and for all who is more active on a daily basis!
Now, do you have an activity monitoring device, and if so, which one and how do you like it?