There’s a whole lot of fitness trackers on the market these days, and they all seem to offer different functionality. So, here’s a summary of the things I’m after in a tracker, and who comes closest:
Pretty much everything has a pedometer these days, and they’re all pretty accurate. It’s a useful metric for keeping track of my base level of activity during the day. Of course, because I use a treaddesk, I’m also after something that measures walking while my arms aren’t necessarily moving, which most wrist-based trackers struggle with.
I like to keep track of my sleep, and sleep quality. No-one functions on poor sleep, so it’s a good metric to watch.
The device should wirelessly sync to your computer or phone, for transferring your data. Bluetooth is ideal here, for compatibility with the maximum number of devices. If you don’t manage to sync for several days, the device should be capable of storing your data for syncing later.
Any tracking device is useless if it spends all of its life in a charging cradle. The battery should last at least 5 days, and it should recharge quickly. Bonus features would be a micro-USB connection (instead of a custom cradle), and a notification when the battery is getting low.
Of course this is a personal thing, but if you’re going to be wearing a device 24×7, it needs to look good.
Having a nice web interface or mobile app is a necessity for quickly seeing overviews of the data you’re tracking. Just as important, though, is the ability to export the raw data (either through an export function or an API), for more in-depth personal analysis.
While not strictly necessary for me, a device that sits on your wrist 24×7 should be able to monitor basic bio-information. Temperature, heart rate, perspiration, and blood-oxygen levels come to mind.
Bonus: Bio Alarm Clock
It’s kind of a buzzword name, but the concept is cool – along with the sleep tracker, the device can also monitor when you’re at the lightest stage of your sleep cycle (near your morning alarm) and decide to wake you a little earlier, so you feel more refreshed when you wake.
|Fitbit One||Fitbit Flex||Nike Fuelband||Jawbone Up||Basis||Amiigo|
|Style||Small clip on, fits in pocket||Plain wrist band, black or slate||Plain wrist band, solid black, translucent black or white||Small wrist band, 8 colour options||Large watch, with changeable bands||Plain wrist band, black or white with various highlights|
|Data||Web, Mobile, API, Export (premium)||Mobile, API||Mobile, API, Export||Web, Mobile||Mobile|
|Bonus: Bio Alarm||✘||✘||✘||✔||✘||✘|
So, it’s fairly clear that no-one has properly solved the fitness tracker problem yet. The wrist band seems to be the more popular method, and Amiigo’s wristband + detachable clip shows interesting promise, though hasn’t been released yet.
What’s next, then? Battery life is settling at around a week or so, I’d expect the next generation to be all around there. Extra sensors are a must have, and Amiigo is paving the way for recognising more than just walking – they claim to be able to recognise all sorts of gym activities, too.
I’d really like to see devices switch over to micro-USB for charging. I don’t like cables at the best of times, so being able to reduce the number of cables I have lying around is always a plus. There have been watches released in the past that are capable of charging from the movement of your arms, which is also cute. If I’m going to be using the energy, it should at least go somewhere useful.
Finally, I think there’s much more interesting data analysis to be done – the companies behind these devices are collecting massive amounts of data on people’s exercise habits, I’m certain there useful patterns to be picked out, which can lead to more efficient methods of exercise to fit in with our increasingly sedentary and time-poor society.
I’m looking forward to the future of fitness tracking devices with great interest!