Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Motorola looks to reinvent the smartwatch

Following the news that Google's released its preview for the Android Wear SDK, Motorola has revealed a neat-looking smartwatch.

Called the moto 360, it takes a high-end approach with a round face and analog styling; that's in contrast to the smartwatches we've seen from the likes of Samsung, Sony, Pebble etc.

There's no news on pricing yet, but availability in the US will be sometime during the summer. 

Tizen versus Android: The battle for wearables begins

On the day that Tizen has released its SDK for Wearable computing, guess what?

Google has released a preview for its Android Wear SDK.

You can get the idea of what to expect from its devices in the following video. Of course, there's no reason you couldn't do the same with Tizen, which is a joint OS from Samsung and Intel.

Indeed, Samsung just ditched Android for Tizen for its latest smartwatch, but that was before Android Wear was announced.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Another day, another fitness monitoring band?

Well, hopefully not. It looks like the Moov band is a more intelligent mix of hardware and software.

Part of this is what the company calls its 9-axis motion-sensing hardware; basically something that can measure movement particularly well. Indeed, you can use multiple Moov units if you want to track activities like boxing or get gait analysis on your running style.

This is combined with real-time AI software - initially via an iOS app, but with Android to follow - that's described as a 'virtual coach'. More than tracking your exercise, its purpose is to improve your movement. Examples given include tracking your landing impact when running, or pedal stroke efficiency for cycling.

Of course, it does the usual pedometer, sleep, calorie stuff as well.

Pricing is currently listed as $70 (international P&P is $20) compared to a RRP of $120, with delivery now slated as autumn 2014. The July batch of Moov unit sold out within 2 weeks.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

"Reading the glucose in your cells?" Just more health monitoring snakeoil

It seems the big push in wearables is measuring body metrics through the skin.

The Basis B1 watch was the first watch to claim to measure heart rate in this way, although plenty of others also now claim this, and it seems that Apple and Google are engaged in more advanced schemes for their rumoured smartwatches.

Similarly, there have been tech demos that can pick up your pulse rate by measuring the slightly reddening of your skin through a webcam as your heart pumps blood.

Still I remain very skeptical about the latest Indiegogo funding project, which claims to be able to automatically measure calorie intake through your skin.

Healbe has already raised $533,096 (over the $100,000 target with 33 days to go) for its GoBe wearable, so people are obviously keen on the technology.

If you want to fund it, the best current deal is a $189 price point against at $300 RRP.

As for how it works, Healbe claims its "continuous piezo pressure sensor" can handle heart rate, while the accelerometer will calculate calorie burn and metabolic rate.

In terms of measuring calorie input, it says it combines "a unique algorithm with measurements from the body manager's pressure, accelerometer, and impedance sensors to show you calories consumed".

In other words, it guesses - just as my current $100 Fitbit Flex does.

Yet, elsewhere, it claims it measures your calorie intake - "by reading the glucose in your cells".

Absolute tosh.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Why a wedding ring is a great wearable health tracker

I spend quite a lot of time thinking and writing about wearable computing, especially the current range of health trackers. Obviously, there's lots of technology involved in these, from tracking our movements to health metrics like sleep, heart rate, blood pressure etc.

But there's one wearable that's a dumb as any wearable can be, but which gives me very useful - if limited - data.

It's my wedding ring.

Obviously I wear it all the time and on that basis, it provides me with a pretty good idea of the thickness of my finger, and hence my overall weight.

When I first got it, it was a snug fit. I weighed around 73 kg, but given my current situation - a state of work, life and exercise balance - I can be as low as 70.5 kg. I check my weight regularly and accurately on the scales, of course, but the looseness (or tightness) of my wedding is an ever-present reminder of the situation.

In that way, it's actually much more useful than any piece of wearable computing because as well as providing a metric associated with weight, it also provides a subtle challenge. After all, I don't want to get too thin and lose it!

And perhaps that's the lesson to wearable computing companies. Most of my failures with their technology have been for indirect reasons - they break, they get lost, they aren't nice to wear. Wearables need to be less smart but more intuitive. If nothing else, we need to be want to wear them for their own sake and not get information from them without access to a computer or mobile phone.

An infinite battery life is good too!

Monday, 10 March 2014

The importance of important data

I've been using my Fitbit Flex for a couple of months now, and I like it. I haven't lost it, like my Fitbit One and it hasn't been recalled, like the Fitbit Force. Sure it's merely functional but that's all I need.

One thing I particularly like is the weekly email of my data, which I've worked up into some graphs.

But are these graphs (and hence the underlying data) useful? Not in all cases, I fear.

I don't do anything clever in terms of entering my eating habits into the Fitbit website so that means the graph of total calories burnt is data once removed as it's reversed engineered from my activity; something effectively covered by the other two graphs.

Also, it's pretty clear to see that total distance travelled (in km) and total steps are measuring the same thing.

Still, I do find it interesting that my both are on an upwards curve. Now if only there was a simple way of extracting sleep data...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Can Google oust Tizen as the OS for wearables?

While it makes complete sense for Google to say it wants to position Android as the OS for wearables (as quoted at SXSWi), it's also worth pointing out that Samsung's just switched from Android to Tizen for its new Gear 2 smartwatches.

That decision was apparently made in terms of battery life and performance considerations.

Of course, given its work with Google Glass and its rumoured Nexus smartwatch with LG, Google will have plenty of skin in the game. Thing is, though, performance and battery life are pretty big considerations in the wearable space, and if Samsung thinks Android doesn't currently cut the mustard, looks like it has some ways to shrink. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Personally, I don't believe Wello iPhone case/health tracker works

In an increasingly competitive market for health monitoring, the Wello iPhone 5/5S case is going all-in-one.

It reckons that if you hold it for a few seconds, via Bluetooth its app can provide your heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, temperature and heart ECG waves.

There's also for a peripheral you blow into to test your lung function.

Now, I'm all for making the qualified self as easy as possible, but accuracy must come into the picture somewhere.

I'm pretty skeptical about heart rate monitors that aren't chest straps so accuracy taking your blood pressure - a metric I love - through your fingers sounds suspicious to me.

Still, Azoi, the team behind Wello, seems legit and has been working on their tech for a couple of years. It will also be available for Android devices, only not as a case.

Guess we'll find out more when the Wello iPhone case - currently available for pre-order priced $199/£120 - is released.