Fitbit Activity Tracking at The Gadget Show

Fitbit is well-known in the activity tracking space with their diminutive gadgets which monitor the wearer’s every move and snooze. It’s a busy space, with competitors hot on their heels, Fitbit has been expanding its portfolio with new colours, swappable wrist bands, wireless syncing with more devices and pre-installing its app on new smartphones. I chat with Peter from Fitbit about the company’s recent activity and the direction of travel for activity watchers.

Fitbit Range

Wearables Come To SXSW

SXSWAt times it feels like SXSW has become a mini-CES, with all the hot innovations popping up. Wearables combined with health and well-being are definitely where it’s at and this year Philips are hosting a Dragon’s Den-style Digital Innovation Challenge, with three companies pitching their tech for a week’s advice and guidance at Philip’s High Tech Campus in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

First up are Atlas Wearables, pitching their fitness tracker for the serious workout enthusiast. The Atlas “measures your heart rate, calculates the calories you burned and tracks your body on the x-, y- and z-axes, so it knows how many laps you swam and if you did push-ups or triangle push-ups. It’s preloaded with the most popular exercises and can learn new exercises you teach it so you can instantly see your progress, analyze your form, anticipate plateaus and find what makes you stronger, faster.” Definitely for the hardcore fitness fanatic.

Incomparable Things is very much softer – they’re building an app to bring together the myriad of data sources – “In our app, people scrapbook the stories of their adventures. We collect all the media people already create when they’re being active – from photos to location data, NikeFuel to tweets – and weave them together to tell visual, personal and complete stories that others can collect and aspire to. They are more memorable than a photo album and more inspiring than an activity data score. It is used by everyone from daily walkers to training triathletes, neighborhood arborists to polar expeditionists.” Sounds a bit like Field Trip meets Pose! I love the idea of these apps but I simply don’t have the time to curate the photos and tweets.

Finally, Push is back to circuits and training with another fitness tracker that seems very similar to the Atlas one. “Rugged and durable, PUSH straps comfortably to your arm. It communicates with your phone, transmitting movement feedback that’s too fast for the human eye to capture. The data is displayed on the PUSH App, providing you with crucial, scientifically-validated metrics about each and every rep, helping you optimize your training.” It’s kind of symptomatic of the space that there’s going to very similar devices competing for attention. Push’s USP is that it can measure strength, not simply calories burned.

If you want to see these three companies pitch, you need to get yourself round to the Next Stage in the Convention Centre at 12.30 CDT today.

Fitbit Recalls Fitbit Force After Allergic Reactions

Fitbit logoThose of you who are currently using the Fitbit Force need to be aware of a voluntary recall on it. Fitbit chose to recall the product after learning that some people are having allergic reactions to it. More specifically, some people are experiencing allergic contact dermatitis after using Fitbit Force.

Only 1.7% have reported any type allergic reaction. Even so, Fitbit has issued an apology to anyone who has been affected. As a person who has severe allergies (including some that result in allergic contact dermatitis) I applaud Fitbit’s willingness to empathize with people who had an allergic reaction to one of their products.

I do not currently use any of Fitbit’s products. If, later on, I decide I want a wearable activity tracker, I will consider Fitbit over other companies who sell similar devices. Personally, it feels like the products from Fitbit could be more “allergy-friendly” than the products from competitors.

How did the allergic reactions occur? Fitbit hired independent medical experts to investigate. It appears that the allergic contact dermatitis that some people are experiencing is a reaction to either the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel that is used in the Fitbit Force. Or, it could be a reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to put the product together.

So, Fitbit offered an apology and did a voluntary recall of Fitbit Force. They also took things two steps further. Not only have they stopped selling Fitbit Force, but they also are offering a refund directly to customers for the full retail price of their Fitbit Force. I think Fitbit made excellent decisions after learning that some customers were experiencing skin irritation from Fitbit Force.

Fitbug Showcases Fitbug Orb and KiK Plans at CES

Fitbug OrbFitbug is showcasing the latest Fitbug Orb and the new KiK plans at CES Unveiled. Both work together to help you reach specific health goals.

The Fitbug Orb is a wearable activity tracker that costs $49.95. Fitbug has added models that come in lime green, electric orange, and translucent white to their line. It is a discrete, button-sized device that can be placed on the belt, wrist, or lanyard. Or, you can clip it onto or beneath clothing. Fitbug Orb tracks number of steps, aerobic steps/time, distance, calories burned, speed, and sleep.

They also expanded the range of compatible iOS and Android smart devices it connects with to include the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5 family, iPad3, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPod touch 5. Compatible Android devices now include Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 mini and Galaxy Note 8.0 (Android 4.3), Motorola Moto G (Android 4.3), Nexus 4 and 5 Smartphones and Nexus 7 tablet (Android 4.4) and HTC One (Android 4.3).

The Fitbug Orb is one of many devices made by Fitbug that can be used with their KiK Plans. Each KiK Plan provides a goal oriented 12 week program that was created by leading experts. You purchase the activation cards individually and prices start at $19.99.

One of the first KiK Plans to be unveiled is called “no more baby belly”. It is a post-pregnancy program that has been designed to help mothers get back into shape after their baby is born. This KiK Plan was created with Melinda Nicci, who is a sports psychologist and postnatal fitness expert.

You can check out Fitbug at CES 2014. Many of their themed KiK Plans will be showcased at LVCC, South Hall 2, booth #26624.

Smart Diabekit by Reunion

DiabekitDid you know that diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in US. and cost $174 Billion US dollars in health care cost. There are 25 million diabetics and 79 million pre diabetics in the US. People with diabetes have to estimate the amount of sugar they eat and monitor the level of glucose in their blood. This can mean carrying around a large kit and sticking yourself with a needle to draw blood. It is messy and painful. Many people will just try to estimate their sugar intake which can lead to life threatening situations. Runware the maker of the Runalyzer a heart rate monitor is coming out with an all in one solutions for the diabetics called the Smart Diabekit System. It has a smart glucometer for measuring blood sugar and  sensors that communicates with the included scale and an activity tracker. Now the diabetic can easily keep track  the food they are eating, how active they are and of their glucose level.

The Smart DiabelKit System will be available in September 2014 at the Runware website, price is not available at this time. If you are attending CES 2014 Runware a company based out of the The Reunion Island will be in the Venetian Ballroom Hall D, level 2 Booth 7269.

June Measures Sun Exposure at CES

Netatmo June BraceletConsumer electronics company Netatmo have announced June, a sun exposure monitoring bracelet aimed at women. June tracks UV intensity and total sun exposure during the day, feeding information to the app which then provides advice on how to best protect their skin. As most of us know, excessive sun exposure causes sunburn and leads to premature skin ageing.

Depending on the user’s skin type, the app calculates the suggested maximum daily UV dose and then presents the percentage of sun exposure as the day goes by. The app can notify the owner when its time to protect her skin by putting on a hat, applying sunscreen or seeking shade.

Designed by French jewellery designer, Camille Toupet, June can either be worn as a bracelet or a brooch and comes in three colours; gold, platinum and gunmetal. June will be available in the second quarter of 2014 priced at US$99 from select fashion, beauty and consumer electronics stores. The June app will be downloadable from iTunes for iPhone 4S and above.

The June bracelet has won two CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards in both “Wearable Technologies” and “Tech for a Better World” categories. The bracelet will be on show at CES in the Convention Centre, South Hall 2, Stand 26 700, if you want to take a look.

I really like the concept behind this and as a parent, I could see a great deal of mileage in a waterproof version for children (and watersports enthusiasts) to wear. If little Johnny spends too long in the sun, the alarm goes off on Dad’s mobile phone.

Kurt DelBene to Manage HealthCare.gov

Microsoft logoIt has been reported, many times, that the HealthCare.gov website has problems. Perhaps a former Microsoft executive can help fix it! The Obama administration has tapped Kurt DelBene to manage HealthCare.gov.

He will serve as an unpaid senior advisor. DelBene will serve in this role starting December 17, 2013, and will continue until the end of June of 2014. There is potential that he could stay on for a longer period of time.

According to the Microsoft website, Kurt DelBene retired from Microsoft effective December 16, 2013. He was president of the Microsoft Office Division. Previous to that, he was the senior vice president for the Microsoft Business Division. He joined Microsoft in 1992.

The Department of Health and Human Services announcement states that Kurt DelBene will be working closely with United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. He will also work with the White House and the teams and senior leadership that is in place at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Netatmo is on a Winning Streak

Netatmo ThermostatNetatmo has received not one, but two, awards this November. One award is for their Weather Station, and the other is for their new Thermostat. Netatmo was created in 2011, and they are obviously doing quite well.

Netatmo won Popular Science’s Best of What’s New Award for their Personal Weather Station. Winners of this award will be featured in Popular Science’s Best of What’s New issue in December. In order to win, a product (or technology) must represent “a significant step forward”.

The Personal Weather Station monitors both indoor and outdoor air quality. It notes the temperature, humidity, air pressure, and CO2 levels. The information is wirelessly transferred from the air quality sensors to a person’s iPhone, iPad, or Android. This information can be used to help a person improve indoor wellness, or to adapt their outdoor activities (based on the air quality).

Netatmo also won a CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award in the Home Appliance category. This award is for their Thermostat for smartphone. It has been recently launched and is currently available only in Europe.

The Netatmo Thermostat enables a person to control the heating in his or her home remotely through a smartphone, tablet, or PC. The purpose is more than just convenience. You can use it to manage energy savings more efficiently and save on your heating bill.

The 2014 International CES will take place on January 7-10 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Netatmo’s Thermostat will be displayed at CES Unveiled: The Official Media Event from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. On Sunday, January 5, 2014. It will take place in the South Seas Ballroom C at Mandalay Bay. You can also check out Netatmo at CES 2014 at their stand in the South Hall 26700.

Click “Like” for a Second Opinion?

FacebookThere are many reasons why you might be asked to click “like” on a Facebook page. You usually cannot access a coupon that a company offers until after you “like” their page. Bands might ask fans to click “like” to show their support. Political parties (or groups that favor a particular one) may want you to “like” their page or a post that is on it. Overall, this is fairly harmless.

Things get a little fishy when a health care provider asks you to do things on Facebook in order to be given a free second opinion. I’m not talking about those posts that get shared that tell a story of a child who needs surgery and who can get it after that post receives enough “likes”. I think most of us know that, in reality, there isn’t a surgeon frantically refreshing his or her Facebook page so he can dash into surgery the instant that last “like” is clicked and save a child’s life. Things just don’t work that way.

That being said, New Times SLO reports an odd story where Facebook and health care have collided. The Templeton Institute for Neurology has a Facebook page. They are offering a free second opinion, if you do the following things: “like” their main Facebook page, “like” their post, share their post, comment on their post, “like” their video, or share their video. Why? Here is their explanation:

Why your likes are so critical is that because this “one of a kind program in the world” depends in its funding and success on advancing name recognition of this free service measured by our “Facebook likes”.

The website for Templeton Institute for Neurology says:

Second Opinion is free at our institution, in excahnge (sic) for the “good will” of 50 of your firends (sic) liking us on Facebook. No insurance needed even if you have insurance.

According to the article from New Times SLO, a patient who does not want to use the “Facebook Free Program” that Templeton Institute for Neurology offers can still get the second opinion that they are seeking. However, it will cost them $2,500 for the initial consult and then $600 per hour for follow up through a place called Neurology Second Opinion Inc., (which is part of their practice).

HAPIfork Helps You Monitor Your Eating Habits

HAPILABSHAPILABS has created a specialized fork that can help people to monitor their eating habits, and potentially lose weight as a result. It is called HAPIfork, and it has a Kickstarter that will gather funding until June 1, 2013.

Those who cannot wait to get their hands on the HAPIfork have the option of pledging $89.00 (or more) to the Kickstarter in order to get their very own “smart fork” for $10.00 off the regular price. HAPILABS will begin shipping those out in September of 2013.

The HAPIfork monitors and keeps track of your eating habits. It pays attention to “fork servings”, which is described as “every time you bring food from your plate to your mouth” (with the HAPIfork). It will note how long it took for you to eat your meal, the amount of “fork servings” you took per minute, and the interval of time between each “fork serving”.

The data is then uploaded via USB to your Online Dashboard, so you can track your progress. Each HAPIfork comes with the HAPILABS app and a coaching program that will help you improve your eating behavior. There is a HAPILABS mobile app for Android and Windows mobile that will keep track of health, fitness, sleep, relaxation, and physical activities. Data can be loaded to the app via Bluetooth.

Eat too quickly, and the HAPIfork will vibrate to let you know that you need to slow down. It is subtle, and I think most people would prefer that type of notification instead of a loud sound or a flashing light that would instantly attract the attention of everyone else in the room. When your meal is over, you can wash HAPIfork either in the sink or the dishwasher.

The primary concept is to encourage people to eat more slowly in order to avoid digestive problems, weight gain, and post-operative complications. This amusingly named “smart fork” sounds like an interesting device to use if you are hoping to lose some weight.