Linx IAS Monitors Sports Impacts at CES

BlackBox logoWith concussion now an increasing concern in many sports, Todd talks to David from BlackBox Biometrics about the Linx IAS, which provides real-time feedback on concussive impacts.

The Linx IAS is small device, not too dissimilar to a thin USB memory stick, that athletes wear in a headband or skull cap to monitor the concussive forces on the head. The Linx sends data on impacts via Bluetooth to an app on a tablet or smartphone which then shows to the coach the severity and number of impacts using a simple colour-coded and numeric scale.  If a smartphone isn’t in range, the Linx will store the data until one is nearby. The MSRP is $199 and it’ll be available in Q1 of 2015.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Smart Hearing Aids from Siemens at CES

Siemens Hearing Test IconAs people get older, one of the more common complaints is of hearing loss. Many of those getting older now have grown up with technology and expect more than brown lumps of plastic which simply won’t do in an Apple-designed world. Today’s hearing aids are small, discreet and smart. Todd hears about the latest products from Thomas Powers of Siemens Hearing Instruments.

Siemens’ latest assistive hearing device is the Binex, which uses signal processing to help people in traditionally difficult listening environments, especially those where there’s a high level of background noise, such as restaurants or trade shows. The aid intelligently reacts to the noise, filtering out the unwanted sound while keeping nearby voices clear.

Worn around the neck, the easyTek streams audio from a Bluetooth-connected device directly into the hearing aid so it’s great for listening to music from a smartphone or tablet. The easyTek can be controlled by the easyTek app for Android and iOS smartphones to discreetly adjust programmes and volume, listen at a preferred level without disturbing others or direct the microphone towards the next person at a restaurant.

Available now, the smart hearing aids cost around $1500-$2000 which includes assessment and fitting.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Hexoskin Smart Shirt Now Comes In Small

Hexoskin LogoCanadian outfit Hexoskin has been in the wearables market longer than most, starting out in 2006 and now has a range of smart shirts with a built-in body metric system to measure heart rate, breathing, activity and sleeping using sensors woven into the fabric of the shirt.

Hexoskin, with the support of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, created sensors made of textile, leaving almost no hardware in the shirt – there’s no watch or tight fitting chest band required. There is a small recording unit that slips into a side pocket on the shirt and communicates with a smartphone via Bluetooth. Both iOS (Apple) and Android phones are supported, and a downloaded app keeps track of all the data. With over 42,000 data points recorded every minute, there’s a fair amount of data.

In addition to the usual metrics, the Hexoskin system also measures heart rate recovery, heart rate variability, breathing rate, breathing volume, activity level, acceleration and cadence, all in real time. These metrics give users the information they need to plan their training programmes and surpass their fitness and athletic goals. Essentially a wearable precision lab, Hexoskin provides its users with high quality metrics in real time – these are tools for people serious about their performance.

Today, Hexoskin announced child and youth sizes for the Hexoskin shirt, making it the world’s first biometric smart shirt tailor-made for kids and teens. Adapted to fit all the same sensors of the adult shirts into the smaller shirt size, the Hexoskin Junior will be available in sizes XXS to XL.

Hexoskin Kids

Youth athletics are popular all over the world,” said Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, Co-Founder and CEO of Hexoskin.  “Whether it’s hockey, baseball, football, soccer, volleyball or track & field, kids are part of intense training programs that are training them to become champions and Olympians.  With the addition of Hexoskin Junior, we’ve set out to provide coaches, parents and kids the invaluable tools our adult shirts provide.

By reviewing the data before, during and after workout sessions, users can exert maximum training effort, while still avoiding fatigue, overtraining and injuries.  This is particularly important with young athletes, especially since they are still growing and can be at a greater risk for injury than adult athletes.

Hexoskin Junior is available for pre-order in sizes XXS to XL and will retail for $149 for the shirt alone. A full starter pack with monitoring devices is $379. Not cheap but if you are going for gold, it’s probably money well spent. For more information, visit www.hexoskin.com.

Fitbit Flex Review

Fitbit LogoOver the past year, I’ve noticed more and more people wearing activity tracking devices and here in Northern Ireland I tend to see Fitbits rather than anything else.  Fitbit has been advertising on TV lately too with “It’s All Fit” and I’m sure that there will be a good number of Zips, Flexes and Charges under the Christmas tree come 25th December. I’ve worn a Zip for nearly two years as part of my efforts to keep my weight down and on review today I have the next model up, the Fitbit Flex. Let’s take a look.

FItbit Flex Package

The Fitbit Flex comes in a neat transparent package that shows off the coloured wristband and opening the packaging reveals the fitness tracker itself, large and small wrist bands, a USB sync dongle and a USB charging dock.

Fitbit Flex Contents

The fitness tracker itself is the small black rectangular unit and it’s slipped inside a small pocket in the wristband to be worn both during the day and asleep at night. The wristbands are made of a soft plastic and are available in ten different colours with additional coloured bands on sale from Fitbit’s online store. The large size fitted me well and the smaller one will suit women and children. It’s not obvious in the pictures, but the Flex uses a push-through buckle to keep the band on. It’s a little tricky to get clicked in sometimes, but it keeps the wristband on and in the two weeks of testing I’ve not had any problems with the Flex falling off accidentally. The Flex is supposed to be water resistant to 10m (30ft) and while I didn’t go that deep, it did survive 1000m of surface swimming.

The tracker has a set of LEDs which show through the transparent plastic window on the wrist band. The user interface is simple with five round LEDs used to communicate with the owner and at a basic level, each dot represents a fifth of the way towards the daily target. For example, if the target is 10,000 steps, one LED is worth 2,000 steps. The picture below shows the tracker has measured 6,000 steps, give or take. Normally none of the lights are on but tap on the band at the tracker and the lights come on.

Fitbit Flex

The Flex has an internal rechargeable battery which lasts about 5 days between charges. To charge the Flex up, the tracker unit is taken out of the wristband and placed in the USB charging cradle which in turn is plugged into any available USB port. Charging is relatively quick, typically taking less than an hour.

Getting the activity data off the Flex is easy too, with syncing available between the Flex and both PCs and smartphones. Fitbit is agnostic with clients available for Windows, Macs, Android and iOS, though check compatibility to be sure as the phone or tablet has to support the Low Energy (LE) version of Bluetooth. Syncing with a desktop or laptop is a case of downloading and installing the app, sticking the USB dongle in and getting going. The dongle and Flex are pre-paired so there’s nothing to worry about there. Sync to a phone is similar – download the app from the relevant store and run it. The app will automatically search for the Flex and connect up. A Fitbit login is needed from fitbit.com and signing up for that is free. There’s a full lifestyle portal online which gives access to fitness stats from any web browser.

Personally I used my Flex almost exclusively with my Android phone (Nexus 4) and tablet (Nexus 9). The app shows daily activity, sleep patterns and can record exercise, weight, food and water if the information is added in conscientiously.

Flex Summary  Flex Summar

Different views of the data can be shown – on the left below is a weekly view. Contrary to indications, I didn’t spend Saturday lounging in front of the TV, but forgot to put the Flex on! The Flex can also track sleep patterns, though it can’t automatically detect sleep and needs the wearer to indicate the approximate time of going to bed and getting up.

Weekly Flex Summary  Flex Sleep Tracking

The Flex unit can vibrate too and vibration is used to give feedback to the wearer on attaining goals. It can be used as an alarm as well and although I wasn’t really keen on wearing the Flex in bed, the wake-up alarm worked well for me, prodding me to stir when I’d turned my other alarm off. I don’t normally wear a watch in bed so I did find wearing the Flex at night a little odd but that’s very much a personal feeling.

In the two weeks I used the Flex, I didn’t come across any other problems bar one time that the unit needed reset. I’m not sure what happened: I think I might have tried to sync with the Flex from both phone and the tablet at the same time but resetting the Flex was simple using the normal paperclip-in-reset-hole and no activity data was lost.

I came to this review as a Fitbit Zip wearer and to start with, I did think that the Flex was a little bit of a backward step as I couldn’t see the number of paces that I’d taken – the Zip shows this information on a small LCD screen.  However, over the course of the trial, I’ve got used to it and if I really want to know, I can do a quick sync with my phone to get the data. The Flex is much better than the Zip when it comes to wearing during activity and doesn’t get accidentally pulled off or left in the locker on trousers. The water resistance of the Flex is a bonus too. One downside is that the Flex doesn’t tell the time, so it can’t replace a wristwatch. For many people this isn’t an issue as they don’t wear a watch but for those who do, the Fitbit Charge is perhaps the answer.

The Fitbit Flex is priced at £79.99 RRP but can be found a little cheaper on-line.

Thanks to Fitbit for providing the Flex for review.

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.

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.

Tinké by Zensorium

Tinke I use a Fitbit Force to track the number of steps I take each day and I use the Lose it to count the number of calories I am consuming each day. What I can’t measure is how this is effecting my heartbeat and respiratory rate that is what Tinké does. The Tinké is a smart sensor about the size of a matchbook that can not only measure your heartbeat, respiratory rate but it can also measure blood oxygen level and heart rate variability. This is all done with the touch of a finger. It can also be used to measure your relaxation or Zen level which is created by controlling your breathing. You can use it to monitor your day-to-day changes and share your progress with your friends who also use Tinké.  It is now available with a  lightning connector so it can be connected directly to your iOs device.

Based on its engineering and design qualities and it’s intended purposes the Tinke by Zensorium has been awarded an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.   “It is an honor to have Tinké named on the honoree list of CES Innovations,” says Juliana Chua, Principal of Zensorium’s Business Innovation Group. “While the current Tinké is built for iOS devices, we like to inform our Android fans that they are not forgotten and a brand new compatible version will be revealed at the 2014 International CES.”

If you are going to CES 2014 the Zensorium’s Tinke will be displayed in The Venetian, Las Vegas Convention Centre, South Hall Booth 26613 at the 2014 International CES from January 7–10 2014.  I personally look forward to a Tinké model that works with Android.

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.