It has been a while since we wrote about how smartphones and other devices are changing the way people track their health and fitness activities. We covered the launch of the FitBit way back in 2009, and the world has definitely not stood still in the intervening years.
The 2011 holiday season saw a slew of activity on this front with new devices, apps and services all vying for our attention in this area. On the device side, there was Jawbone’s Up, which unfortunately seemed to run into reliability problems. They offered full refunds to customers (you were even allowed to keep your Up) and have yet to say when the product will become available again. In addition to fitness “tracking” devices, other categories grew. Scales tied to your phone and the Internet, blood glucose monitors and a whole host of other medical parameters can or will be tracked and monitored in the future. See Fast Company’s article about mHealth and the full-body image with callouts for an idea of where this is headed.
So what has happened recently?
This takes me to Bluetooth 4.0 and its breakthrough feature, BLE, or Bluetooth low energy. Devices that incorporate Bluetooth 4.0 use much less power. That means it is optimal for anything that needs to run and check in on a frequent basis – think monitoring, often in the health and fitness areas. While there are many devices with Bluetooth 4.0, the iPhone 4S was the first smartphone with it, and now the new iPad has it as well. This makes the iPhone/iPad combo a connected one-two punch for users looking to include monitoring of health vitals into their daily life. This will mean an explosion of health and fitness apps that won’t drain your battery and can thus do more and do it more frequently.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nike’s new Nike+ FuelBand. Like the Fitbit and the Up, it is a wearable device that measures your activity. However, it has a fun point system that converts all the things it measures (calories, steps…) into FuelPoints. Through an iOS app or a web site, you can set goals and monitor your progress. Currently, the $149 FuelBand is totally sold out, but you can get one on eBay if you are not willing to wait and willing to pay extra. Although I got a Fitbit Ultra and liked it (it has been used at various times by all four members of my family, each trying to see if he or she could outdo the others), I have to admit that I want a FuelBand and could actually see wearing it instead of a watch. With Nike’s marketing power behind it, I do think that it won’t be long until everyone knows what FuelPoints are and what his or her daily best was!
Update: AllThingsD.com writer Lauren Goode beat me to the punch with a great post summarizing her findings on the FuelBand, Fitbit and BodyMedia’s Fit Link.