Health Tech Update

Health. Technology. Innovation.

Can “Big Mother” Help Your Posture?

Everyone knows that mobile apps are changing our world every day, particularly in the world of fitness apps.  Well a new crop of personal health technology is hitting that market.  These new products are combining dedicated hardware to work in tandem with a custom app to help you perform better.

One of the simple, yet powerful examples coming out is targeted at something a lot of us suffer from: poor posture.  I know that when I sit at the computer for an extended period of time I start to slouch.  The longer I set, the lower I slide into my chair.  This is where the LumoBACK device comes into the picture. The LUMOback is part of growing collection of wearable health technology that has the potential to be a realtime coach showing us how to enhance our performance. It also has the potential to spy on our every move. That’s how the slightly comical, slightly creepy “Big Mother” term came about.

This small band goes around your waist and watches your lower back posture. When you start to slouch, it gently vibrates to remind you to sit up straight. There’s also a companion app for your iPhone that shows a simple avatar of your posture as you stand, sit or walk. Using the app, you can see how adjusting your body can change you posture.

The end result of this realtime feedback is that you start to build new muscle memory throughout your day. We’ll be doing a full review of the LUMOback soon.

Withings Smart Activity Tracker announced at CES

Withings Smart Activity Tracker

Withings Smart Activity Tracker

Today Withings announced a big expansion of its product line. Most well known for its wifi-enabled body weight scale, Withings now has a smart activity tracker called, wait for it, the Withings Smart Activity Tracker.

Based on the initial details about the product, it appears to be a direct competitor to the Fitbit One. Some of the on screen icons even look the same as the One. The features look almost identical (steps, stairs, sleep tracking, etc.). The main new feature appears to be a heart rate monitor that is activated by pressing your finger on a sensor on the back of the device. The Withings Smart Activity Tracker also has a touch screen and the ability to review a limited amount of historical data right on the device (most devices like the Fitbit One only show the current day’s stats).

Pricing hasn’t been announced. It’s expected to be released this spring. Stay tuned for a full shake down on the Smart Activity Tracker soon.

You can read the full product release from Withings about the Smart Activity Tracker here.


Fitbit Flex band is a colorful wrist mounted activity tracker

Fitbit today announced at CES the latest addition to the company’s line of wearable fitness devices.  The new Fitbit Flex band offers some new features (like being waterproof and the ability to wear on the wrist), though it doesn’t offer some of the more detailed stats on the number of steps you’ve taken like the Fitbit One of  the Fitbit Zip).

The Fitbit Flex does let you swap the tracker between different bands if you want to be able to wear different colored bands depending on your wardrobe selection for the day.

We’ll be putting the Flex through its paces as soon as it ships and provide a comparison to the Fitbit One and Zip, as well as other smart pedometers on the market.  The Flex will retail for $99 when it goes on sale.

Fitbit Flex Band Wearable Fitness Tracker

Fitbit Flex Band Wearable Fitness Tracker

TechCrunch roundup of fitness gadgets for 2013

Basis Fitness Watch

Basis Fitness Watch

TechCrunch has a nice roundup of the latest crop of wearable fitness gadgets ready for 2013.  Included in the list of wearable health tech are:

In the fitness app category, they cover:

  • RunKeeper
  • Runtastic
  • Beeminder
  • Retrofit
  • MapMyFitness
  • Keas
  • Gympact
  • Cardiio
  • Azumio
  • Skimble
  • Fitocracy

You can read the full write up over at TechCrunch.

Shine: New smart pedometer from company founded by former Apple CEO

Shine Wireless Smart Pedometer

Shine Wireless Smart Pedometer

The world of wearable fitness devices is heating up.  The latest entrant into this popular market is called the Shine.  It’s from a company called Misfit Wearables, which was co-founded by John Sculley, the former Apple CEO.

The small Shine pedometer (it’s about the size of a quarter) has several attachment devices, including a wrist band and a pocket or shirt clip.

The Shine has a novel synching method where you place it on your phone and it transfers its data…no cables necessary.  Here’s a video showing how the Shine works.

We’ll test out the Shine and see how it stacks up to the other industry standards like the Fitbit and Nike Fuel Band.

Fitbit announces two new pedometers: The Fitbit One and the Fitbit Zip

Fitbit today announced two new smart pedometers: the Zip and the One.  These two new personal activity trackers follow in the footsteps of the highly rated Fitbit Ultra pedometer.  Here’s a quick summary of the features of each device:

Fitbit Zip Pedometer

Fitbit Zip Wireless Pedometer

Fitbit Zip Wireless Pedometer

The Fitbit Zip Activity Tracker is a new low-cost pedometer from Fitbit.  To achieve a lower price, they have removed a few features.  But they’ve also added a great new feature: a larger battery that lasts 4 to 6 months.  This means no charging every two weeks (as you need to do with the Fitbit Ultra).

Here are the key features of the Fitbit Zip:

  • Lower cost ($59.95 from
  • Waterproof design
  • Bright color options (including lime and magenta)
  • New touch screen display:
    • Steps
    • Distance
    • Calories burned
    • Fitbit Smiley (highlights your recent activity level)
    • Clock
  • Wireless data sync to via your PC
  • Wireless data sync to your smart phone
  • Long lasting battery life (4 to 6 months)
  • The sleep tracker found in the Fitbit Ultra has been removed
  • The stair counter feature has also been removed

Overall the Fitbit Zip is a lower cost option than the original Fitbit.  It drops a couple of features (sleep and stair tracking) but gains a long lasting battery and some new phone sync options.  This combination of features and price should help the Zip gain an even wider audience of people who want to track the steps and lose weight.

Fitbit One Pedometer

Fitbit One

Fitbit One

The Fitbit One is a lot like the current Fitbit Ultra, with a few key differences:

  • Silent alarm feature to wake you up (without waking up your spouse)
  • Wireless sync to your smart phone (via Bluetooth 4.0)
  • Color options are different with Black or Maroon in place of the original Blue or Magenta.
  • $99.95 from

The Fitbit One is an evolutionary step beyond the current Fitbit Ultra.  Take a look here for our long term review of the Fitbit Ultra to see how all of the core features stack up.

We will be doing a full shakedown on these new pedometers soon.

Glowing orb slows your computer down if you don’t exercise

This is an interesting prototype.   It’s a device that senses how much exercise you’re getting (in this example it’s looking at how far you bike).  When you start “running low on exercise”, the orb turns from green to red and slowly slows down the speed of your computer mouse (this is obviously targeted at those of us that sit in front of a computer for a good part of the day)!

You are then supposed to go ride your bike for a while to recharge your PEO orb.  Then you plug it back into your computer and your mouse is back to normal speed.  Until you run out of exercise again.

I think a better way to achieve the same effect would be to use something like a Fitbit and just use that activity data.  In the case of the Fitbit, it’s already set up to wirelessly transmit activity data in real-time to your computer.

Smartphone apps that measure heart rate using you phone’s camera

Vital Signs Heart Rate Monitor iPhone App

Vital Signs Heart Rate Monitor iPhone App

There is a new crop of apps for your iPhone that can measure your heart rate just by looking at your face!  One is called Cardiio.  It’s an offshoot from work done at MIT.  The other is from tech giant Philips and is called Vital Signs.

The apps work by looking for minute color changes in your face (each time your heart beats, there is a tiny change in face color due to blood circulating).  The apps aren’t perfect, but they seem pretty close.  I tested the Vital Signs app and compared it’s reading (49 BPM) to my Garmin (50 BPM) and it seemed pretty accurate!

Both are available from the iTunes App Store.

Nike+ Fuel Band links up with Path Social Networking

Path integrates with Nike+ Fuel Band

Path integrates with Nike+ Fuel Band

If you’re using the new Nike+ Fuel Band you can now set it up to automatically publish your healthy activities right to your Path mobile social account.

In the announcement from Path, they discuss how you can now link from the Fuel Band without having to manually push the data out.  With the nice summary of how you’re doing relative to your daily activity goal (called your NikeFuel score) popping up right on your Path account, your friends and family can give you that gently nudge you need to stay on track.

You don’t have to use the Fuel Band to integrate with Path.  If you use the Nike+ app on your phone, you can configure it to also post directly to Path.

If you’re a Fuel Band (or even a regular Nike+ user) you can try it out today.