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The following post was originally published on Tech & Burgers:
Sometimes people confuse today’s wearable activity trackers with an old school pedometer. The truth is, the two are different in how they operate and their capabilities. It is important to understand the difference so we can follow the developing trends.
Modern activity trackers feature a tri-axis accelerometer. The accelerometer that tracks movement in three directions. (Side to side, forward and back and up and down.) They measure the force of gravity and the force of acceleration when moved. Many now also include other trackers like heart rate monitors or GPS.
Much of the tracker’s capability is in the programming and algorithms. Current generation activity trackers feature more sophisticated programming to recognize specific movements beyond steps.
While Fitbit is among the best-known activity trackers, it is not without controversy. Fitbit’s optical heart rate monitor is subject to scrutiny and a class action lawsuit. While the Fitbit heart rate monitoring controversy plays out, the trackers continue to involve.
Original Fitbit’s were programmed to “track” walking and running steps. While that oversimplifies it, the devices become more and more sophisticated.
Some of the higher-end models feature SmartTrack which enables the device to automatically recognize certain activities. These activities include walking, running, elliptical trainer sessions, outdoor bicycling, aerobic workouts and “sports.” The device identifies the movement pattern after at least 15 minutes of consistent movement.
Looking beyond Fitbit, several newer brands developed their innovations within the field. Here are a few more wearable trackers that have moved beyond counting steps.
Atlas Wearables does not count steps. Instead, it identifies specific exercises and counts the reps. Atlas also estimates other statistics based on the movement data; user’s stats and heart rate readings.
Atlas just launched their next generation device. It allows any user to train their Atlas to recognize their own custom exercises.
Atlas’s existing database contains hundreds of popular exercises. The database includes burpees, pushups, TRX exercises, typical weight lifting exercises, jumping rope, kettlebell swings and more. The Atlas identifies the movements when the motion path matches that of their test trainer. It also has a general heart rate monitor mode and stopwatch mode for aerobic workouts.
“These amazing new capabilities make Atlas Wristband not only the best exercise tracker, but the first wearable device to digest raw data into science backed feedback,” said Peter Li, CEO, and CoFounder of Atlas Wearables. “With its category defining autodetection and personalized learning capabilities, plus the world’s largest 3D motion exercise database, Atlas fulfills the original dream of wearables. Atlas brings forth a reality beyond step count goals towards true exercise level guidance.”
Uno Noteband offers the typical accelerometer activity tracking. However, their unique offering is to save the user’s time. Their innovation is their notification system called Spritz.
The Uno receives notifications from the user’s phone. These notifications quickly flash on the tracker’s screen. The user can speed read their text messages, email messages, and notifications faster because their eyes do not need to track back and forth. Uno claims the user can read the notifications anywhere from two to five times faster than usual.
According to Uno: “The average person unlocks their phone 150 times a day- often interrupting important conversations and tasks that require our full attention. Uno allows you to tailor which alerts are important to you in your Uno app. Notifications are easily read at a glance.”
The Lumo Lift wearable is also a posture coach. Lumotech boasts they can help the user’s posture improve within 14 days. The Lumo Lift app sends the user reminders to maintain or improve posture.
Unlike the other trackers mentioned, the Lumo Lift is not wrist-worn; it uses a discreet magnetic or bra clasp.
These are just a few of the capabilities found in activity trackers. The trend towards more specialized trackers expands. The technology continues to develop, as these devices vie for their place in a world that contains smart watches.