Technology Puts Fitness, Health Goals In The Palm Of Your Hand

By John Laposky On Jan 10 2012 - 6:01am




LAS VEGAS — This year’s International CES will offer an unprecedented number of new products and technologies designed to enhance a user’s overall health and help reach and manage fitness goals.

The show’s Digital Health and Sport & Fitness TechZone, featuring more than a dozen companies, will take up more than 15,000 square feet of floor space, offering everything from simple pedometers to 24-hour wearable health monitors.

One such product is BodyMedia’s Fit Body system, which monitors and tracks calories burned, activity levels, fitness zones and sleep patterns. The on-body monitoring system consists of an armband monitor, online Activity Manager (subscription required), an optional display and free downloadable apps for mobile device users.

The BodyMedia Fit armband uses sensors to capture more than 5,000 data points per minute — from body temperature, sweat levels, steps taken and heart rate — to offer an accurate measure of calories burned, the company said. The information tracked is managed with the online Activity Manager, which also offers a food log.

The unit is plugged into a computer’s USB port each day to automatically upload the day’s data. A user can log all food eaten throughout the day via a computer or mobile device, and the Activity Manager tool will deliver a running report of progress toward customized goals set, including steps taken, time spent in moderate and vigorous activity, nutritional analysis and sleep efficiency, as well as any personal bests.

Apps are available for Android 3.2 and up devices from LG, Motorola, Samsung and Sanyo, as well as Apple devices, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Fitbit has rolled out a more robust version of its Wireless Tracker, a wearable wireless health and fitness monitor.

The new Fitbit Ultra tracks everyday fitness activity with an accelerometer that measures activity more accurately than pedometers, the company said, plus adds an altimeter for tracking stairs climbed. It also tracks calories burned and time slept.

Data is uploaded wirelessly to Fitbit.com through an automatic sync function whenever the Tracker gets within 15 feet of the base station plugged into a PC’s USB drive. A user can track data online using a PC, Mac or an iPhone equipped with the Fitbit app.

The online platform includes a food log, weight tracker and suggested workouts.

The online Fitbit digital trainer studies a user’s exercise and activity data to give an unbiased, objective measure of activity level. Using the data, the trainer creates a personalized plan that leads the user through 12 weeks of steadily increasing activity goals, and tracks overall progress. At the end of each week, the Fitbit digital trainer evaluates the user’s efforts and summarizes them in a report.

Fitbit.com features a social-networking element called Benchmark, which allows a user to measure progress against the entire community of Fitbit users, or against specific demographic groups within Fitbit.

Tokyo-based manufacturer Tanita is branching out from its core business of precision electronic scales with its new BC-1500 Ironman Radio Wireless Segmental Body Composition Monitor.

The product gives individual body composition readings for individual body segments: trunk, right arm, left arm, right leg and left leg, using eight electrodes, four retractable handgrip electrodes and four standard feet electrodes.

Tanita said the BC-1500 is especially useful for users who are monitoring the balance of left and right side of body or trying to build or rehabilitate a particular part of one’s body.

The new U.S. Food and Drug Administration- approved monitor communicates with a PC running included Tanita Healthy Edge software and other compatible software, such as Microsoft HealthVault, using ANT+ radio wireless technology. It accurately monitors the impact of a diet and fitness program by recording, graphing and analyzing data on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.

In seconds, the monitor can display a complete body-composition profile, including weight, total and segmental body-fat percentages, body-water percentage, total and segmental muscle mass, physique rating, basal metabolic rate, daily caloric intake, metabolic age, bone mass and visceral fat.

The BC-1500 comes bundled with an ANT+ USB Adapter and the Healthy Edge software. The monitor operates on four included AA batteries.

iHealth Lab is at International CES to show its line of consumer-friendly, digital health care products for Apple devices running iOS.

Among the products being exhibited is the new iHealth Digital Scale with Bluetooth, which enables users to test, track, graph and share weight information on their iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad.

The companion iHealth Digital Scale app includes an easy-to-use interface with data and graphics that allow users to establish a personal profile using gender, age, height and starting weight, iHealth said. The app tracks weight fluctuations over time and records results in relation to daily activity, time of day, diet and exercise. The app can be downloaded free from the Apple App Store.

The iHealth Digital Scale has a suggested retail of $69.95.

Striiv brought to CES its flagship Striiv pedometer, a small wearable device that incorporates games and charitable elements to a fitness walking program.

Striiv motivates a user to achieve results through user experience, such as a virtual walkathon that counts a user’s steps and gives based on achievement. At no cost to the user, Striiv and corporate partners donate on the user’s behalf to a choice of three charities: providing clean water to families in South America, subsidizing polio vaccines, and helping to save the rainforest. The more a user walks, the more money is donated.

Also on the Striiv device is Myland, “a game designed for non-gamers,” the company said. The game’s mission places the user on an enchanted island with the goal of bringing back the animals that inhabit the island by planting trees and building huts. Growth and new levels are based on walking, running and taking the stairs.

The device sports a 2-inch high-resolution touchscreen that displays steps taken, stairs climbed, calories expended and distance traveled.

Striiv is designed to clip anywhere, such as a purse, belt or pocket. It ships with a quick-release keychain and boasts a very compact 2.75-inch by 1.7-inch by 0.5-inch form factor and weighs 1.4 ounces. It retails for $99.

And finally, for the more sedentary Somnologic is showing at CES its sleep-aid device, the Somnologic Sleep Infuser, which the company said is the result of years of research into technologies that promote healthy, natural sleep patterns through sound therapy.

The sound-producing device is said to help a user cycle through the natural patterns of a healthy human’s sleep — through varying depths of slumber and episodes of rapid eye movement (REM), usually about five cycles a night — to awake fully refreshed.

The Sleep Infuser offers various sleep programs designed to calm the body, induce sleep and promote more natural, high-quality sleep, Somnologic said.

A Deep Sleep cycle takes listeners through all five sleep stages over eight hours. An Easy Sleep cycle delivers the optimum sleep patterns in the time available between the start of the program and a pre-set alarm time.

A Fall Asleep cycle is a 90-minute program designed for those who have trouble falling asleep but, once having done so, usually remain asleep through the rest of the night.

A Power Nap cycle offers a selection of short sleeping periods between 15 and 60 minutes.

Somnologic audio technology delivers eight sound environments: four nature environments — Ocean, Brook, Rain and Wind; a rhythmic environment called Train; and three “cocoon” environments that mask external noise — low-pitched Brown, medium-pitched Pink and highpitched White.

All environments use established binaural beat technology to support each stage of the sleep cycle, Somnologic said.

Each of the Sleep Infuser programs can be used with an optional Affirmative Message audio stream, described by the company as a complex pattern of sounds and pulses that entice the brain into the natural brainwave frequencies of rest and sleep. These sounds are masked under the chosen sound environment and are barely detectable, but support relaxation in the early stages of the program by employing a particular type of voice, using particular language patterns and a particular frequency and volume developed by established sleep research.

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