Fitness trackers are a great idea that haven’t quite caught on yet. While there’s undeniable value in being able to measure various aspects of your physical and mental wellbeing and performance throughout the day, even most of the best fitness trackers at the moment amount to little more than expensive pedometers.
Hopefully that’s all going to change over the next few years. And if the gadgets being showcased on Kickstarter have anything to say about it then this is looking quite likely.
The question is then, what would it take for fitness trackers to be the ‘must have’ devices that they obviously want to be? What would the perfect fitness tracker look like and what could it do?
Currently the predominant form factor for fitness trackers is to be worn on the wrist like a friendship bracelet. This is particularly common thanks to a) the fact that many people want to be able to show off their new fashion accessories and b) the fact that smart watches and fitness trackers seem to go hand-in-hand in many cases.
But there are problems with this form factor. Notably, there is not a single design that is ideal for both men and women to be worn on the wrist (regardless of what Jawbone want us to think) and then there’s the issue of wearing a fitness tracker alongside a watch.
The solution? To have a fitness tracker that can be worn on the wrist or in other ways. Which admittedly has already been done in some cases.
This is where things get more interesting. For starters, pedometer isn’t enough. Why? Because most phones have pedometers built-in these days which are suitable enough for the majority of use scenarios.
So what else? A heartrate monitor seems like a good place to start. This is offered by the Microsoft Band as well as the Samsung Gear Fit and various other devices but unfortunately has yet to be done well. In most cases you need to stop to actively take a measurement rather than getting constant measurements throughout the day for instance and they tend not to be that reliable. The Jawbone Up3 promises to go one better with their ‘bioimpedence’ sensors but unfortunately that has yet to emerge.
Other devices featured on Kickstarter are offering other interesting features. The ‘Cue Health Tracker’ for instance claims it can measure your testosterone levels which would be super useful for men trying to add muscle and increase energy/vitality. Meanwhile, other devices like Amiigo claim they can ‘recognize’ activities whether that’s a bicep curl or a squat or a job. This is also pretty important seeing as not everyone who’s interested in fitness is solely running or jogging. The Amiigo even claims it can measure your blood oxygen saturation, respiratory rate and more. This would be a device you could use while doing aqua therapy for instance (oh and so it needs to be waterproof too…).
What about smartwatch features? Well they are a nice optional extra for those who don’t mind something a little bulkier. The ‘guided workouts’ offered by the Microsoft Band are a nice touch for instance and could offer you a little more incentive to train.
All this would need to then be tied together with an awesome app. Ideally, that would be one that would show all your information in one place and give you tons of data. This should be like a computer game character creation screen where you get to see all your stats as though you were playing an RPG and ‘leveling up’ your character. Incentives, fun ideas for training, social interaction and more could all help to keep people moving. Better yet, if an app could come up with a way to measure caloric intake that was actually convenient that would be swell.
So fitness trackers have their work cut out for them! But with promising projects like Cue, Amiigo and UP3 on the horizon they might just start becoming must-have items in the next year or two. Watch this space…