Category Archives: Tech

Various wearables available on the market today

The Next Battleground of the Data Revolution – Your Doctor’s Office

Wearables are gaining such explosive traction in the consumer space these days, you’d be blind (and deaf)… or perhaps just live somewhere remote to not know about them. Fitbit, Jawbone, Vivofit, Basis, you name it. There are dozens upon dozens on the market today, and that number isn’t going down any time soon. Apple is going to release their Watch soon, and many other great new ideas are on the immediate horizon. I’m looking forward to my impending pair of smart socks by Sensoria quite soon, in fact.

Various wearables available on the market today

Various wearables available on the market today

Trackers, or “wearables” (short for wearable technology) are popular because they give consumers a level of control over their lives that they never had previously. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, the old management axiom goes. It’s true. If I didn’t know how active or inactive I was on a given day, how could I improve my fitness? If I don’t know what my resting heart rate is, how can I tell if I’m working out hard enough or not? Or too hard? If I wake up feeling crappy, if I don’t know how much I was tossing and turning, how can I tell why I had a bad sleep? Short answer; you can’t. And for most of history up to this point, you had to guess. You had to use a manual pedometer to count steps. You had learn how to measure your heart rate by putting fingers on your neck and watching a stopwatch. You had to go to the doctor’s office to have your blood pressure read or to have a sleep study conducted.

This is another shift in empowerment of the consumer. Think back to how we used to have to buy a car in the 1980’s or early 1990’s. All of the power resided with the car dealers, because they had control over all of the information. We had no idea what the blue book prices were, no access to vehicle history, and very little ability to comparison shop. When Kelly Blue Book went online for free, Carfax was born, and online comparison tools rose, the power shifted to the consumer. Today, car dealers make very little on each individual car sale, and instead have to try and go for volume to make money. This is exactly what is happening with health and fitness data today.

Which brings me to my point. I heard a story on NPR the other day.  “Sure You Can Track Your Health Data, but Can Your Doctor Use It?” Doctors are the new car dealers. This new empowerment of consumers armed with gobs of data are shifting the power base in health care. And like any time in history when you try to change a power base, there is backlash from those who stand to lose power. It is just human nature. Doctors are on the line now to have to shift the way they do their work, and many of them don’t like it, because their consumers are becoming more educated. Sure we are all warned about the hazards of self-diagnosis, and to consult your doctor. But on the contrary, as doctors are becoming harder and harder to access due to shortages and the “15 minute rule”, where they try to see as many patients in a day as possible, coming to the exam room armed with data to show what is important and what is not can be a real game-changer.

Dr. Paul Abramson who was interviewed in the NPR story says: “I get information from watching people’s body language, tics and tone of voice,” he says. “Subtleties you just can’t get from a Fitbit or some kind of health app.” The story also says that Dr. Abramson isn’t a technophobe, and also an engineer. What he isn’t is a data person. Or even a data scientist. And, for me, there’s the rub. Doctors are going to have to start becoming “data people”, and fast. If not, their jobs are going to evaporate and they will be replaced by those who can be. Watching people’s body language and tone of voice is fine, but a terabyte of empirical data will trump that any day. Data will tell exactly what is going on in a person’s body. Large, self-collected data sets will provide a much clearer picture of a person’s health than a 15 minute office visit can tell. Data will be more complete than a 5 or 10 minute test can tell. And, most importantly, data will allow us to start making accurate forecasts and predictions on our health, and help us avoid potential problems before they become problems.

Imagine if a person was wearing a small wrist band that does constant heart rate monitoring. Based on months of 24/7 monitoring data, imagine if an app could predict if that person was becoming at risk for having a heart attack? Or at risk for a having a stroke based on blood pressure data? This is all possible when we start having access to large, rich data sets of consumer health information. And this is only the beginning.

The problem is going to be what the problem in healthcare IT has always been. There are no overall standards or governance on how health data is stored, and each hospital, doctor’s office, and insurance company have different ways of doing it. And each is very entrenched in their own process and very reluctant to change. I worked in healthcare IT for several years (my wife has for over 25 years), and I can say from experience that it is like the Wild West. But we’re going to have to find ways to break down those walls and insist that our health care includes some expert analysis of our consumer-collected health data. We’d be silly not to.

As more and more consumers are tracking their health data, the pressure will become more intense on doctors to start incorporating it into their care plans for patients. Doctors like Dr. Abramson won’t be able to just shrug and not know what to do with it. In a few more years, vastly more patients will be coming to the exam room armed with data. Insurance companies are already starting with the pressure, too. Many plans are starting to offer discounts to members who wear a tracker and log a certain number of steps per year. Healthier people are cheaper to cover. Why not use that data in the exam room, too?

What do you think about the future or wearables and health care?

Would you use a different doctor if you knew that your data would be evaluated?

What part of this is scary to you?

Apple is entering the Fitness Tracking market

There have been rumors spinning around the Interwebs for a long time about an Apple smart watch, or iWatch, but it has yet to surface. As Pebble, Samsung, Sony, and now Google all have either products on the market or prototypes soon to be, Apple is strangely mum on the subject.

But just a few days ago, an information leak tipped Apple’s hand a bit. Follow the link to read about the impending Apple HealthBook. While this indicates an iOS application for tracking all kinds of health-related information, you can bet your lucky stars that Apple is going to follow up with a device to feed data into that application. What will that device look like? Nobody knows at this point. There are some stunning ideas out there. There are also some guesses based on patents that Apple has filed.

Concept models for the Apple iWatch

Concept models for the Apple iWatch

So why am I excited about all of this? I’m an old-time IT pro. I’ve been in this business for a long time now (nearly 20 years) and I’ve seen some stuff. Back when personal computers were just learning how to talk to one another, and we were building networks and then hooking them into the Internet for the first time, one of the biggest problems we had was integration. There were so many different manufacturers of hardware and software, that it was often quite difficult to get all of the different parts to talk to one another properly. I remember saying back in 1996 or so, that I didn’t care if Microsoft took over the world, as long as everything worked together properly. And not long after that, Microsoft did indeed take over the PC world. And everything worked together pretty well. The story of the rise of Apple is well documented, and Apple took this idea to the next level. By producing both hardware and software, you are assured of the absolute best user experience.

Now look at the fitness tracking market today. You have apps for your smart phone. You have devices for your ankle, your wrist, or wherever. You have web portals. You have training plans and social networks. And they are all over the place. What’s the biggest issue facing the wearables market today? Integration! It’s really tough to get a holistic view of all of your health data. Some trackers only do steps and distance. Some do heart rate and body temperature. It is very hard to find a single place to put all of your data. Apple has the know-how and the reach to make this right. To make it simple, easy to use, and beautiful.

You can bet I’ll be watching this closely. This is going to be big.


Tech Review: Philips Light Therapy Wake-Up Light

If you live anywhere in the US where it gets cold, then you’re probably (like me) really sick of winter at this point. We’re staring down another major snowstorm starting sometime tomorrow, and many of us are at the breaking point. Go away, winter!

I saw a tweet recently that shared this data:

I cannot vouch for the source of this data, but this graph really spoke to me.

I cannot vouch for the source of this data, but this graph really spoke to me.

This really hit home with me. Runners need sleep in order to stay injury-free. If this data is valid, then there is no doubt. My wife and I both work corporate jobs, and we’re raising a teenage daughter. Getting 8 hours of sleep a night is rough. There is always so much to do. We get up really early every day just to get a head start on things, and typically find ourselves dragging ourselves to bed way too late. But we both love to run. Wifey is training for her first 10k, and I’m training like mad to get my first sub-2hr Half in about 6 weeks. We run, therefore we must get better, and more, sleep.

Part of what makes winter so darned dreary is the lack of sunlight. We get up in the dark, we go to work in the dark, we drive home in the dark. And cold. Yuck. Part of what our bodies love about the summer is the abundance of sunlight. We get to wake up with the bright sunrise each morning and it feels great. I hate getting jacked out of a deep sleep by my alarm in a dark bedroom during the winter months. So this year I decided to try something different. Enter the Philips Wake-up Light

This is a stock photo from the Philips site for the model I bought.
I looked around at light therapy lights since I was really feeling the winter blues this year, and stumbled on this device. The Philips Wake-Up light uses LED lights to simulate sunrise in the mornings to gradually wake you up. I found one on sale and decided to give it a try. 
My Philips Wake-up Light

My Philips Wake-up Light

We’ve been using the Philips Wake-up Light for about 3 weeks now (I actually like to try stuff for a while before I review it). I have to say it has really made a difference in our mornings. Like I said, we get up early. I have traditionally had our alarm set for 5:45am on weekdays. That gives us 15 minutes to shake out the cobwebs and hit the day full-steam ahead at 6am. So I was a little worried when I learned how the Wake-Up light works. You still set the alarm, but that’s the last thing that is anything like a traditional alarm clock. The wake-up light starts 30 minutes BEFORE your alarm goes off. So at 5:15am, my clock starts to simulate the sunrise. 
Here is the beginning phase of the sunrise simulation

Here is the beginning phase of the sunrise simulation

It very gradually increases the amount of light in the room until it gets to the full power of those bright little LED lights.

Here is the light at full capacity. It's very bright!

Here is the light at full capacity. It’s very bright!

Then, at the time of your alarm, it does start to make some noise. You can choose from a couple of built-in alarms or the radio. Some other models even have a dock for your iPhone and you can use playlists, but I didn’t opt for that one. The built-in alarms are very gentle and pleasant. There are two different types of recorded birds chirping, which also really makes you think of warmer times. The third is a gentle piano music. All of theme are meant to slowly, gently coax you out of sleep and not shock your system awake like every other alarm.

The Verdict

I have found that after the first week of getting used to something new, I really, really enjoy the Philips Wake-up Light. The light does exactly what it is supposed to do; it wakes me up very gently. I notice when it turns on at 5:15am, but usually roll over and just drift for the rest of the simulated sunrise. When the birds start chirping, wifey and I are both awake and smiling at one another, and the dogs are wagging their tails (they like it too!). We wake up feeling awake and refreshed, and not sluggish because our sleep phase was too deep when the alarm went off. This one is a keeper!


So Long, FitBit Force, and Thanks for All The Steps

Yesterday was something of a shocker in the fitness tracker world. FitBit announced a voluntary recall of the FitBit Force and the immediate halt of all sales of the device. Whoah.

FitBit’s CEO James Park cites the growing number of allergic reactions people are experiencing from the Force as the reason behind the recall, even though up until yesterday, FitBit was offering a full refund or exchange to any Force customer who was experiencing the skin issues.

I have been wearing my Force non-stop since it arrived in November 2013. I only take it off before I get in the shower. I clean it off with an alcohol swab about once a week. I have never had any sort of discomfort or reaction to it at all.

Goodbye, My Dear FitBit Force

All that being said, I am going to return my Force. Here are reasons why:

  • I’m an IT guy. I don’t like flying without support. The Force is now no longer supported. They stopped sales, they’ve recalled the product. If I keep it, I’m on my own. If something breaks or goes awry in the coming months or years, I get no help from FitBIt
  • If I do ever develop an allergy to it, I have no recourse. I can’t exchange it or return it. The recall won’t last forever.
  • I have a sinking feeling that there is some bigger issue lurking, and FitBit is using the already exposed allergy issue to flush the Force before it becomes more of a liability. I have no evidence of this, but hey, this is a blog and I can write about my hunches. 🙂

So with a heavy heart, I filled out the form requesting my return kit. We’ll see where it goes from there.

What to do in the meantime? Great question. The FitBit blog post hints that there is something else in the works, but really nothing more than a hint. For quantified nerds like me, going without a tracker seems about as silly as brushing my teeth without toothpaste. Instead of waiting for a maybe from FitBit, I’m going to make a jump somewhere else. My current front-runner is the Basis watch. It is bigger than the Force, but it does a LOT more. I’m going to take my time and pick very carefully from the alternatives out there, but if I was going to buy a replacement today, it would be the Basis.

Do you have a FitBit Force? How do you feel about the recall? Will you participate? Will you wait for another FitBit device, or switch to a different brand?

Tech Review: @Jaybirdsport Bluebuds Review

I’ve been eyeing up a set of Bluetooth headphones for a while. My wired headphones are light and comfortable, but the darned cable is consistently a pain while I’m running. It gets caught on my FuelBelt, or I snag it with my hands as they are swinging. I was looking at several different sets, but kept coming back to Jaybird and their Bluebuds X. Honestly, the only think that kept me hesitating was the price tag. Retailing at $169.95, it seemed a steep bet if I ended up not liking them. Plus add the fact that I have a headphone problem. I seriously have about 15 pairs of earphones. I have different sets I’ve bought, the sets that have come with devices… it is a tad silly.

That changed for me in November 2013, when I flew out to Las Vegas to run the Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon. While at the Pre-race Expo, I stopped by the Jaybird booth, and was able to try them out. I was really pleased at how they sounded and how they felt. I got to the Expo late in the day, and by then Jaybird was all sold out of their Bluebuds (which were nicely discounted), but to make up for it, they gave me a coupon code for the same discount so I could buy online. Hesitation over.

Product Overview:

I ordered my Bluebuds almost first thing when I arrived home from Vegas. I didn’t want to miss out on the discount. They were shipped pretty quickly, and I soon had them in my grubby hands. The first thing I had to do was open up the accessory pack and find the insert and ear “wing” that fit me best.

Accessory Pack


Inside the Accessory Pack

Inside the Accessory Pack

I had to pick the biggest ones, because, let’s face it, I have big ears. 🙂 Once assembled, here is what they look like:

Bluebuds out of the box


And here is how they look in my big ear



That little wide box on the line you see there is the controller. Here is a closeup of it.



The controller has three buttons on it. The top and bottom (or left and right as I have it pictured) are for skipping music tracks. The center button is for powering on and off, for answering a phone call, or activating Siri if you have an iPhone.

The headphones charge via USB. The right earbud has a little cap on the back you pop off and insert the USB plug.



You can sort of see the red LED hidden in there, showing that the unit is charging. The LED light turns green when your Bluebuds have a full charge.

And lastly, they come with a nice hard clam-shell carrying case.

Carrying Case


I like the case quite a bit. It is easy to find in my running gear bag, and keeps my headphones safe from getting tangled up with all of the other junk I carry in there.

Okay, so that is what they are. Here is the lowdown on how I feel about them.

What I like:

  • They were really easy to pair with my iPhone. I turn them on, they connect instantly.
  • The sound is really good. I didn’t realize how little I could hear with my old pair. These sound amazing.
  • I can take a phone call with them. If I forget to turn on Do not Disturb mode while I’m running, I can talk easily with these. The sound quality is really good.
  • They are super-sweat-proof and guaranteed for life. If your Bluebuds bust because you got too sweaty, they’ll replace them.
  • They have “Jenna” inside of them. Yes, the headphones have their own voice, and she talks to me. Pretty cool.
  • The battery lasts a nice, long time. The site touts 8 hours. I haven’t tried them that long yet, but my Bluebuds have hung in for 13.1 with me so far.
  • There is NO CORD to plug into my iPhone while I run. I feel so free not having that tether in the way all of the time.

What I don’t like:

  • The “Signal Plus” feature touts that the headphones won’t lose signal with your device based on location. As long as your device is on your body, you’ll get a good signal. I haven’t found this to be true. I often get a choppy signal when I turn my head to look for traffic, or if I found my phone has slid around in my arm band and is closer to my body. Granted I have been running in very cold temperatures lately, so I’m open to give this some more time.
  • Again with the cold temps, these are sort of hard to put under your hat or headband. For me, my hats or headbands tend to push these into my ears a little too much, and after an hour or so of running my ears get sore from them.
  • When I don’t have my hat or sweatband pushing these into my ears, they tend to slip out once I get really sweaty. I have been wearing them under-ear and am going to try them over-ear and see if that makes it better.
  • They sound REALLY good. Part of that means, when I’m outside running, these really block a lot of the outside sounds I need to hear, like cars coming up behind me, or other runners telling me they’re going to pass. I find I have to keep the volume really low on these so it isn’t dangerous for me to run around outside.
  • They are still expensive. I got them at a discount (20% off from the race Expo), but these are not cheap headphones.

The Verdict

Despite their drawbacks, I really like these headphones. I’m willing to keep working with them to make them work perfectly for me. They sound great, they are guaranteed for life against sweat (and I certainly sweat a LOT while I’m running), and there is NO CORD holding me back. Did I mention that there was NO CORD? 🙂

You could do a lot worse than Jaybird Bluebuds X if you’re looking for a great pair of sports headphones.

Do you run with headphones? If so, which are your favorite? And why?

Tech Review: Virtual Trainer Bodyweight on the iPad

Every amateur runner eventually faces the fact that “just running” isn’t enough. If you want to improve your times and/or lengthen your distances, you must must must (must) cross-train. Cross-training strengthens your body in ways just running cannot, and helps you run better, stronger, and with less of a chance of injury.

But if you are like me, and have a demanding job during the day, it can often be a challenge to find the time to get a run in, let alone try to squeeze something else into the mix. Believe me, I get this.

I used to be strictly a morning runner. I’d get up, walk the dogs, then head out to clock my miles. I was easily able to get everything in, shower, and get to work on time. That was last year. This year, I’m training harder for a Spring Half-Marathon and eyes on my first full Marathon in the fall, so my training runs have become much longer, and I can not fit my runs in during that morning gap any longer. I’d either have to get up earlier and go run in the dark and freezing outside (I already get up at 5:45am on weekdays), or be late to work every day (not really an option). So I started moving my runs to later in the day, either during my lunch break (easier to justify a long lunch than being late in the morning) or after work. Which left me with a gap of time in the mornings that I could utilize for something else.

Here’s where I found the Virutal Trainer: Bodyweight for my iPad. I was searching for something I could do with little or no gym equipment at home, but would not take too much time and still be a good workout. This app delivers on that, and then some.

The app costs $5 in the Apple App Store, but is well worth the small investment. The main screen opens up to a large array of exercises demonstrated by human beings in HD.

VT Main Screen


You can tap any one of the exercises and the demonstration video begins immediately. There are a couple of pre-built workout routines on the right, and you have the ability to make your own.  I started with the Tabata Workouts. There are two inside there, a Full Body routine, and an “Ass & Abs” routine as well. If you aren’t familiar with Tabata, it is similar to CrossFit. You do an array of exercises for 20 seconds each, with 10 seconds rest in between. You run through your list of exercises multiple times (you choose when you start, the default is 3 rounds).

Before you start your workout, you can touch any one of the exercises, and the demonstration video pops right up and you get to watch a real human demonstrate for you.

"Prisoner Squat" demonstration


Once you are ready to start, you select the routine you want to use, how many cycles of the routine you want to do, and hit the “Workout” button. Another really nice feature is that you can Air Play the videos to your Apple TV or Mac computer, so you can watch the demonstration videos on a larger screen if you want to. I have 2 Apple TV’s in the house, so I use this.

Next Exercise Prep

You get a preparatory command for the next exercise you’re about to do. They show the name and a demo video while the timer counts your 10 second rest period, then it is time to GO!

Go Go Go!


You do the exercise at your own pace as much or as little as you can during those 20 seconds, then you get a very short 10 seconds to rest and get into position for the next exercise.



I was amazed at how torched I was after the first time I ran through this routine. Doing 3 run-throughs of the Full Body Tabata workout took just 12 minutes, but I was drenched with sweat and muscles quivering. How efficient is that? Who can’t spare 12 minutes in the morning? I love it!

There are tons of other apps in their library. I like this one because it doesn’t require any gym equipment. I have a little at home, but not much. Here’s a list of their app library. None are free, but most are only $5.

VT App Library


I’ve been using VT: Bodyweight for 3 weeks now, and I can really tell a difference. The scale is creeping down again, my BMI is also creeping down. I’m definitely feeling stronger during my runs. I’ll probably stick with the built-in workouts for a while longer, then start to build a few of my own. There are some exercises in there I’d like to include, and one unfortunate app oversight is that you cannot edit the existing workouts, or even copy them to a new list to edit. Oh well. Small deal for me.

Are there any great apps you use to help you cross-train?

My Love Affair with @FitBit Continues with the FitBit Force

My nearly 2-year-old FitBit Ultra finally bit the dust. It is pretty obvious to me that there were design issues with that model. First because I know several people who had them and the result was the same, the housing would crack and the device would fall apart. Second, because FitBit stopped making them, and the newer models are totally redesigned.

I struggled for a while deciding on how to replace it. I replaced my wife’s broken Ultra with the FitBit One earlier this year for a Mother’s Day gift, so I knew all of what that could do. I was intrigued by the FitBit Flex, but could not live without the altimeter counting my elevation and floors of stairs. I considered the Nike FuelBand second generation, because I heard rumors there was going to be a heart rate monitor built in, but when it finally released without the HRM, that was quickly kicked from my list. At almost the same time, FitBit announced the Force, which really was the answer for me. It had all of the functionality I wanted from my broken FitBit Ultra, but in the wrist-band style of tracker I had a feeling would be more to my liking. Through all of my deliberation, I did not place my pre-order for the Force on the first day. I waited a couple of weeks, and for that I had to wait over a month for it to ship. First world problems, I realize. But it is finally here, and I’ve had a couple of weeks to play with it.

Showing my step count for the day, and the little bar across the bottom shows progress towards daily goal

Showing my step count for the day, and the little bar across the bottom shows progress towards daily goal


What I like about my FitBit Force:

  • I never have to wonder where it is. I can feel it on my wrist.
  • It is comfortable to wear. I often forget it is even there.
  • It is WAY more accurate than the Ultra. There used to be big differences, especially while running, between FitBit and RunKeeper. No more.
  • It syncs wirelessly with my iPhone. My Ultra needed to be near the base station.
  • The charge lasts a long time, and the device will send me alerts when the battery gets low. Way cool.
  • The clasp is nice and secure. I never worry about if falling off.
  • When I registered the device late in the day, it asked if I was replacing a device, which I was, and it automatically transferred all of the data from my old Ultra tracker to my new Force. That was a NICE touch!
  • The Force will vibrate when you hit your goal for the day, and you can configure what you want that goal to be. I have mine set for my 10,000 steps per day. The buzzing cheer surprises me, but I like it.
  • The first item to display is the time. I have found that the Force has replaced my watch for most intents and purposes.
  • I have heard that in an upcoming update, the Force will do some things like my Pebble smart watch does, like vibrate and display text messages, vibrate when I get a phone call and display the name or number, and alert me to incoming emails. This could be pretty cool.

What I don’t like:

  • It is not “waterproof”. It is “splash and sweat resistant” but you can’t submerge it. The charger connection on the back is bare metal. I only take it off when I get in the shower, but part of me would prefer to just never have to take it off. The FitBit Flex, by contrast, is waterproof and can be worn in the shower or in the pool.
Here's the back of the Force. You can easily see why it isn't waterproof.

Here’s the back of the Force. You can easily see why it isn’t waterproof.

  • The clasp was REALLY hard to fasten the first couple of times. I thought I would never get it on right out of the box. It has since broken in nicely, but was a downer at first.
Here's the clasping mechanism. You have to fit the two metal "teeth" into the appropriate holes. Good luck with that the first few times.

Here’s the clasping mechanism. You have to fit the two metal “teeth” into the appropriate holes. Good luck with that the first few times.

  • Although it is really comfortable to wear all day, I find it not so comfortable to wear to bed to measure my sleep. I think part of that is the metal back on my skin. I get kinda tired of it by the end of the day, like a watch. I have been toughing it out for the data, however.

Overall I really like the device. I have loved FitBit for nearly 2 years now, and I’m going to keep on loving them for a while more. Do you use a FitBit yet? Or do you have another type of tracking device you prefer?

A Week With Argus

There are a bazillion fitness apps out there to help you track your activity levels and healthy lifestyle. This one caught my eye a few weeks ago, and I decided to spend a week with it and see how it went. So here is my week with Argus by Azumio software.

Argus claims to be a “life tracker” instead of just a fitness tracker. I installed Argus on my iPhone 5 from the App Store (link above). You’ll note that it is not free, but at $2 I figured it was worth a shot. After a brief registration process, you can begin to hook Argus in to your other existing personal sensors. I linked in RunKeeper and FitBit. Argus needs to keep running in the background so it can track your step count. The main interface is pretty slick:

Argus Main Feed


You hit the little plus hexagon in the upper-right corner to add additional metrics to your feed. It looks like this:

Argus Add Activities


It has more if you scroll down.

Things I Like:

  • I already mentioned I like the interface. I find the sliding hexagons pretty cool and refreshing as a news feed.
  • While again not free, I like the integration with Instant Heart Rate, also by Azumio, which can take a pulse reading using the phone’s LED light and camera. Very cool. I shelled out another $2 for the heart rate app.
  • Argus automatically pulls in the weather for the day. Over time that could be neat to run some metrics on (assuming I can get to the data somehow)
  • It has the ability to tie into a Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor (which I don’t own yet) and track your workouts in real time. It has quite a breadth of workout types available.

Things I Don’t Like:

  • If you keep Argus running in the background, it is a battery hog
  • Since I have the iPhone 5 and not the 5s, I’m assuming it is calculating step counts using the accelerometer. It is not very accurate.
  • Instead of ceding the step metric to a superior device, I have 2 step counts in my feed. The Argus count, and since I linked, the FitBit count. I don’t need both and would like to choose.
  • It nags. If I shut it down from memory to save my battery, it complains about being shut down. It also nags me about drinking water throughout the day. While some people might find this useful, I already drink a ton of water every day, and don’t always remember (okay, never…) to hit the little button to log it. I wish I could turn that off.


I think Argus is a pretty cool tracking app if you aren’t already invested in some other app or tracker device to quantify your fitness. For $4 you can get Argus and the heart rate app and have a really great platform to get started. For those who are more serious about their personal data, there are better choices out there. Personally I’m going to stick with FitBit and RunKeeper. FitBit tracks my activity without having to be told anything. RunKeeper has been my staple app for tracking my runs for over a year now, and I’m not likely to switch any time soon. Between the two of those, there is really little else I need. I’m going to keep tinkering with Argus for a while though, and see if it grows on me.

Moves App vs. FitBit

Time for a good old, tech vs. tech smack-down.

Today I’m going to compare my experiences with two very different fitness trackers.

First up is the Moves app for IOS (Android version to be released ‘this summer’). A friend of mine showed me Moves recently as an example of a “NO-GUI” application, meaning it has an extremely minimal user interface. It was free, so I decided to give it a try.

What I like about Moves:

Moves runs as a background application on my iPhone 5. As long as it is running, it is tracking. It does not noticeably drain my battery life. This is great because there are times when I forget to slip my FitBit tracker into my pocket. My phone, I never forget. It is always with me, therefore always tracking movement. It has a very simple interface, and sends me a daily summary notification right on my iOS notification screen.

A typical day of activity tracked by Moves

A typical day of activity tracked by Moves

I also like that Moves is smart enough to know what type of activity I am doing based on how fast I’m moving. I really like this, since it gives me a grain that my other trackers do not. I have to tell RunKeeper that I’m starting a run or a hike. FitBit doesn’t care what I’m doing, everything is measured in steps. Take a look at this great feature here on a day when I was doing some very easy interval training with my daughter, trying to ease her back into fitness before Field Hockey starts:

Look how it visually broke down my run-walk-run pace. Nice, eh?

Look how it visually broke down my run-walk-run pace. Nice, eh?

I can also summarize my activity by week by a simple tap of the finger:

Here's what a week looks like

Here’s what a week looks like. This was the week I ran my first Half-Marathon.

So for a free app, you get some really nice features. But how well does it track? For that, I’m going to benchmark Moves against my tried-and-mostly-true FitBit. I say “mostly-true” because FitBit tends to measure me a little short on distance when I’m running. My hunch is that it was really designed with a walking algorithm, and drops some distance on me when I’m going faster than a brisk walk. But I’ll get to that in another coming comparison piece between FitBit and RunKeeper. For the sake of this comparison, I trust my FitBit implicitly. I’ve spent over a year with it, and am happy with its accuracy.

 What I don’t like about Moves:

My first and biggest peeve, is that running steps do not count at all as running steps, and are not added at all into the daily total. Take a look again at my first Moves screenshot above, which is a summary of Saturday, June 29th. It shows a daily total of 9,245 steps and 37 minutes running. Now look at the same day’s stats from my FitBit:

Big difference in the step count, eh?

Big difference in the step count, eh?

I could forgive a thousand, even 2 thousand step difference between the two, but nearly half? Not cool.

Another thing I’m not terribly fond of is that the mileage is not included in the summaries. On the daily summaries, you can tap on the individual walking or running activities in your timeline which will bring up a map and show you the mileage, but it doesn’t get added in the roll-up. Boo.

In Summary

Moves is great if you are not ready to commit to the cost of a dedicated fitness tracker like the FitBit or Nike Fuel Band. It can certainly whet your appetite for more, and I do REALLY like how it automatically knows what types of activities your are doing and you don’t have to manually start and stop it. You turn it on, let it run, and it works. I love the “NO-GUI”, minimalist interface. Bravo on keeping it simple. But if you are looking for a serious and accurate fitness tracker, Moves is not for you. Go with a dedicated device. Or a combination of devices, as I’m finding I need for myself.

Have you tried Moves? What do you think about it? Sound off in comments.

Why I am Excited about Sensoria (@SensoriaFitness)

Have you heard about Sensoria Smart Socks yet? Probably not. Let me explain what they are and why I am so excited about them.

Before I start, let me be 100% clear, I do not own any positions in this company and will not profit from them in any way. I, myself, have pledged $99 to their startup fund. This is not a commercial, okay?
What are Sensoria Smart Socks?

Sensoria is a new start-up technology company based in Italy working on making a smart sock. Yes, you read that correctly; smart sock. You’re probably thinking to yourself, what could be more dumb than a sock? Not anymore. Sensoria socks are made from a 100% machine washable e-material that also acts like a biometric sensor. When you attach the anklet, it collects that biometric data from your socks, and transmits the data to your smart phone. Take a second and think about that. This is a bit of that “wearable technology” that was being discussed in the Bill McDermott keynote at SAPPHIRE NOW last month. The socks will collect data about where the pressure points on your feet are as you walk, run, cycle, or whatever you do with your feet. I’m a runner so of course the running features really have me interested. For running, Sensoria will let you know if your stride is too long or too short. It will alert you (in real-time) if you are close to setting a personal record, and help you push a little harder to reach it. Sensoria will help you keep your pace. It will also alert you to any motions or behaviors that could lead to injury and help you avoid them. Watch the video on their site. It describes the features really well.
Is this really real?

At the moment, no. It is in very early phases, which is why the company is reaching out to the public for some crowd funding. While not on the popular Kickstarter, Sensoria is up on Indiegogo. It is open for pledges as of the writing of this post. If the company meets its funding goals, it can start production. If not, they promise refunds for the Indiegogo investors and a release at a later date once other funding can be secured. This is their fast-track.
Why all the Excitement?

Here’s why; this has major potential in the realm of Business Analytics. Sensoria smart socks are really just wearable data collectors about your feet. Imagine with me for a moment. Imagine a shoe store. I’m going in to buy a new pair of running shoes. Instead of the traditional questions asked by the sales associate “Do you like a minimal shoe, or some support? Do you pronate or supineate?” I transfer them an aggregated view of my stride, gait, pressure points, etc., and based on actual data, the sales associate knows exactly what types of shoes are best for me. Imagine what this can do for shoe retailers.

Imagine my high-school-aged daughter’s field hockey team. If the whole team were wearing Sensoria socks, the coach would know who’s running the hardest, who’s sand-bagging, and who might be headed towards an injury.

Imagine a visit to the doctor. I share my Sensoria data with my doctor, and instantly they have a wealth of information about not only the structural health of my feet, but also a good picture of how active I am and how that relates to preventative health.

And that’s just the beginning. We’re going to see a lot more wearable technology in the near future, but I am super-excited that some of it is right around the corner.