Topic Archives: Tool Roundups

Quantified Self at CES: Digital Pedometers Add Wireless Heart Rate Tracking and More

I’ve been curious about tracking physical activity since I was an undergraduate. I remember traveling to a local middle school with a researcher interested in how physical activity was taught in low-income Native American communities. Back then, the best we could do was have the children wear simple electromechanical pedometers to count their steps during their physical education classes. Fast forward about ten years and I’m still working with pedometers and physical activity sensors – but much better ones. Quantified Self toolmakers are experimenting with many upgrades to the old digital pedometers, including new ideas about syncing, more fashionable design, and – of particular interest to self-trackers – integration of optical heart rate monitors. (No chest strap.)

Below are some of the notable Quantified Self tools recently announced at CES. Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it! I’ve also written a bit about what I think are some notable trends below.

Fitbit Flex
The Flex appears to be Fitbit’s answer to the growing trend of wrist worn wearable activity monitors. Interestingly they’ve chosen to focus on the wireless syncing capabilities and eschew a traditional display; there is just a small glanceable LEDs to highlight goal progress.
Measures: Steps, Distance, Calorie Burn, Activity Minutes, Sleep Time, Sleep Quality
Sync: Bluetooth 4.0

 

Withings Smart Activity Tracker
In 2013 Withings is stepping in to the activity tracking space with their Smart Activity Tracker. While it appears to be just another accelerometer-based device Withings has also packed a heart rate pulse sensor into the small form factor.
Measures: Steps, Distance, Calorie Burn, Sleep Quality, Heart Rate
Sync: Bluetooth and Bluetooth 4.0

 


Omron Activity Monitor
Omron has long been a staple in the low-cost pedometer market. With the launch of their Activity Monitor they’ve shown up with a wireless activity tracker of their own. Omron is semi-wireless; syncing requires that you plug a USB accessory into your computer, then place the pedometer nearby.
Measures: Workout Time, Steps, Distance, Calories burned, Pace
Sync: NFC Plate (USB)

 

Omron Heart Rate Monitor
Integration of pulse tracking  into activity monitors is a current trend, and we’re very curious about what we’ll learn from having continuous heart rate data. Omron’s new heart rate monitor uses optical sensing on a strapless watch, with eight hours of storage capacity. The press announcement promises pace, calories, and distance, which means the watch probably has accelerometer-based actigraphy on board as well.
Measures: Heart Rate, Pace, Distance, Calories Burned
Sync: Micro USB

 

Fitbug Orb
The Orb is new small and sleek device that builds on their already released Fitbug Air wireless pedometer. The new pebble-like Orb is a screenless activity tracker that uses Bluetooth syncing to a mobile app in three different modes: Push for updates on demand, Beacon for timed updates on a regular interval, and Stream for real time updating. The Orb’s small form factor works with a variety of different wear options, including wrist straps and lanyards.
Measures: Steps, Distance, Calories Burned, Sleep
Sync: Bluetooth 4.0

 

BodyMedia Core 2
The BodyMedia armband is known for its accurate activity tracking, which comes from integrating the data off multiple sensors. A new device, the Core 2, has the same measurements that are currently available (core temperature, heat flux, galvanic skin response, and tri-axial accelerometry) in a smaller package. A version with an integrated heart rate monitor will be also be available.
Measures: Temperature, Heat Flux, Galvanic Skin Response, Activity, Heart Rate (optional)
Sync: Bluetooth 4.0

 

Bonus Non-Activity Device

HapiLabs HapiFork
This last device kept popping up on my various feeds yesterday. The HapiFork is designed to help you understand how you eat by tracking how many bites you take and how long it takes you to eat your meal. It will also alert you when you’re eating too fast.  Will the first person to use this please give a Quantified Self show&tell talk as soon as possible?
Measures: Fork “servings”, Eating Time
Sync: Bluetooth or USB

 

In my current work I’m really interested in how real time information about physical activity behavior can be used to help people change their normal patterns. In our little corner of the research world we understand that self-tracking devices are wonderful tools to help people change their behavior. But, what we don’t know yet is how the data gathered by these tools can really help people in the moment. The newest crop of tools and devices may start to help us answer that question.

By now if you’ve seen one physical activity tracker then you’ve seen them all. At their core they use the same technology that’s been used for almost a decade – actigraphy. That is, most devices are based on an accelerometer, a tiny little sensor that measures gravitational force acceleration. These sensor pass data through an algorithm that used machine learning and pattern recognition techniques to determine a variety of data points. Steps, distance, activity intensity, calorie expenditure – you’re probably familiar with all these. So what’s new in this space? How are companies starting to differentiate themselves? While looking through some of the new offerings being showcased at this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It appears that there are two major themes that I think are coming forth: Wearability and Syncing

Wearability. The pedometers we made kids wear 10 years ago? Utilitarian hunks of plastic and electronics. Nothing you would want to show off to your friend or coworker. Looking at the latest from Fitbit, BodyMedia, and others it’s clear that companies are introducing real fashion where there used to be just electronics. Will they succeed in making activity trackers a fashion trend? A status symbol?

Syncing Capabilities. When Fitbit introduced their tracker a few years ago one of the biggest complaints was that it didn’t sync to our phones. Now, nearly every new device offers Bluetooth syncing with paired mobile apps. The rise of Bluetooth 4.0 has made it easier for nearly everybody to wirelessly sync. I’m curious about the future of low power data sharing beyond the phone. Soon we may see myriad devices talking to each other directly. What happens when your fitbit starts talking to your fridge?

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Complete List of 200+ QS Tools

To start a sparkling new year, I thought it would be fun and helpful to make a fresh list of all the QS-related tools, companies and projects out there.

I found 205, and I’m sure there are more, so please feel free to add your tool or ones that you know about to the comments. Thanks, and happy 2013!!

100Plus
23andMe
37Signals
42 Goals
43 Things
5050ltd
Actigraph
Actiheart
Adidas
Affectiva
AgaMatrix
AliveCor
Alohar
Amazon
Animas
Anki
Ashametric
Asthmapolis
Autodesk
Azumio
Babolat
BAM Labs
Basis
Beam toothbrush
Beeminder
Biocurious
Bitetech
Blueleaf
Bodymedia
BodyTrack
Breathwear
Butterfleye
Captain Electric
Cardiio
CardioMEMS
CargoCollective
Celera
Cloud2health
Crohnology
Curious
DailyBurn
Dan’s Plan
Dexcom
DidThis
DirectLabs
DIYGenomics
Dreamboard
DuoFertility
Electramed
Emfit
Emotiv
Equanimity
Exmobaby
Facebook
Fitbit
Fitocracy
Flickr
Foursquare
Fujitsu
Gain Fitness
Garmin
GE
Gear4
Genomera
Goodreads
Google
Gowalla
GreenGoose
Gympact
HealthTap
Heartmath
Hexoskin
Honestly Now
Hulu
Humana
IDEO
iHealth
Indiegogo
Institute for the Future
Intel
Intuit
Invensense
iRhythmTech
Jawbone
Johnson & Johnson
Kaiser
Keas
Khan Academy
Kickstarter
Kyruus
Lark
Last.fm
Lena Baby Monitor
Lifelapse
Limeade
LinkedIn
Lumoback
Lumosity
MapMy
Mappiness
Massive Health
Maternova
MC10
MedHelp
Medtronic
Memoto Camera
Michael J Fox Foundation
Microsoft
Minimed
Mint
Misfit Wearables
Miso
Moodjam
MoodPanda
Moodscope
My Fitness Pal
Netflix
Neumitra
Neurosky
Nike
Nokia
Omron
Orange
Oxitone
Pachube
Pandora
Path
Pathway Genomics
PatientsLikeMe
Peratech
Period Tracker
Personal Capital
Personal Genome Project
Pew Internet Project
Philips
Pinterest
Polar
Producteev
Proteus Biomedical
Pulse
Qualcomm
Quantified Mind
Rally
RealAge
Remember the milk
RescueTime
RestDevices
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Rock Health
Runkeeper
Scanadu
Sense
Sense4Baby
Sensoree
Seventh Sense Biosystems
Singly
Singularity University
Skimble
SleepTracker
Slife
SmartLifeTech
Somaxis
Somnus
Sotera
Spotify
Stickk
Strava
Striiv
Supermemo
Surrosense
Sweetwater HRV
Symcat
Sympho.me
Symphony
Talking20
The Carrot
The Peregrine
TicTrac
Toumaz
Tripit
Truveris
Tumblr
Twitter
ubiome
Unfrazzle
Virgin
VitalConnect
Vitality
Vudu
Wahoo Fitness
Wakemate
Wandant
WebMD
Wellframe
WellnessFx
Wheezometer
Wingspan
Withings
Wolfram Research
Yog
Zamzee
Zeo
Zephyr
Zynga

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Announcing: The Complete QS Guide to Self Tracking

One of the most common questions I get from people is, “do you have a list of all Quantified Self tools, or resources in a particular area, like heart rate variability or cognitive function?” We’ve been cobbling together a preliminary list of self-tracking resources over the past few months, but we are now very excited to announce that it will become a formal QS project.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Pioneer Portfolio, which supports bold ideas at the cutting edge of health and health care, has awarded us a year-long grant, in partnership with Institute for the Future, to support the development of a complete online self-tracking resource guide. In fact, we are already starting to build the framework – which will allow each QS tool to be tagged, rated, and reviewed by the global QS community.

People interested in measuring their genetic predispositions, or sleep, or body fat, will be able to come to the guide to learn about the different tools available, interact with people who are measuring the same thing, and discover new ideas about how these observations can be useful.

Our colleagues at IFTF will also be researching the dynamics of this shared online resource as it evolves.

We are very excited about this project as a way to gather and organize all of our collective QS knowledge in one central place, for the benefit of self-trackers everywhere. We will post updates as the guide is built and let you all know when it is ready for your contributions!

UPDATE: The guide is now available at http://quantifiedself.com/guide

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Roundup: Lifestyle Tracking Tools

I’m starting to wonder – is there any aspect of life that cannot be tracked? This week’s roundup on lifestyle-tracking tools moves into deeply personal areas like sex life, baby’s sleep schedule, amount of drinking, menstrual cycles, meditation, and media consumption. Proceed with caution if you are squeamish.

It’s part of our regular tool roundup for the complete catalog we’re putting together of all the self-tracking tools out there. Please help us to make sure we include your favorite tool, your company, or your project. Self-promotion is allowed!

Here are all the lifestyle-related tracking tools we’ve found so far. Please let me know what we’re missing in the comments below, and please check our bigger list as well to check if your suggestion is already there.

Continue reading

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Roundup: Health and Medicine Tools

In advance of our next Bay Area Quantified Self Show&Tell meetup, which will have a Health and Medicine theme, this roundup post is on health- and medicine-related self-tracking tools. Blood pressure, genetics, medical test results, blood sugar readings, hormone levels, dietary experiments – if you have a self-tracking project, gadget, or app, we want to know about it! (And good news for all non-San Franciscans – we’ll be trying our first ever livestream of the event on January 11! Stay tuned for more info.)

This post is part of our regular tool roundup for the complete catalog we’re putting together of all the self-tracking tools out there. Please help us to make sure we include your favorite tool, your company, or your project. Self-promotion is allowed!

Here are all the health- and medicine-related tracking tools we’ve found so far. Please let me know what we’re missing in the comments below.

Continue reading

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Roundup: Lifelogging Tools

Lifelogging – the continuous capture of a large part of one’s life. Some people use paper journals, others sport wearable cameras, post status updates, or tap numbers into their smart phones. If you record your life or make tools to record lives, read on!

This post is part of our regular tool roundup for the complete catalog we’re putting together of all the self-tracking tools out there. Please help us to make sure we include your favorite tool, your company, or your project. Self-promotion is allowed!

Here are all the lifelogging tools we’ve found so far. Please let me know what we’re missing in the comments below.

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Self-Tracking Tools Review 4

In this review, I will discuss electricity monitors. Instead of describing the devices one-by-one, I looked at the features of a bunch of these devices using the considerations I wrote about in this article and grouped them into two groups: real-time and long-term. Electricity monitors that belong to the real-time group show users their electricity consumption in real time only. On the other hand, long-term electricity monitors also show historical information about electricity consumption in addition to real-time information.

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Self-Tracking Tools Review 3

In this review, I will take the considerations that I wrote about in my last article to analyze some self-tracking tools. The considerations are: 1) What questions are the tool answering? 2) How is the data collected? and 3) How do you reflect on the data? I’m also adding a fourth consideration, data portability, as suggested by Jason Bobe.

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Self-Tracking Tools Review 2

This is the second article of a series where I review several self-tracking tools. I will go on a little tangent this week. To make it clear what I look for in different tools, I will discuss the different aspects of self-tracking tools to consider when making a selection. These considerations are based on my own experience tracking myself, feedback from users of tools that I’ve built, and from my research in human-computer interaction and personal informatics.

First thing to consider is what question about yourself are you trying to answer and would the self-tracking tool collect the right data to answer your question. For example, you might be interested in losing some weight. Your first thought might be to get a pedometer to start tracking your daily step counts. However, your physical activity (or lack thereof) is only one of the factors that might be causing your weight gain; your diet, how busy you are, stress, and other aspects of your lifestyle may also contribute. Determining what information to collect is critical because you will be spending significant time during the next week or two collecting data. You want your collected data to be full of insight. Here are some web pages to help you:

QS Tool Roundups:
Goals, Food, Fitness, Location

* Personal Informatics Tools:
The second thing to consider is how you want to collect the data. Data collection is one of the most time-consuming aspects of self-tracking, so you want to pick the tool that works best with your time constraints and comfort level. The following are some of the properties of devices or services relevant to data collection.

* Is the data manually-collected or automatically-collected? For example, your bank account and credit card history are automatically-collected. Mint and Quicken leverage these data and add another level of automation by combining all of your accounts into one interface. On the other hand, there are many many financial tools that require you to manually enter data, such as MoneyBook, GnuCash.

* Do you have to wear or carry a device? This aspect is probably domain-specific. You don’t need to wear a device to track your spending, moods, and electricity usage, but tracking physiological data such as physical activity, heart rate, blood sugar level, etc. require wearing devices everyday. Having to wear a device requires considering comfort, visibility, and robustness of the device. To illustrate the differences between devices, I will describe some physical activity tools with varying degrees of wearability:

** Heart rate monitors – These devices provide plenty of specific data about physical exertion, but you have to wear them around your chest, so you probably wouldn’t wear them all day. These devices are usually worn by serious athletes while training.

** Bodymedia SenseWear armband – This device also provides plenty of specific data about physical activity. You have to wear the device around your biceps, so it’s very noticeable even when wearing a long-sleeve shirt. This is another tool that you won’t wear all day long, but would be useful during training times.

** iPod nano – I mentioned this device in my “last review”:http://www.kk.org/quantifiedself/2010/11/self-tracking-tools-review-1.php . Its small form factor is ideal for tracking your physical activity all day. The device might still be noticeable clipped to your shirt or to your pants pocket, but it’s not too bothersome because many people carry their music players with them.

** Fitbit – This is the device that is probably the most inconspicuous of the 4 devices mentioned here. The device is even smaller than the iPod nano and can be easily hidden. Additionally, synching your data online is done automatically just by being near the Fitbit base station.

* Are you prompted to collect data? Most web sites where you manually collect data is voluntary. You visit the site on your own time and manually enter your data. If you want to minimize interruptions in your life, you may want this, but you definitely risk having sparse data. Some services provide alerts to prompt you to record. To illustrate the difference, I will use two mood tracking services: MoodJam and TrackYourHappiness.org. With MoodJam, you have to remember to go to the web site to record your mood. On the other hand, TrackYourHappiness.org sends you an SMS message 3-5 times a day. Since TrackYourHappiness is also a study that requires participation over several weeks, you will need to be patient with the service.

The last thing to consider is how you want to reflect on the data. There are different ways in which you can reflect on your data. The tool can provide visualizations or the tool can be more proactive by sending you alerts with suggestions and tips on what you should do. Here are some questions to ask about this aspect of tools (I will use electricity tracking tools to describe each aspect):

* Does the tool provide the necessary views into your data, so you can keep aware of what’s happening with you right now? For example, Kill-A-Watt has a display, so you can immediately see how much electricity an appliance is using.

* Does the tool provide the necessary visualizations to help you explore your data deeply and find insights into your data? Kill-A-Watt does not provide visualizations, but Holmes , the companion tool to Wattson, has visualizations to allow you to look at trends and patterns of your electricity usage over the past 28 days.

* Does the system provide alerts, suggestions, and tips based on your data? In addition to helping you track your energy consumption, WattzOn allows you to compare and discuss your energy consumption with others. The energy consumption tracking is not automated like Wattson, but the community aspect is helpful in getting suggestions and tips on how to reduce energy consumption.

I’m sure there are more things to consider when self-tracking, but this should be a good list to start with when starting your self-tracking regimen. Leave notes in the comments section for other considerations that you think are important.

More information
* Stage-based model of personal informatics system

Bio
Ian Li is a PhD candidate in Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research is on HCI and personal informatics. He is the creator of various self-tracking tools, such as: PersonalInformatics.org, Grafitter, MoodJam, Be Like Ben, and DeliciousDiscovery.

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Roundup: Goal Tracking Tools

This is our first roundup topic by request! Michael Nagle, organizer of the Boston QS Show&Tell meetup, wrote to say that the founder of StickK is coming to speak at their next meetup. He asked if we could do a roundup of goal-tracking tools in advance of that, so here it is. Thanks Nagle!

It’s part of our regular weekly tool roundup for the complete catalog we’re putting together of all the self-tracking tools out there. Please help us to make sure we include your favorite tool, your company, or your project. Self-promotion is allowed!

Here are all the goal tracking tools we’ve found so far. Please let me know what we’re missing in the comments below. 


[Photo credit: lululemonathletica]

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