Taking activity tracking to the next level: fitness coaching from the wrist

When it comes to activity trackers, there has always been something missing. Sure, we get lots of data, and trackers are getting better at churning out these statistics. But then what?

The market is now awash with manufacturers each fighting for a slice of the wearable pie. A flood of statistics is churned out by these devices but, for the most part, it is left down to the users to sift through this data and draw meaningful conclusions. In an ever-expanding market, wearables manufactures will need to go beyond just displaying health metrics and look to provide much more meaningful analysis of our vitals data.

Essential reading: Smart shoes: tracking fitness through your feet

In a recent interview, Fitbit CEO James Park provides us into an insight in the future direction of the company.

“Up to this point it’s been about gathering as much data as we can and the presentation and the visualization of that data,” said Park.

“Now I think a lot of that effort is going to go into making that data actionable, whether it’s through coaching, insights, or guidance.”

This sentiment is mirrored by other big wearables manufacturers.

We had big expectations from the Apple Watch. However, apart from notifications to prompt you to stand up when you have been stationary for too long, there is little else in terms of real-time analysis or coaching. And inactivity alerts are becoming a standard feature these days.

So which devices are taking fitness tracking to the next level?

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Moov Now | Jawbone UP3 | Skulpt Chisel | Beast Sensor | Gymwatch | XMetrics | Boltt


Moov Now

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Moov has carved out a niche for itself in the crowded fitness tracker market. This is a one of a kind wearable fitness coach that actively monitors your activity and talks to you as you work out.

The device essentially translates your exact movement into real-time coaching, both through audio and on screen, and advises you whether you are performing your exercises correctly. It does this through use of the 9 axis motion sensing system – including an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer to learn the wearer’s form and correct any issues that may lead to injury.

Moov pairs with an app to train users on five sports — running, cycling, swimming, cardio boxing, and a seven-minute bodyweight workout which you can perform at home as it doesn’t require the use of any weights. The tracker has been tailored to each individual activity, so offers separate exercise programs.

You can take this a step further by adding optical sensor technology to monitor your heart rate. Released in October, Moov HR is embedded in a sweatband or swim cap to get a more accurate pulse reading than from your wrist or chest. The information is then relayed to the smartphone app which provides real time feedback and coaching based on your heart rate.

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Jawbone UP3

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The UP3 is loaded with state-of-the-art sensors that give you a better understanding of your health and fitness. Like all bands, the UP3 measures the steps you take, and like some, monitors the quality of your sleep. It has a sparkling new design and is astonishingly light.

The UP3 will provide you with tips throughout the day on how to improve your health and fitness. We like the advanced sleep tracking and the ability to automaticaly recognise when you fall asleep. The ability to periodically check on your heart rate throughout the day in addition to viewing you resting heart rate, is definitely a welcome addition to its range of features.

Jawbone created something they call Smart Coach. Smart Coach goes well beyond delivering measurements, to show you the meaning behind the numbers. This is an intelligence engine that turns raw data into your personal fitness advisor. A clever guide that helps you make at least one healthy choice every day.

For example, if you wake up 10 minutes later than usual, Jawbone may come up with a suggestion such as “you tend to move less after a late rise. For you, those 10 minutes mean 150 fewer steps”. Then it will encourage you to take more steps during the day to make up for sleeping late.

The UP3 definitely has room for improvement. However, it does offer a good set of features some of which are not available with other fitness trackers.

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Skulpt Chisel

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When you think fitness trackers, Skulpt products don’t readily come to mind. That’s because they’re a different breed that measure metrics that you wouldn’t normally measure with more ‘traditional’ fitness trackers. Rather than monitoring daily activities, such as steps taken and distance traveled, Skulpt devices measure muscle quality and body fat percentage.

Chisel measures 24 different muscles on your body, providing the fat percentage and a rating of each muscle’s fitness. The muscles are (both sides): abs, biceps, calves, chest, forearms, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, quads, shoulders, triceps, and upper back. You can then view a ‘heat map’ on the app to conveniently track your strongest muscles and those that need improvement.

Skulpt claims that the Chisel is five times more accurate than bioimpedance scales, and three to four times more accurate than measuring with callipers. Having tested the device extensively, our impression as well is that it is accurate. Certainly far above the accuracy you would get with a smart fitness scale.

Skulpt Chisel will give you greater insight and enable you to measure the result of your fitness achievements, to better understand when you are losing fat and gaining muscle. Next time you head off to the gym, you will have a clear understanding on exactly which muscles you need to place most focus on.

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Beast Sensor

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The idea behind the Beast Sensor is a wearable that can help you optimize your workout training cycle. The magnetic device attaches a number of different ways and shows you in real time how much you are pushing, rep by rep, whether you are lifting weights, using a machine or performing bodyweight exercises.

You can chose to visualize speed, power or strength and monitor your performance live while working out. Use the time while resting between each set to understand how to make your training more effective. For example the information in the Beast app will allow you to determine the optimal weight to lift and the number of reps to perform to reach your training goal faster.

The innovative wearable uses something called Velocity Based Training. By measuring the speed of your lift, the sensor can optimise your training to target specific qualities that you wish to see developed, whether this is more strength, speed or explosiveness. It can also lead to less injury due to overtraining.

This is a tool that trainers and coaches could easily use to track their clients’ progress and make training routines more efficient. It can also be a very powerful tool for those who frequent the gym regularly.

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Beast


Gymwatch

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Gymwatch is a pretty decent little tracker, and one of the best fitness wearables if you are a casual gym user or go a few times a week. The device measures strength and motion across fitness exercises, including machines, free weights and bodyweight. Its sensors record the full range of motion of an exercise; determine power, force and velocity; repetitions (and partial repetitions), and detect incorrect exercise execution.

We like that it can track strength exercises with free weights, your own body weight or exercises on machines, as well as cardio workouts. You will get a much clearer picture of what you are doing wrong or not enough of to maximise your performance. And the audio feedback in real time is a plus.

When it works, it’s great, but there are clearly some issues on the software front that need to be ironed out. The device can sometimes produce erroneous readings, and the software is not as polished as it could be. Also, the wearable can sometimes take away from the casual gym experience and slow down your workout, as it takes extra effort to manage your lifts on the apps and position the device on your body.

Working with a personal trainer is an ongoing expense. Buying a Gymwatch is a one-time expense, and while it doesn’t replace a person trainer, it can perform many of the same functions. There are no perfect gym workout trackers yet as this is a brand new industry. If you are serious about workouts and analysing your data, this can be a helpful device.

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XMetrics

41CKiGq1s1LMetrics is an activity tracker designed by an Italian wearable manufacturer to improve your swim performance. The product is the unique in its ability to support the real needs of swimmers, thanks to revolutionary features never adopted before: back of head position; real time audio feedback while swimming; advanced qualitative data analysis; data sharing with a coach and through social networks.

The device is fixed at your goggles, just on the back of your head. Water-resistant earbuds allow you to hear real-time feedback such as lap splits, strokes per lap and quality of turns.

After the swim, head off to the XMetric’s tracking site for much more detailed data. You can, for example, view the number of kicks you did coming off a wall or how your speed slows every time you turn your head to take a breath. The device is able to track the efficiency of your workout, providing you not just quantitative, but also qualitative data.

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Boltt

Boltt is a new sports technology startup that wants to change the way we use wearables.

The Indian outfit has developed an ecosystem that consists of a connected shoe and wrist worn wearable that are coupled with an AI health coach. To show they are serious, Boltt has partnered with Garmin, one of the leading global wearables manufacturers. Together they are creating unique sensors that will capture all forms of mechanical and cardiovascular body data.

The system churns out real-time coaching and feedback based on your movement. Essentially, you get a virtual fitness trainer that pushes and encourages you during your workouts.

Bolt wearables are not out just yet, but the company is preparing a demonstration for CES 2007. A Kickstarter campaign will follow shortly after.

While you are waiting, check out the video below.

 

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