Garmin has used IFA in Berlin this year as a platform to launch its new Vivosmart 4 fitness tracker. The gadget comes with everything we’ve come to expect from Garmin wearables plus two new features – a Pulse Ox sensor and something the company calls Body Battery energy monitoring.
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Most people know a little bit about Pulse Ox sensors. They are traditionally placed on the fingertip or earlobe and monitor oxygen saturation in the body. Its only recently that they’ve made their way to a number of wristbands, including Garmin’s Fenix 5 Plus. On the Vivosmart 4, Garmin is using the sensor to provide deeper sleep insights although you can take on-demand readings during the day, too.
Body Battery energy monitoring is an entirely new metric as far as Garmin’s wearables are concerned. Powered by Firstbeat Analytics, it originally appeared on the Suunto Fitness 3 sports-watch. The feature takes 24/7 stress tracking to the next level. Its aim is to help people make better training, rest, and sleep decisions.
In essence, Vivosmart 4 uses a combination of stress, heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and activity data to give you an indication of your body’s energy levels. This actually doesn’t present anything new on the hardware side, but they way the data is utilized is new.
The feedback you get from Body Battery is based primarily on an analysis of heart rate variability (HRV), the same data used to deliver Garmin’s popular All-day Stress tracking. What’s been added to the equation is sleep tracking.
Garmin does have a Work Load metric on some of its high-end sports watches. And although its saying something about the physiological impact of your activities, the similarities end there. In a nutshell, the Body Battery concept is about taking physiological stress and the impact of physical activity and placing them together into the context of recovery moments and the restorative power of sleep. The Work Load metric is just one part of that puzzle.
Stress and physical activity deprive your body of energy. Restful moments and sleep give you a boost. The wearable takes all this into account to let you know when your your energy levels are high. The metric ranges between 0 and 100, so you know at a glance when to push hard, when to rest. A higher number indicates you’re ready to go, while a lower number suggests you might need some time on the sofa.
Its worth pointing out, its not necessarily a good thing to keep your energy sources high all the time. Stress and physical activity are what is needed to make your body stronger. But push too hard for too long and you may be doing yourself a disservice. Not to mention running the risk of injury if you are training.
While stress is unavoidable and physical activity is needed to keep us in shape, make sure this is followed by adequate recovery. A tough workout might cause short-term exhaustion but excessive stress sustained over a longer period might have a large cumulative impact. This new metric allows you to plan your day to optimize times for activity and rest.
“The degree of benefit you receive from a tough workout, productivity in the workplace, and personal well-being share a common thread,” said Aki Pulkkinen, Firstbeat head of consumer technology.
“As humans our physiological resources are limited, and success depends on how effectively we use the energy we have. The feedback you get from Body Battery helps direct your efforts to maximize your potential.”
This certainly sounds like a useful feature and Firstbeat expects it will become a highly attractive point of distinction for Garmin devices going forward. Considering there is nothing new on the hardware side, it will be interesting to see if the metric makes its way to some of existing Garmin wearables. We certainly hope so.
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