Disclaimer: This is a personal blog post and is no way indicative of my employer's perspective, nor is it reflective of analysis or coverage as part of my routine job duties (which do not include wearable tech).
For a full background and set of info on what "Quantified Self" is, please check out quantifiedself.com.
In making my move to Gartner, I decided that it would be a good time to start making use of an activity tracker to help make sure that I get up and move during the day. In looking at the options back in June/July, I considered products from Fitbit and Nike. If memory serves, there may have been 1 or 2 others, but they were less compelling (e.g., Jawbone Up).
Today, of course, there are an ever-growing list of viable options. I'll come back to this point at the end.
Last Summer, given the choices, including consideration for immediate availability and suggestions from friends, I chose to get a Nike+ fuelband. Overall, I was initially satisfied with the device, and especially satisfied with customer service when my first device broke while trying to hold my daughter during a full-fledged meltdown of epic proportions. The fuelband only has accelerometers, so tracks movement, time, and not much more. For getting started, this has been ample, but going forward I'll be looking for more capabilities.
Also, going forward, I would definitely NOT recommend the Nike+ fuelband (or newer fuelband SE) for activity tracking. Here's why:
1) It lacks functionality and durability. Holding my daughter during a tantrum caused enough torque on the fuelband to cause it to die. That's not what I consider to be durable. Also, it just has accelerometers in it, which means it just tracks basic movement. The new fuelband SE doesn't make any real changes in this regard (way to fail, Nike!). Any wearable activity tracker from now on must have more than just accelerometers. There's simply too much good data that's not being captured.
2) It's not particularly comfortable. The fuelband is thick, inflexible, and generally not comfortable. Their sizing approach is also not great, relying on inserts to expand to a larger size. I couldn't get the fuelband to fit well on my left wrist, so have been wearing it on my right wrist for a couple months now (despite being right-handed). This is less than ideal. I also find that, because of it's size and rubberized finish, the band often gets caught on things (like clothes), which gets annoying after a while.
3) Nike doesn't respect historical data trending. The biggest negative for my experience with the fuelband has been their decision to retroactively change the fuelpoints algorithm for the original fuelband in order to make it consistent with the fuelband SE, effectively blowing up historical trend analysis. Case-in-point, I started with a daily goal of 3,000 fuelpoints and was consistently making that goal. I increased it to 3,100 and then a few days later they pushed a firmware update that greatly reduced the sensitivity of the fuelband. Whereas previously a 2-mile run would get me somewhere around 1,000 fuelpoints, it now was only getting me 600-700 points. Overall, I found that my daily average now dropped to between 2,800-3,000 fuelpoints, whereas previously I was consistently in the 4,200-4,500 range. This change means that my entire history prior to this week is pretty much worthless. I now have to go through a new period of re-baselining all my activity. Nike claims that the change is to reduce the over-reporting of minor movements, while giving better coverage for more substantial activity. While that may be true, to make such a drastic change without any real opportunity to re-baseline is very irritating, not to mention disheartening from a goal-seeking perspective. I lost a 75-day goal streak (which included an increased daily goal) because Nike provided no mechanism for transitioning and re-baselining. Overall, their software and device performance just doesn't match-up with other devices and services on the market. Top this off with customer service telling me "sorry, tough luck" when I voiced a complaint, and this cemented for me that I'll not be giving them any more business in the near future.
I'll be looking for a new device in 2014. As I look for this new device, there are a few things that will be key features for me:
- Activity monitor
- Heart rate monitor
- Integration with third-party sites like fitoop (that will respect my historical data trending)
- Sleep monitor
- Comfortable enough to wear 24/7
- Durable enough to wear for ALL activities
- Specifically, able to wear it for Gracie Jiu-jitsu training
- Android mobile device integration support
By all accounts, 2014 will be the year of wearable tech, and the quantified self movement will benefit dramatically from all the advances. Some of the products that I'll be keeping an eye on (with a thought toward purchasing one) include:
- LarkLife Pro
- Fitbit Force (and beyond)
- Polar Loop (coupled with an H7 heart rate monitor)
- Jawbone Up24 (and beyond)
- ActiveReplay Trace (and beyond - esp. since this first one is not really oriented to my needs)
- The Amiigo (will it ever make an appearance?!)
- Withings Pulse (and beyond - it's not overly wearable these days)
I'm sure I'm missing some other products out there (e.g., there are several, like the Shine, that aren't really aimed at my activities). 2014 looks to be an exciting year for innovative tech! Note I've not even scratched the surface of wearable tech, such as all the myriad smartphone integrated wrist devices (Samsung Gear, Embrace+, etc.).