Category Archives: Fitness

CarePredict: Monitoring Aging Parents for the Tech Generation

Millions of Americans take care of their aging parents while managing work and raising their own families. These adults are part of the ‘Sandwich Generation,’ and are constantly on call to help ailing family members. One of the toughest and most time consuming activities to do as a part-time informal caretaker is to track behaviors and note subtle day-to-day fluctuations that might hint towards bigger issues. CarePredict, founded by Satish Movva, founder of ContinuLink, is a wearable device company that assists adult children in tracking their aging parents’ health and activities.

The Tempo is the company’s first device, which tracks the wearer’s location within the home and learns their normal pattern of movement. Cleverly named, when there is a potential concerning change to the users daily tempo (in activities such as standing, walking, and sitting), the device notifies all caregivers in a text or email about the discrepancy.

The sensor is easy to wear and detects different motions. This motion data is transmitted wirelessly to the CarePredict beacon, which understands the location of the user and sends all the data from the wearable to CarePredict’s servers for analysis. The data can be monitored from an online account or smartphone app. CarePredict, currently taking pre-orders, is slated to launch next month.

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Pact: Beautiful Redesign Incentivizes You to Keep Healthy Habits

Pact (formerly GymPact) relaunched this year with a new name and new features. The app penalizes you ($5 charge minimum per missed event), for not reaching your pre-set fitness, eating, and diet goals. On the flip side, you are monetarily rewarded for every goal you do reach.

For exercise, you can check into a gym, use apps like RunKeeper and Moves, or activity trackers like the Jawbone UP or Fitbit devices to measure your steps. For fruit and veggie tracking, you take a photo of your meal and post it on Pact to be reviewed and accepted/declined by others in the Pact community. The diet portion requires you to track your meals using MyFitnessPal.

The new app is designed cleanly and is easy to use, updating information from trackers and apps almost immediately. Weekly emails confirm how much you owe vs. earned.

Pact isn’t failsafe and people who want to cheat by checking into gyms they pass on the street or entering bogus meal info into MyFitnessPal can still earn the $0.10 to $0.30 per event – but with such low dollar values, it’s not worth it. With Pact I check my UP steps throughout the day, making sure that I get to 10,000 steps before the day is over because in the end it isn’t earning 25 cents that matters to me, but losing the $10. Pact is slowly changing my habits and it’s a great way to kickstart a health goal.

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MyFitnessPal: Surprising Data Spurs Behavioral Change

As part of Lift’s Quantified Diet Project, I’ve been tracking my calories since January 1st using the free MyFitnessPal app. I’ve previously disliked the thought of tracking every meal and snack, unconvinced that tracking only calories was helpful in a diet plan. After using the app for a month, I’m very appreciative to have a sense of what types of foods I eat, how much I snack (a lot) and just how little consistent exercise I do. And of course my lifestyle is slowly changing for the better.

While calorie tracking seems tedious and the manual entry outdated, the task of consciously knowing what you eat everyday and how much you burn off gives, at the very least, a sense of awareness. Who knew that on average my snacking added an extra 500 calories a day, or that I overeat the most when the food choices are Mexican or Italian? There are over 3 million foods in the MFP database so what you are eating is most likely in there – or you can add it. The barcode scanner takes out a lot of typing and you can create pre-set meals for your favorite/most often cooked items.

During this month, I’ve started to eat healthier, eat less, and actually lost a couple of pounds. For those concerned more about the breakout of nutrition, MFP differentiates carbs, fats and protein along with vitamins. There is no food that is ‘bad,’ but there are amounts that can be. So for now I can still eat chocolate covered almonds and peanut butter filled pretzels (thanks, Costco!) but I’m aware of the extra exercise I need with every bite.

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Best in Healthcare For 2013

2013 was a great year for consumer healthcare technology. This year, 95 million Americans have used mobile phones as health tools or as search devices to find healthcare information, paving the way for a more connected and health conscious 2014.

To continue with my annual Year in Review, I present some of my favorite companies and posts in 2013.

A big thank you to my readers for your support, ideas and input.

-Alexis

Best New Entrants into Wearables:

Best Smart Fabric Concepts:

  • Athos — Athletic apparel made with smart fabric and sensors to measure every muscle exertion, heartbeat, and breath
  • OMsignal  — Embedded sensors in the apparel monitor your heart rate, breathing, and activity

 Best Fitness Apps:

  • RunKeeper — GPS app to track outdoor fitness activities
  • Moves — GPS app to track daily activity continuously, shown on a timeline
  • Charity Miles — GPS app that tracks and lets you earn money for charity when you walk, run, or bike

 Best Personalized Coaching:

  • Sessions — Simple, individual, and thoughtful fitness program to help you get healthy
  • Wello — Online workouts with a Certified Personal Trainer in real-time on your mobile device over live video

A New Twist to Common Items:

  • HAPIfork — An electronic fork that monitors eating habits and alerts you when you eat too fast
  • Beam Technologies — A smart toothbrush that monitors oral hygiene and reports habits to a smart app
  • Withings Blood Pressure Monitor — Measures, calculates and tracks changes in blood pressure on graphs

Best Up and Coming:

  • PUSH — Tracks and analyzes performance at the gym; measures power, force and balance
  • Emotiv Insight — Multi-channel, wireless headset that monitors brain activity to optimize brain fitness and measures cognitive health and well-being
  • Scanadu Scout — Medical tricorder to measure, analyze and track vitals
  • MC10 — Stretchable electronics that conform to the shape of the body to measure and track vitals

Best for Healthcare Providers:

  • Pristine — Develops Glass apps to help hospitals deliver safer, more coordinated, more cost effective care
  • Informedika — Marketplace for electronic test ordering and results exchange between healthcare providers
  • IntelligentM — Data-driven hand hygiene compliance solutions for hospitals to dramatically reduce healthcare-acquired infections
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The Diet Resolution: Start the New Year with a Healthy Eating Lift

I’ve never stuck to a diet – except when I tried going gluten free (it was difficult and I ended up eating a lot of gluten free pizza, cookies, and candy, defeating the purpose of a healthy alternative diet). Now with Lift to keep me on track, I look forward to tackling a month of diet change.

This year, Lift is launching a Quantified Diet Month where you can either pre-select a diet or use a diet Lift selects for you. For the month of January, Lift will encourage, teach, and help you through the diet via the Lift app. The app will measure and survey you regarding your weight loss, mood, energy, and adherence to learn more about dieting and what works for you.

Here is the list of ten diets you can choose from, below. To learn more, check out this post.

  • Paleo: eat like a caveman, mostly veggies, meats, nuts. Advised by Paleohacks and Nerd Fitness
  • Slow-Carb: lean meat, beans, and veggies; abstain from white foods like sugar, pasta, bread, cheese. Based on Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body
  • Vegetarian: vegetables, but no meat. Cheese and eggs are optional. Advised by No Meat Athlete
  • Whole foods: eat only recognizable foods and avoid processed ones. Advised by Summer Tomato
  • Gluten-free: no wheat, rye, barley or wheat-based foods
  • No sweets: a simple diet change that affects your insulin swings
  • DASH: USDA’s current recommendation
  • Calorie counting: the old standard
  • Sleep more: the science says this should work. Advised by: Swan Sleep Solutions
  • Mindful eating: learn mindfulness to recognize when you’re full. Advised by ZenHabits and the Center for Mindful Eating
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EveryMove: Earn Points and Rewards for Every Move

EveryMove gives you rewards for moving. Seriously, you get points for the things you are already doing for your physical activity. Walking to work, running, biking, or mowing the lawn? Sync up your wearable activity tracker or manually input your activities to get rewarded and recognized by your health plan, your employer and national brands. Right now, over 160 brands use EveryMove to reach subscribers and reward them for activity. What was the thought process behind creating EveryMove? CEO and Co-Founder, Russell Benaroya tells us his story.

In 2005, Russell launched REM Medical, a network of comprehensive sleep centers to deliver leading quality sleepcare in the rapidly expanding field of sleep medicine. While at REM Medical, he saw that nearly 80% of their patients were being treated because of poorly made lifestyle choices, including those surrounding diet and wellness. While managing and solving these issues was important to REM, Russell saw the value in prevention. He wondered, “How do we create a company that isn’t constrained by people who are already in the healthcare system? We came up with the goal that we wanted to improve the lives of 10 million people in 10 years, which required technology that could scale and the ability to reach people who are wellness minded but not necessarily already inside the healthcare system.”

Russell’s goal of impacting people before they found themselves inside the healthcare system laid the foundation for EveryMove. In his words, “Through a number of iterations, we got inspired by the idea of putting control into the hands of the consumer to show that their healthy lifestyle has value.”

There are 200,000 registered users on EveryMove today and growing quickly. To help participants who are looking for the right wearable tracker for their individual needs, the company just launched their Fitness Tracker Device and Comparison Tool. As Russell describes, “We want to be seen as a champion on the forefront of healthcare tracking. We don’t know what works for you, but we can help you discover the perfect solution.”

Russell thinks that the timing is right for people to adopt a healthy, value based activity system. “We think that the convergence between healthcare change, wearables, and increased smartphone processing power is creating a nexus point of tremendous opportunity for us.” EveryMove isn’t betting on a single app or device. Even Russell wears and uses multiple devices (Moves App, Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, and Garmin on runs). Instead, EveryMove wants the wearables ecosystem to flourish. As a rewards plan for health, Russell wants users to feel that, “I am part of something that is much bigger than myself and by being a part of EveryMove, it says something about me and the control that I have over my health, and that is a really empowering feeling.”

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Goji Play Launches: Tops the List of Must Have Fun Fitness Tech

I met with Kai Huang, co-founder and CEO of Blue Goji, and Zach Fountain, COO in a SOMA gym to test out Goji Play, a fusion of hardware and software that turns any cardio fitness machine into an interactive and engaging workout experience. How engaging? After the interview I tried Goji Play at home for thirty minutes and it really did feel like I had only been working out for five – it was totally and utterly immersive. Kai and his team are pros at making games active and social – he co-founded and invented Guitar Hero almost a decade ago.

The device setup is simple. I downloaded the Goji Play App as well as some games while giving the wearable activity sensor a quick charge. I clipped the sensor onto my shirt, but it also fit comfortably in my pocket or on my shoe. Setting up the wireless game controllers meant hitting all the buttons to sync them to the iPad app, which took several seconds.

The controllers are intuitive to use and designed for comfort. They can be fitted on any cardio machine or fixed onto hand batons (great for treadmill workouts). After a few minutes of using the buttons and commands they became second nature and I could focus my attention on exerting more energy into my cardio activity. I downloaded several games including a boxing game, a fast moving game (reminiscent of Mario Cart), and a block matching game similar to Tetris. Twenty minutes on one game felt like two minutes – I was so immersed that time passed quickly and before I knew it I had drummed up a sweat.

From Guitar Hero, Kai witnessed how fun games can inspire people – friends and families – to be more active and social.

How did you make the leap from pure gaming (Guitar Hero) to health and fitness?

KH: “We wanted to take the immersive experience of gaming and use it to inspire people to get active. The power of games is that they get people to engage in an activity in such a way that you often don’t realize how much time has passed because you’ve been so involved. While you are doing this, we are tracking your fitness goals, steps, distance, etc. and truly making this a fitness product.”

How has Guitar Hero influenced the design and hardware of Goji Play, if at all?

KH: “We’ve designed the Goji Play for comfort – we want you to use it on any wireless device and any cardio device in the gym. The hardware is designed to be simple and easy to use – something that everyone feels comfortable using.”

ZF: “On the software side, we area focused on making games that are deep, engaging, immersive experiences. Additional games and apps are in development and will be released on a regular basis.”

Who is your target market?

KH: “Anyone who uses an exercise machine. We have a broad audience from people who have invested in exercise equipment at home to anyone with access to a gym. “

What is the broader vision and mission of Blue Goji?

KH: “We want people to lead healthier lives and we want to get people motivated. If we can take an activity and make it fun while helping you get healthy in the process then we’ve done well.”

ZF: “We want this to have an impact on the entire family and each member can create their own profile. There might be a primary purchaser but because we support multiple profiles and have a wide variety of games we envision the entire household getting value and having some collective fun in getting in shape and using the system together. Also, given that the New Year is around the corner, we think Goji Play can keep people on track with any fitness resolutions.”

KH: “We want people to remember that Goji Play is all about fun and letting you have fun. In the background it’s about pushing you to achieve your fitness goals – but if you have fun using Goji Play, then we’ve succeeded.”

Available online starting today for $99, Goji Play is compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, and can be used with most cardio equipment including treadmills, stationary and recumbent bicycles, and elliptical machines.

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Athos: Smart Fabric Measures Every Breath, Heartbeat and Muscle Exertion

A smart fabric plus an accelerometer core creates the next level in quantified performance clothing. I spoke with Athos founding team members, Dhananja Jayalath, Chris Wiebe, and Joel Seligstein to learn more about the technology behind Athos.

What’s so special about Athos fabric?

DJ: “The cloth has sensors that are built directly into the fabric. With ECG sensors and muscle output sensors integrated into the clothing, you can very accurately measure heart rate and muscle effort. The Core is the analytics module of the sensors – it’s essentially the computer that collects and analyzes all the stats and sends the data to the mobile app.”

Why did you opt for clothing instead of a wrist / arm wearable?

DJ: “We wanted to capture data from multiple points. We wanted to capture info from your biceps, quads and triceps, which our fabric lets us do. By building the sensors into clothing we think it also makes it easy to use and remember, and helps create a routine.” Since all the sensors are built in, you’ll be able to measure heart rate without a chest strap and get real-time responsive input on how to best train for your goals.

“We believe that apparel is going to get smarter, it’s not just something you cover yourself up with anymore. Athletes will get an advantage in training with Athos unlike what a simple wicking shirt or compression shorts provide.”

Who is your target audience?

Chris: “People who are going on 6am rides or heading to the gym 3-5 times a week with the goal of getting better and stronger – that is our target market.” Athos apparel is focused on people who want to get better at their fitness goals and those who want to analyze their performance and continue to do better. The company’s differentiation factor is that they aren’t trying to motivate stationary people to move more – they want to help athletes be more efficient and train harder. Athos would be an ideal partner for sports teams, events like the Olympics, gyms, and trainers.

“We’ve talked internally about how our data is good enough for pros to use so that they can train for their events but still approachable enough for the average consumer to use.”

How is the app user experience?

Joel: “We are using the app to give tailored insight to what your body is doing. For weightlifters counting reps is important, but if you are riding a bike, cadence and balance and pushing vs. pulling on the pedal is important. Long term, we’ll continue to iterate and make things customized.“

What is the key takeaway here?

DJ: “We are not just about collecting data – we are about giving the user a great experience. We are not just about the hardware – we want to deliver performance and comfort in something that is unique and useful.”
 

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Withings Pulse: Little Tracker, Big Heart (Rate Monitoring)

I had first mentioned the Withings Pulse in June and have finally gotten around to testing it.

What sets the Pulse apart from other pocket-sized wearables is the heart rate monitor on the back of the device, which can measure your heart beat in a few seconds. Since I already have the Withings Smart Body Analyzer Scale and mobile app, my Pulse data gets uploaded to the same place as my weight measurements.

Pros:
1. Two week battery life – I rarely charge it and when I do it uses the same charger as most Android phones. Easy.
2. Heart rate monitor makes it more competitive than the Fitbit One.
3. The online portal is robust and you can download all your data – which is pretty cool for those of us who like data.

Cons:
1. Less accurate than similar wearables. I did not run 8.5 miles at a 7:41 pace last Sunday. In fact, that Sunday was the day after a gorgeous destination wedding, where I unwillingly dragged myself to the gym and did 7 miles at a 10 min/mile pace on a treadmill. For a device + app that knows my height, weight, heart rate, etc. it is surprisingly inaccurate. This was also after the software update.
2. Clip format makes it difficult to use. No surprises here – this is a common complaint of mine for clips in general. There is a reason the Fitbit Flex and the new Fitbit Force are wrist wearables – it is easier to have on at all times. The Pulse is also not waterproof, unlike the Jawbone UP, which I wear into the shower. Every time I change clothes (work clothes, workout clothes, home/lounge clothes, pjs) I have to remember to remove and move the Pulse.
3. Bluetooth upload a little slow – especially if you have a weeks worth of data to upload.

Final thoughts? The Pulse is a nice wearable pocket companion – bonus if you already have the scale. I’m sure as Withings starts to collect more data and tune the Pulse the data collection will only become more and more accurate. At this price point, the Pulse competes with the Fitbit One, which doesn’t have a heart rate monitor.

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OnTheGo Platforms: Using Glass with the Ghost of Running Past

I always run faster in races. When I’m doing a training run, my thoughts tend to wander – I think about my to do list or run various scenarios through my mind. During a race, I spend most of my time thinking about how I should maneuver through a crowded group or how to most quickly pass the person in front of me. I also generally run faster during the second half of a running event, pushing for a negative split as some runners start to tire. But during training runs, I grow complacent, focus less on running, and my mind set is not on competition – it’s on finishing.

I could find a running partner – one who runs at my pace, doesn’t want to have a conversation while we run, and who can make him or herself available based on my schedule – or I can (soon) get a virtual running partner. OnTheGo Platforms is creating apps for smart glasses like Google Glass. Their showcase application, Ghost Runner, shows a ‘ghost’ (when you fall behind) that appears running in pace with your old time. Now you can ‘race’ with the old you – and with each progression, you push yourself to steadily run faster. This is a great start to glasses optimized running / fitness applications and a good proof of concept for Glass. I look forward to seeing more great ideas and apps from OnTheGo.

Ghost Runner Leader board from OnTheGo Platforms on Vimeo.

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