Tuesday, 31 December 2013

LG gets into the sports band game with Lifeband Touch

LG's closest rival might be Samsung, but the Korean electronics company isn't just aping Samsung's smart watch strategy.

Instead its leaked Lifeband Touch seems to take its inspiration from the Nike FuelBand.

More details are likely to be released at CES in early January, where LG's original health band was debuted in 2013, with most interest in how the band will interact with smartphones.

It's expected the Lifeband Touch will be launched alongside the new LG G3 phone. But it will be more interesting to see how widely it supports Android devices, and even if there's a more open approach perhaps with an iOS app and/or web interface.

source: Engadget

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Apple awarded US patent for phone-embedded heart rate monitor

Quite where it will all end up, but Apple has been awarded a US patent for embedding a heart rate monitor in a smartphone. 

U.S. Patent No. 8,615,290 is entitled 'Seamlessly embedded heart rate monitor' and talks about using this functionality to "identify or authenticate" a user, or perhaps "determine the user's mood from the cardiac signals".

In this way, it doesn't seem as if Apple is looking to use the technology for health or medical features, rather for identity purposes. But it will be interesting to see whether it opens up access for thirdparty app developers to integrate with. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Track your alertness with the Vigo monitor

Apparently the average blink happens in 1/5th of a second but not all blinks are equal. For blinks are what wearable alertness monitor Vigo is all about.

The company is currently running a Kickstarter program - it's raised $28,603 of a total $50,000 goal with 39 days to go. It needs the cash to launch its eponymous Vigo device.

Looking - and used - just like a Bluetooth headset, it tracks your blinking with an infrared sensor and combined with an accelerometer and custom algorithm warns you when you're tired.

The call to action comes via a smartphone app (iOS or Android), where you can set up alerts ranging from vibration alerts to music tracks. Obvious usage patterns include potential dangerous activities such as driving through to important work or study events.

But more generally, Vigo will track your level of alertness over the course of a day, letting you see when your good and bad times are. Oh, and it also works as a hands-free Bluetooth headset.

Of course, the bigger issue of whether people are going to feel comfortable with something just below their eye and in their peripheral vision is yet to be concluded.

You can get on Kickstarter for $79 plus $15 for P&P if you're outside the US.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Byebye lost Fitbit One

As I have long predicted, yesterday was the day I lost my Fitbit One somewhere in the teeming streets of London.

It's a great piece of technology, but the crucial flaw is that you can't wear it directly.

During the day, there's a plastic clip to slip it into, and then clip to a pocket, while at night you have to put it within a soft cloth bracelet.

Compared to a wearable bracelet design such as Jawbone Up, a pod monitor is just too easy to mislay.

So where does that put me? I had a Jawbone Up for six months before the sleep/active button broke, and I had a Fitbit One for six weeks before I lost it.

Clearly, I now need to buy a proper wearable monitor, but one that is more robust than the Up band.

But my options are limited as I don't like the Nike+ Fuelband and the Fitbit Force, Polar Loop, Larklife Lark etc isn't available in Europe yet....

Despite $350 price tag, ugly Qualcomm Toq sells out initial run

Following the over-priced monstrosity that was Adidas' $399 miCoach sport watch comes something similar from phone chip company Qualcomm.

Called the Toq smartwatch, it's a phone companion, not an activity monitor - like the ill-received Galaxy Gear from Samsung.

Currently it's only available in US, but despite its $350 price, the initial batch has sold out, with further units not expected for 1-2 weeks.

Of course, this is likely to be the case because the initial production run would have been very small - a few thousand - while the Toq also works with any smartphone running Android 4.0.3 or better (unlike the Galaxy Gear which only works with certain Samsung phones).

Still, it's another small demonstration of the nascent demand for these type of devices, no matter how ugly and overpriced.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Chinese life insurance company to reward active users via wearable bracelet monitoring

A couple of weeks ago, I pondered the Chinese market for wearables, noting that one of the current big players had effectively copied Jawbone's Up bracelet.

It recently received a version 2.0 update and indeed so has Codoon's sport bracelet.

Priced at RMB 399 (around $65), it now has a LED display - more like the Nike+ Fuelband, and supports Baidu's cloud service to save data remotely.

More significantly, however, is the news that Codoon has linked up with Taikang Life Insurance to reward users who are active - as proved by the bracelet. This happens thanks to a new virtual currency, which converts into physical items.

It's an approach that I'm sure will become more popular, initially in the fast-developing Chinese fitness market, but eventually in western markets too.

[source: Technode]

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Muscle/fat monitor Skulpt Aim hits $100,000 funding target

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Skulpt Aim - the world's first device to measure the quality of your muscles through the skin.

It had just launched its $100,000 project on crowdfunding site Indiegogo - a target it has successful reached within a month. Indeed, the total is now around $125,000 and won’t end until 12 January 2014.

In terms of still getting involved, you can currently get your Skulpt Aim device for either $125 (RRP $199) or a gold version for $149 (both prices excluding P&P)

This compares to the original options of $99 (which sold out very quickly) and $119 (which I got).

Anyhow, company CEO Jose Bohorquez is very happy with the response as you can see below.