[update 10th August 2012: I have added Nike Fuelband as a third system to compare]
An evolution in digital that I've been following is the selftracking movement, otherwise known as body data, quantified self or life hacking. It's the application of the kind of analytics you'd get on your blog or social network to your day to day life. It started with progressive apps, like Nike + and Runkeeper, and more recently has spawned accessories like Withings, Nike Fuelband and countless more.
I've been spending the last few weeks testing a range of these products. Things help you learn from your exercise, movements and your routine. I'm using them for a few reasons. Some work projects are involving this area of healthtech / body data. There are also close links with social media and location based social networks. And I'm also trying to stay healthy.
Here is a review of two products I've been using the most that seem to be near the top in the market, Kifit and Fitbit, with a focus on the digital bits they churn out: the data porn.
Kifit offer a range of devices and data packages. I had the Kifit Armband Monitor and Online Activity Manager. The claims to capture 5,000 data points per minute. You strap it to your bicep and leave it there all day, then plug into your computer to get the readouts. Here's a snapshot of what my body data looks like from the Kifit system:
Benefits of Kifit
- Amazing data which is exportable and dynamic
- Accurate. Measures more than Fitbit
Down sides of Kifit
- I couldn't wear it evey day. It needs to be strapped to your bicep so is impracitcal for my day to day life
- More expensive that Fitbit
- No east to use readout which you get with the in-your-pocket Fitbit. You can buy that feature as an optional display for £60
Fitbit is a system including apps and gadgets. I am using the Fitbit Ultra Wireless Tracker, a small, USB stick-sized gadget that is essentially a stepometer with a basic display that shows your steps, calories, flight of stairs and other bits and pieces. You keep it in your pocket or clip it to your clothes and it tracks your steps. Here is the data I get from my Fitbit:
- Easy to use. You keep it in your pocket.
- Rough numbers give you incentive to keep up the steps or calories
- Growing app ecosystem
- Appears to have a good following and I can see further enhancement in the future
- Less expensive than Kifit
Down sides of Fitbit
- Inaccurate. It counts driving in a car as walking / jogging, and I use the car every day (approx 1,000 false steps are counted every day)
- Data is not very rich compared to Kifit
- Service was poor when ordering. Fitbit boasts next day delivery. Even after chasing them by phone daily, it took them a week to deliver (and their PR agency had to intervene)
Consensus: The Kifit is better, more accurate, but less practical and quite pricey. Fitbit doesn't tell you much, and what it does tell you isn't too accurate, but if you want something easy to carry around and the data is still pretty interesting, it could be for you.
Disclaimer, both KiFit and Fitbit sent me these products for trial, although I had already purchased a Fitbit with my own money also.
Update 12th August 2012: O2 invited me to a joint event organised by them and Nike, and whilst I couldn't attent, my colleague Stephen did and he was given a Fuelband. He has since loaned it to me, so I thought I would post below my experiences of using the Fuelband compared to Kifit and Fitbit.
I first read about the Nike Fuelband prior to its launch, through this video that launched it (love the video by the way!). I went to the Nike Town store in London on 1st May ready to part with the £129 it costs. However, trying it out, I realised the functionality was inferior to other alternatives right now and the price being higher, so I decided not to shell out. I also was more in favour of discrete self-tracking, or in other words, a device in my pocket rather than on my wrist. I bought the Fitbit online that evening when I got home.
Since thenI've managed to get my hands on a Fuelband, so here are my thoughts on it versus the Kifit and Fitbit. First of all, here's how the data looks:
Upsides of the Nike Fuelband:
- Easy to see your points / calories / steps at a glance
- Doubles up as a watch
- Seems more accurate than the Fitbit (but less accurate than the Kifit)
- Integrates with Nike+ app (however I don't use this app)
- Syncs with your iPhone over bluetooth at the press of a button. This is good for giving you extra data on the move
Downsides of the Nike Fuelband:
- Pricey consideing the device itself is just a stepometer (£129 vs the more Fitbit which is both a stepometer and altitudometer at £89)
- You wear it on your wrist (a downside for me, but that's subjective)
- Does not track sleep
- Data is not anywhere near as powerful or exportable / manageable as Kifit or even Fitbit
How it compares in a nutshell: It's somewhere inbetween the Fitbit and the Kifit on price. Will appeal to the person who is less into the data. For me, it comes bottom of the three products sadly, but I do love it and have been wearing it out of choice for two weeks now. So it's not all that bad.
Thanks for reading!