Fitbit Force

I broke down and entered the wearable market. Specifically, I replace my analog watch with a Fitbit Force.
The Force is a wrist mounted wearable that tracks the following:
Steps taken
distance walked/ran
calories burned
Flights of Stairs climbed
Active minutes
Sleep time/activity

It actually does that reasonably well. The Force can display most of that data using a OLED display, unlike the older Fitbit Flex wrist based wearable monitor. I like the immediate feedback right on the device. It reminds me when I’m sitting down too much. Getting up and walking around on a frequent/irregular basis actually helps me with my focus. The Force measures all of this using accelerometers and an air pressure monitor.

The Force will also display the time, but that is one of the two major downsides to the design. To find out the time, Fitbit has recreated that genuine early 1980s experience oh having to press a button on your digital watch in order to find out what time it is.

I’ll get to the other major design flaw later. First I want to cover more of the good points.

The Force syncs with my iPhone over Bluetooth. The Fitbit app then allows me to review the data collected in more detail and over periods of time (day, week, month). I can also log other items, including hydration input.

I can also sync my Force with my Windows 7 desktop, but I have to use the Fitbit custom Bluetooth USB dongle to do so. If I wanted to sync to my Macbook, I have to use the Fitbit custom Bluetooth USB dongle, despite the MacBook having Bluetooth 4.0 built in. Thus sayith Fitbit support, which is a PITA.

On the plus side, the desktop view is a web based app, which gives you everything the mobile app does, but bigger, which is good.

The second major design flaw is the crappy wrist band. I have fairly large wrists, so I’m wearing the Large version of the Force. I’ve found that the “latch” on the wrist band will pop loose when I put on or take off a jacket or long sleeved pullover shirt. The bloody thing will also pop loose if I flex my wrist the wrong way. There are very long threads on the Fitbit forums about this problem. People have lost multiple Force devices (many of which Fitbit has replaced, at $130 retail each), and Fitbits response so far has been to post a video on how to properly insert the slots into the tabs, which is the poor design of the wristband latch. User feedback has been better, including the suggestion of adding an O-Ring over the latch.

Overall I’m happy with the device. The geek portion functions well and gives me data to crunch, which makes me happy. The whole crappy wristband thing is a disappointment, but one you can work around as long as you are aware of it.

Serious though. Wristband design is a pretty mature technology. Somebody at Fitbit who valued form way over function green lighted this Charlie Fox of a design. A decision that has cost them a lot of customer good will. The question is what will Fitbit due in order to get that customer good will back?

Update: Fitbit has stopped selling the Force and issued a recall.  The reason given was the skin rash some users were getting from it.  The crappy wristband design probably didn’t help.  Since Fitbit has dropped this product and will not longer provide firmare updates or other support, I put it to return mine for the full retail value.  Fitbit claims to be working on  new tracker.  I posted the following to the Fitbit user forums:

With all the complaints about the Force wristband, there was an underlying theme of the issue being so frustrating because the Force was the best fitness tracker on the market. The users loved it, except for the bloody thing wanting to jump off the user’s wrist every time they took a jacket off.

I’m sure the Force replacement will be an even better fitness tracker, and have the ability to show messages and phone notification from your phone that the Force will now never have.

However, if it uses the same consumer hostile wristband, I certainly won’t be buying one. That move would certainly alienate the Force customers who love their Force but hate with deep passion the low quality wristband that is integral to the device.

Advertisements

Top 10 Reasons why the BMI is Bogus

Interesting article from NPR that describes the problems with the Body Mass Index rating.

Most of the reason are pretty straightforward, and obvious to anybody who actually exerts some brain power to study the very simplistic formula.

1. The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.

2. It is scientifically nonsensical.

3. It is physiologically wrong.

4. It gets the logic wrong.

5. It’s bad statistics.

6. It is lying by scientific authority.

7. It suggests there are distinct categories of underweight, ideal, overweight and obese, with sharp boundaries that hinge on a decimal place.

8. It makes the more cynical members of society suspect that the medical insurance industry lobbies for the continued use of the BMI to keep their profits high.

9. Continued reliance on the BMI means doctors don’t feel the need to use one of the more scientifically sound methods that are available to measure obesity levels.

10. It embarrasses the U.S.

To put it politely, the BMI is junk science.  The sad part is that your health insurance provider, and your doctor, probably use it.

US Special Forces gets the cool toys…

In this case, it’s a Plasma Knife!

According to this Popular Science article, it’s a medical tool, not a battlefield weapon.

The knife, whose blade consists of heated, ionized gas, cuts through flesh just as easily a steel scalpel, but also cauterizes the wound. By sealing off the damaged flesh, the plasma knife protects against infection, and stops the bleeding that imperils the wounded soldier.

This is too cool not to be turned into a close quarters combat weapon.  I expect some “field expedited” tests coming sooner rather than later.  Really, look at just whom these are being given to.

‘blood pharming’ machine

Darpa is looking for a device to produce a steady supply of universal donor red blood cells.  They want to be able to produce ready-to-be-infused Red Blood Cell packets for use near the battlefield.

DARPA has awarded a $1.95 million contract to Arteriocyte, a Cleveland company that’s experimenting with a technology developed at Johns Hopkins that enables the rapid expansion of umbilical cord blood. The company wants to adapt it to a manufacturing technology that will feed the military’s thirst for universal donor red blood units. The technology, called Nanex, uses a nanofiber-based structure that mimics bone marrow in which blood cells multiply, according to the company.

Medical sensor chip in development

First customers would be US military personnel.  From the MIT Tech Review:

The majority of deaths on the battlefield occur within half an hour after injury–often too quickly for a soldier to get to a medic, let alone a hospital. But a collaboration between researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and Clarkson University, in New York, aims to change all that with a chip that could detect injuries and treat them almost instantly.

“We want to build a smart, intelligent sensor that can distinguish between different injuries, make the decision to treat, and, once it recognizes the injury, treat appropriately,”