An independent comparison of the numerous fit devices on the market today has revealed that their results differ by almost a factor 10. They may be great tools to motivate people, but they are not yet accurate enough.
I am glad that a voice as authoritative as that of the author from IMEC said it. I think we have always suspected that these things aren't that accurate, but wow, a factor of 10? Talk about a huge parity.
That said, as I read this piece, I suddenly realized one thing. How many people would like to wear a patch on their chest?
Yes, our health is important. And yet, I suspect the reason why many people wear those wearables today is not for the accuracy but for the looks. Is it not?
They want to let the world know that they are health conscious. Hiding that patch under your shirt would not serve that bragging purpose.
@Junko: "...And yet, I suspect the reason why many people wear those wearables today is not for the accuracy but for the looks..."
I agree with you...there are some who would like to wear these gadgets for show-off. But there are some needy people too...for example I did not pay enough attention to my fitness in my early thirties...I am nearing forties (another 2.5 years :( )...I am overweight...I got BP and then I realized I should go to gym...I hate to catch diabetes...hence I would be cautious now and would like to have something which reminds me time to time if I don't do exercise and eat more cheese or drink cola...I won't mind wearing it under my shirt!.....LOL!
@Sanjib, thanks for your response. You and other readers convinced me that there is actually a growing desire for taking care of oneself better, and therefore, there is a need for wearable devices like these -- and they are willing to use it whether under shirt or on a wrist. Thanks!
I use a Fitbit One, Withings Pulse, Striiv Play, Basis B1, Nike Fuelband, Jawbone UP24, Bodymedia Fit LINK, and the Omron USB. In my opinion, the UP24 and Bodymedia Fit LINK are the worst of the lot, in terms of accuracy. They record about 10% of what my Fitbit One, Withings Pulse, and Striiv Play report. Next worst is the Nike Fuelband. It's step-count is off nearly as much as the UP, however, its saving grace is the arbitrary use of "Fuel" as a measure of your activity. It's not base on anything scientific but the iphone application awards you "trophies" and pretty animations. My favorite is the Basis B1 because of it's transparent use. It records several variables to satisfy an algorithm that reports, in my opinion, a pretty accurate daily caloric burn and it records your sleep type, duration, and quality, without user intervention a la fitbit and withings.
@codewienie, nothing like hearing from the real user! Thanks for posting your observation. May I ask why you got so involved in trying out so many wearable devices? Was it for the purpose of hands-on product comparison for your work; or are you simply so health-conscious?
hello junko.yoshida. 3 years ago I got a fitbit to track activity whilst recovering from a knee injury. I then got the Striiv Play because it makes walking part of a fun game. Over time, observation of the data and the use of APIs to sync the data to various website accounts such as runkeeper. fleetly, hubub, achievemint, myfitnesspal, everymove, fitocracy, loseit, mapmyfitness, walkertracker, and so on, became addictive! My kids started using devices that I didn't have so I got more devices to compete with the kids. Some of the activity tracking websites incent one by offering prizes and cash, which is how I got the Bodymedia Fit LINK (awful device), the Jawbone UP24 (awful device) and the Omron USB. You can see the data disparity best via my everymove account. Browse to https://everymove.org/ and look for my account name "Michael Baker" to see the huge disparity between the devices.
When I started working out I looked for a device to aid me in quantifying my development and looked through various studies and articles to find the best one. I'm just curious which studies you looked at as the Bodymedia Fit I bought from an ISU study is within 1% accuracy, good enough for me. I learned of it from the IEEE Spectrum Article "How I Quantified Myself" August 30, 2012:
Gregory Welk, director of the Nutrition and Wellness Research Center at Iowa State University, has tested the accuracy of this new generation of wellness devices. In 2011, Welk strapped eight activity trackers and one lab-grade monitor onto each of 51 volunteers. For 71 minutes the volunteers ran on treadmills, swept floors, biked, and walked outside with heavy backpacks while the gizmos measured their energy expenditure. The most accurate commercial unit, Welk found, was the BodyMedia Fit, an armband whose data deviated from the lab-grade monitor's results by less than 1 percent. A distant second, at 11 percent off, was the Fitbit, a thumb-size device that clips onto your waistband.
How much accuracy is needed depends on the user's goals & expectations. For my workouts, for example, I use a Garmin HRM to track calories burned & heart rate zones. The default lookup tables are not very accurate for many users, so a few times a year I go for a metabolic testing session -- the gas mask connected to a laptop that measures O2 in and CO2 out while a trainer ramps you through all your HR zones, to anaerobic threshold & beyond. That individualized data then gets loaded into the HRM. Is it perfectly accurate? No. Is it more accurate than before the testing? Absolutely. Does it help me more accurately monitor my fitness activity and help me balance fat burn vs cardio strengthening activities? Yes. So it's accurate enough to meet my needs.
But as wearables become more like medical devices rather than fitness helpers, the level of accuracy will need to improve.
If the wearables have these options it becomes so easy to set goals and see how you are doing to reach towards it. I guess all fitness centres will start selling them. Yes accuracy is something that is debatable. I have seen the weighing machines in different fitness centres gives different readings. HOpe these wearables will give consistent data.
In my opinion, as the werables get more and more market acceptance, there will be competition among the werable manufacturers to prove how accurate and realiable their devices are.
A few years ago , those bolood sugar monitors and BP measurement machines used by the patients at home had a similar reputation. No doctor would want to believe the results shown by these machines. But today there are millions of those BP and diabetes patients who rely daily on the results of the self tests done on these comapct machines at home to monitor their blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The results shown by these machines are fairly accurate and also repetitive.
...in this article. It's just an advertisement in disguise. Where are the charts comparing all of the devices in question for whatever it is they do, tested concurrently on multiple subjects? Maybe, prices as well? And the most important question: How much does their accuracy drift over time?
I ask that last one because emergency aside, single-measurement accuracy is not as important as relative measurement over time. If one is overweight, biology demands that healthy weight loss will take time. During that time one should be more concerned with trends - downward trends in resting heart rate, BP, caloric intake and increase trends in daily energy use. Steps/strides/reps/cycles, let's call it a discrete motion event - these things take energy. Do more of them and you'll burn more energy. Eat less than you are today (especially sugar) and the first law of thermodynamics will probably be your friend.
Regarding measuring energy, I'd use the hard data like strides or reps. It'll be more reliable. What's more likely - that the accelerometer in one of these devices missed an event, or that one of these impersonal energy-use algorithms has erred, or is flawed? Any of these devices that can reliably yield HR and discrete motion event data over time will be useful. Anything more and you are probably wasting money.
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