- Consumer Electronics & Personal Gadgets
Automated Health Tracking With Apple Watch & Other Gadgets - A Comprehensive Picture Of Yourself & A Way To Lose Weight
I guess I am just like most people: I want to be healthy and lose some weight.
But there is a big problem with me. It is like “New years resolutions”. I want all that, but shortly after my “decision” to finally do it, I forget about it. I get distracted by whatever happens in my life.
As you can see from some of my other articles (click, klack, tip, tap), I like gadgets and learn a lot about them. Over the course of the last 2 years I have invested a lot of time into some gadgets, which are health related.
Weighing yourself automatically
One of the first was the Fitbit tracker “One” (see also this article). Fitbit puts the collected data from the tracker onto your Fitbit account, where you can login and see it.
As I wanted to know more about my weight and how it is changing, but also knew I would never go through with writing down the measurements every day, I decided after some research to get the Fitbit Aria scale.
This scale is quite “intelligent” as it can measure your weight and the percentage of fat in your body. This is great, but by itself not very unique, as there are many other scales out there, which can do the same.
It gets really interesting when you learn that this scale automatically connects to your wifi and uploads your weight and fat percentage to your Fitbit account. No manual writing down the information anymore. Just hop on the scale in the morning and that’s it. The scale does the rest.
It is even clever enough to understand who is standing on it. If you life in a multi person household, this can be very convenient. Up to 8 people can use the same scale and get all their data logged automatically.
From the measured data more information is calculated, your BMI and also your lean body mass.
There is also an offer by Withings, but they do just the same and cost more.
What a smart watch can do better
When Apple announced the watch, I got very interested.
I was tired to pull my iPhone out of the pocket every time a notification sounded and called for my attention. I found it also very rude to interrupt a conversation with a business associate or a personal friend, just to figure out whether this notification was beneficial for the situation I am currently in or just makes me appear to have no social skills.
A tap from the so-called "Taptic Engine"on your wrist is something nobody beside yourself can and will notice. This engine is very different then all these vibration alarms that you know from so many devices. It doesn’t make any sound! It really just taps you on your wrist. This is huge.
As I filter already unimportant notification out, only important once get to my wrist and cause a tap. And still, I can decide then whether I glance at my watch or consider the meeting more important. And the person I am with at that moment, doesn’t feel interrupted at all, because they even don’t know I got a notification in the first place.
Beside notification the watch does quite some interesting things in the health area.
For one it is a tracker. So, it measures your steps, the distance you walk and - having access to the information you put in "Apple Health” it can calculate how much calories you burned so far.
This is not different from the earlier mentioned Fitbit tracker “One”. But from here on out the watch outperforms that tracker.
Having also that aforementioned “Taptic Engine” and knowing your goals, the watch can hint you actively regarding your progress.
With the Fitbit tracker, I have to be the active one, looking my progress up, which is, as I mentioned in the beginning something I tend to forget.
But it doesn’t stop there. On top of that, the watch also senses whether you stand or sit down. And again it can actively give you hints to get up and walk a bit, if you are sitting again all day.
Having this active “trainer” makes all the difference. I find myself moving more because of that.
One more thing
Sorry to borrow this famous sentence, but I just had to use it.
Next is about you being active - not only your watch.
With the built-in “Workout” app from Apple you can track the following different types of sports:
- Outdoor Run
- Outdoor Walk
- Outdoor Cycle
- Indoor Run
- Indoor Walk
- Indoor Cycle
- Stair Stepper
All of these sport types have a different characteristic of movements and calorie burning.
I - for example - run outdoors. The app remembers how far & long I ran and how many calories I have burnt last time. I can challenge that or just do the same thing again. But I do not have to setup anything.
Again the watch helps me by pulling all that data from Apple Health. And this is also where it goes after you finished your activity, during which your hearth rate is measured constantly and - again - automatically. No disturbing hearth rate belt around your chest necessary.
The central database Apple Health
You saw me referring to “Apple Health” a few times by now. And that was for a good reason.
You see, there were already quite some trackers on the market (such as the Fitbit tracker). But all of them were keeping their data in their on environment.
Apple Health changed that. Every app can read and write data from and to Apple Health. Assuming you gave explicit permission first!
Now as we have Apple Health around for some time, one can see more and more apps and services link into that central database.
Drinking water is important
One piece of the big health puzzle and losing weight is staying hydrated.
With the last big update to IOS (version 9) the Health database contains now also water.
There are already a lot of apps fighting for your attention.
I found one of them most convincing: Waterminder.
Waterminder does basically the same thing as many other apps.
But it has 2 features which makes it stand out of the crowd for me.
For one, it writes the water I drunk, back to Apple Health and doesn’t keep it just inside it’s own app.
Second it has an Apple Watch app.
This alone is not that special on its own as others have that too, but Waterminder has a so-called “Complication”.
This is one of these small features which are immediately visible on the Apple Watch, without starting any app.
And here it is again, something where I get active support from my gadget. Every time I look at the watch - for the time - I also see the amount of water I drank already and how much more I should drink before the end of the day.
And when I actually drink something I can easily tap the complication and will be brought directly to Waterminder’s watch app, where I can tap a single button. Done and written back to Apple Health.
Connecting the past with the future
But what about the Fitbit scale I mentioned earlier.
Unfortunately Fitbit doesn’t want to write the measure data from their devices to Apple Health.
Nothing a clever developer can’t fix, right?
There are iPhone apps that can read the data from your Fitbit account and write it to Apple Health.
I choose “Fitbit Sync” as it can read and write all 4 relevant kind of information from the Fitbit Aria scale: Weight, Body fat percentage, Body mass index and Lean body mass.
Blood pressure levels
My most recent acquisition is a blood pressure monitor.
I think I do not have to talk about how important the blood pressure for your health is.
Again, there are many devices on the market that can measure systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels, but as I am always looking for automating things, I find the QardioARM "Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor” very interesting.
This device connects via bluetooth - no cables to carry around and connect - and is comparably small.
Have a look at Withings blood pressure product which is again more expensive and you see what I mean by smaller size.
Beside writing the measured data back into their own app, this information also gets to Apple Health at the same time.
Qardio’s app gives you also an insight whether your blood pressure levels are good or if you should go a see a doctor.
They also make use of the iPhone’s built-in GPS module and remember where you measure your levels in order to see the connection of your levels to the places & countries you have been.
You might find out that your levels are higher when you are at work.
With this huge amount of health information collected by theand all these other gadgets you can get already a pretty comprehensive overview about yourself. Apple Watch (you can get your's here at a reduced price)
Taking this central & unified view of different health data to your doctor can help him get a picture of longterm health data he never had before!
I heart that Apple is working closely with health clinics in the US.
I can see one of the next steps can be to automatically inform your doctor or clinic if any value reaches a critical level. That can be a life saver, not only for elderly people, but also for younger ones that are maybe not aware of a critical condition, such as this young man: