BodyMedia, which makes the FIT armband you see pictured, has been in the body-tracking biz for twelve years now. Now the company is teaming up with the brains over at IBM, and when their powers combine, you get a system that not only knows how unhealthy you are, but can help reverse the trend.
All you have to do is wear an armband. There's more you can do, but that's the minimum requirement. The FIT then uses a cocktail of sensors to track everything from how active you are during the day to how well you slept. It gathers up 5,000 individual data points every minute, according to the company. It can't tell you how healthy you're eating, but if you log that data manually, it'll crunch that, too, in a hub program called the Activity Manager.
The Activity Manager is robust enough that it can pull data from beyond the armband and understand how to make it work. For instance, it can also work with heart rate information from a 3rd party device to get a complete picture of you. (The Activity Manager app, which we were shown, tries to make this manual logging as painless as possible. It allows you to pull food items from a database rather than having to look how up many calories a plate of half orange chicken, half Beijing beef with lo mein at Panda Express is — which is Evan's standby, we found out during this trip.)
So having all this data is great, but what do you do with it? Well, if you're able to get IBM into the mix, the company's WebSphere Operational Decision Management (WODM) can take all of those millions of data points and start suggesting things. Specific things. The suggestions will take your location into account, as well as super textured considerations such as the time of year.
Using That Data
One example we were given: say you live in a place that has seasons and it's wintertime, your BodyMedia FIT Activity Manager could suggest that you go sledding if you failed to meet an exercise goal. Sure, sledding isn't a triathlon, but it keeps you active and it's a realistic suggestion. According to BodyMedia, the big thing here is that it's finally giving you an idea of what to do next, rather than just what's going on.
This idea of digital coaching is where health monitoring is going. For example, Zeo, a sleep monitoring "un-alarm clock" we've shown you before, also comes packaged with a Web-and-app suite that takes the data on how well you sleep and tells you how to sleep better. With Activity Manager, BodyMedia is looking to not only give you data on how active you are, but help you become more so (if that's what's needed, which for 99% of us it probably is).
There are different armbands with different features. The cheapest you can go is the CORE armband for $150. The most expensive is the $260 Bluetooth-enabled Armband Advantage, which also comes with a display that lists the calories you've burned in real time. The kicker — and we're going to see this a lot as these digital coaching solutions solidify — is that you need to throw down $7 a month for the Activity Manager functionality, though if you buy in you get the first three months free.
In the near future, BodyMedia will also have two new FIT armbands on the market. The first is a disposable band, due out late this year, that has all the same tracking features. We presume this would work great for, say, athletes who aren't going to own the device, or for people just looking to give the system a try. It looks like this:
There's also a cellular band in the works for 2013, which will end the FIT armband's reliance on Bluetooth and allow it to push out from wherever. That looks like this:
Posted on location at CES 2012 in Las Vegas. Additional photos by Evan Ackerman for DVICE.