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My New Wearable

In last week’s blog, I wrote about New Year’s resolutions. One of the resolutions I have for this year is to work hard at keeping fit. I try to get in about four workouts each week. “Workout” is a bit of a stretch, in that pretty much my only goal is to just keep doing it. During my workouts I try to measure my heart rate. In the past I’ve used a chest strap synchronized to a watch, which is very accurate at capturing my heart rate. These devices use a conductive smart fabric with built-in microprocessors that analyze the EKG signal to determine heart rate.1

However, unfortunately I lost my carry-on luggage on the Via Rail train a month ago. I had placed it at the front of the train when I boarded and unfortunately it wasn’t there when I went to get off. Unfortunately my chest strap and heart rate monitor watch were in the suitcase.

In seeking out a replacement it became clear to me that the chest strap and watch combination, while accurate and tried and true technology, is somewhat outdated. Always enthralled by new technology, I eagerly started watching many videos on YouTube in search for what modern “wearables” have to offer.

I soon learned that there are many devices out there, most of which use optical sensors for measuring heart rate. The sensors are usually embedded in a watch-like wristband and obviate the need for wearing a chest strap.

While the chest strap measures electrical signals, the modern wearables use optical sensors to measure the heart rate.

Optical heart rate sensors measure your heart rate by shining a microscopic light on your blood vessels and analyzing the amount of light reflected back.2

More specifically, the sensor technology I ended up buying, the Mio Fuse®, uses the following specific technology. “An optical heart rate sensor determines heart rate through a process known as photoplethysmography. The sensor consists of LEDs and an electro-optical cell. The LEDs shine light into the skin, enabling the electro-optical cell to detect the pulsing volume of blood flow. Since blood absorbs light, fluctuations in light level are correlated to heart rate. A traditional sensor measures heart rate differently with two areas that determine heart rate by measuring the bio-electric impulse that occurs when your heart beats. The number of impulses the sensor counts corresponds to the same number of heartbeats over the same amount of time”.4

Wearables are now all the rage. I bought my first wearable, my Fitbit®, about 18 months ago. I have been religiously wearing it ever since, and aspire each and every day to do my 10,000 steps. You may recall my blog from August 2014, http://meds.queensu.ca/blog/?p=2724

In addition to step-trackers like the Fitbit®, there are smartwatches like the Apple® watch, smart glasses like Google Glass®5, virtual retinal displays, fitness socks which measure your stride and cadence,6 and bionic t-shirts with embedded microsensors that measure temperature, heart rate, speed and intensity.7

So gone is my “old-fashioned” chest strap, and I’m armed with my first real “wearable” my new heart rate monitoring wrist band…which by the way, also measures my steps too. The only trouble is, my trusty Fitbit measures about twice as many steps as my new Mio Fuse does. Now which one should I believe?

If you wear a wearable, or have something to add to our understanding of the technology, respond to the blog, or better yet please stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.

Richard

 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate_monitor
  2. http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/heart-rate-monitors-all-you-need-to-know
  3. https://www.google.ca/search?q=optical+sensors+mio+fuse&biw=1894&bih=1264&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjggYiEpaDKAhXK2B4KHcj8BqAQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=Tb_pZoiyV3F6GM%3A
  4. http://running.competitor.com/2015/06/shoes-and-gear/tech-trends-the-end-of-chest-worn-heart-rate-sensors_130880
  5. http://www.howtogeek.com/207108/wearables-101-what-they-are-and-why-youll-be-seeing-a-lot-of-them/
  6. http://www.computerworld.com/article/2470278/mobile-wireless/135328-Wearable-tech-13-new-gadgets-from-CES-2014.html#slide13
  7. https://www.wearable-technologies.com/2015/03/a-look-at-smartclothing-for-2015/
  8. http://nocamels.com/2014/09/wearable-tech-this-t-shirt-will-monitor-your-heart-and-read-your-vital-signs/

Sheila Pinchin

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:19

What a terrific article Richard! I have to admit the first thing that spoke to me was the trouble you had with Via and luggage– I have had to make great effort to leap back onto the train to rescue bags which Via was determined should go on to Toronto, tho I was getting off in Kingston. So helping Via work on the luggage issue may be a critical step to staying healthy! ?

In response to your question about which wearable is most accurately measuring steps–hmm… that’s an interesting dichotomy you’ve uncovered! Do you think your Mio is really “smart”, and trying to get you to take even more steps? Shades of HAL!

Following in your footsteps with my new Fitbit as of Jan. 1…

Sheila Pinchin

Thanks Sheila,

Not sure which is tougher, Mio or Fitbit. In the meantime, I follow my steps with Fitbit, and my heart rate with Mio.

Richard

reznickr

Jackie

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:19

I am loving my Fitbit that I just received for Christmas and it really does increase my motivation to take the stairs and to walk around more! I also try to work harder during my workouts and keep my heart rate up for a longer period. That being said, I know that I don’t walk in my sleep and it sometimes registers steps overnight. I also know that there’s now way that I have taken 10,000 steps some days and it says that I have. If I move my arms rigorously enough it counts those movements as steps. So, I say that when it comes to steps, you should probably trust the Mio Fuse!

Jackie

Matt Simpson

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:20

Whether it’s the (now retired) Google Glass project or the recent smart watch phenomenon, wearable technology is certainly something that has been interesting and entertaining to watch. I haven’t laid down any cash yet for anything, mainly because I don’t want yet another device to charge daily.

With regards to other interesting technology, the Myo Armband looks somewhat useful, but until doing strange arm and hand gestures while walking down the street becomes socially acceptable, count me out.

Participants competing for the $10 million XPrize to bring healthcare to the palm of your hand is definitely something I am keeping an eye on as well: http://tricorder.xprize.org

Or perhaps I will just have wait until 2020 when I will be able to have thousands of nanobots streaming through my veins, reporting on all aspects of my health: The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology By Ray Kurzweil

Best Regards,
Matt Simpson

Matt Simpson

Kim Schryburt-Brown

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:21

I find your comments interesting, as this same conversation is happening within the recreational triathlete community given that Garmin has now introduced optical technology in the triathlon watches. Most of us feel the “tried and true” chest strap is superior, as it not only measures heart rate but also step oscillation and other pieces of data useful to those of us trying to maximize endurance.
I am curious to see how the optical technology plays out, for now I will be wearing my chest strap!
Cheers,
Kim Schryburt-Brown BScOT (2001), MSc (2003)

Kim Schryburt-Brown

Thanks so much for your comment. It is the
‘great debate”…accuracy versus the comfort of a watch as opposed to a chest strap.

I suspect optical technology will continue to evolve and improve.

Richard

reznickr

Jo

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:21

I would agree with Jackie that your Fitbit will equate arm movement to steps taken – if you want to increase your steps accomplished a few arm swings will do it…..!

Jo

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