Co.Design

Withings Weighs In On FuelBands With Its Smart Activity Tracker

Makers of the quintessential networked scale are setting their sites for the exploding fitness tracker market.

The Withings scale was ahead of its time. While most of us were still weighing ourselves in the analog world, Withings used Wi-Fi to sync our weight with the cloud. It was one of the first major forays into an exploding trend: Your health as digital data.

Now, Withings is expanding their ecosystem beyond the five-foot radius outside your bathroom. Its Smart Activity Tracker is a tiny, Bluetooth-equipped OLED fob--weighing just eight grams--that’s poised to take on Nike, Jawbone, and FitBit in the ever-more-competitive life-tracking market.

Whereas the Activity Tracker will follow your steps, stairs, calories, and sleep--like most of its competitors--it’s an ingenious piece of industrial design that will set it apart. The interface is a swipeable touch screen with your stats constantly in the ready. Then, when you hold your thumb to the screen, the Activity Tracker will automatically measure your pulse. So at any time during your day, you can log your heart rate for future reference.

Heart rate is one of four key dimensions that the accompanying Health Mate Application (for smartphones) follows. Withings categorizes health as weight, activity, heart, and sleep. These categories play perfectly with Withings’s hardware ecosystem (its scale, personal tracker, and also blood-pressure monitor). In the morning, you can wake and check your weight on a scale, which also measures your heart rate. Then stick the Activity Tracker in your pocket, and continue monitoring the more immediate metrics throughout the day.

“The apps are a key part along with the right sensors, because they integrate data from various devices and provide the big picture,” Cédric Hutchings, the CEO of Withings, tells us. “It’s a different time from when you take a measurement to when you want to sit back, get some knowledge, and motivation.”

It’s not hard to imagine Withings expanding those four categories in the future. Its latest scale announced at CES is measuring an additional metric: atmospheric CO2 (air quality), meaning “environment” could potentially find its way beside all of our personal-health information. Considering the oft-overlooked correlation between various pollutants and long-term health, such a move could be a major coup in this market--one Withings is particularly well-suited to exploit, given that its product ecosystem simultaneously lives at your home and on your body.

The only elephant in the room: Where the heck is the Withings wristband? Isn’t everyone making wristbands these days? Isn’t there some tacit law, a clandestine oath all fitness tracking companies must live up to? Hutchings confirmed with us that a wristband, armband, and belt clip will also be available, meaning that Withings is taking a model much like FitBit’s Flex: A core piece of hardware can be swapped into another skin. It’s not anchored to its rubber like the FuelBand or Up. But the wristband itself? That’s only intended for sleep. Because the Activity Tracker is most accurate when kept attached at the hip.

The Withings Activity Tracker will be out this year for an undisclosed price.

See more here.

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