February 25, 2012
The BodyMedia FIT Armband
The BodyMedia FIT Armband is about the size of Saltine cracker, and is worn behind your arm between your shoulder and triceps. I have worn it consistently over the last two years, and have gotten used to it just always being there. It’s a very simple, yet solid-feeling product that I’ve been very happy with over the last two years. The only issues I have had with the BodyMedia FIT Armband is that:
• It’s a pain to take off when wearing long-sleeve shirts. When trying to take it off while wearing long-sleeve dress shirts, I pretty much look like I’m molesting myself as I have to unbutton a couple of my middle buttons, insert my arm into my shirt to undo the band’s Velcro strap, and then shake and wiggle my arm so that the strap slides out from the cuff of my shirt. This process is even more embarrassing when done in the security line at the airport—which I’ve done multiple times!
• Sleep Duration - (how much sleep you’ve gotten from the night before)
It may not sound like much, but it truly is pretty enlightening to see your physical activity charted out for you throughout the day. For example, here’s some snapshots of what you see in the BodyMedia FIT dashboard for various types of days in my life:
Below is an average day during the work week, with no exercise (the y-axis is much smaller, so activity appears more drastic than reality). I labeled some of the blips in pink:
Now, here’s a typical Saturday where I have CardioTennis from 9-10am (yes, the same CardioTennis for which I made the local news and became pseudo-famous):
And finally here’s the day that Wendy and I climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan back in the Summer of 2010 (the flat line in the middle is when we slept for 4 hours on the mountain in a little hut in the wee hours of night—remember the timezone difference is ~14 hours with Japan):
As you can see, the level of detail that the data is provided to you is pretty cool. BodyMedia also provides very flexible Excel reporting on the data you’ve collected—so you can go back and download data over the last year and do further analysis. There is also an iPhone and Android mobile app that can be used for Bluetooth syncing. The BodyMedia FIT Armband retails for $199 for the Bluetooth version, AND there is a monthly subscription fee to use BodyMedia’s dashboard and website (which is required to do data loading) of $6.95/month.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed having the BodyMedia FIT Armband and the data it provides on me and my activity throughout every day. However, I am always looking for better, more innovative products.
Introducing the new Nike+ Fuel Band
The Nike+ FuelBand’s LED display is very nice in that it is ”under the surface” of the band, but still very bright. By toggling its only button, you get four types of data:
• TIME - (I love that this can serves as a simple watch)
• ‘FUEL’ burned (Fuel is the Nike-created unit for measuring physical activity—kind of like a calorie—but not)
• CALORIES burned
By pushing and holding down the one button on the band, you can also initiate Bluetooth pairing and data synchronization with a very nice iPhone application (Android version will be ‘available soon’), or put your FuelBand into ‘Airplane Mode’ where Bluetooth is turned off. The Nike+ FuelBand clasp on the bottom of the band serves as not only the way to take the band on and off, but also provides the FuelBand’s USB connectivity to your PC. One item I wish was available on the FuelBand itself was a way to see how much battery life is left within the FuelBand. Currently the only way to see battery strength is by plugging it into a PC or USB power charger. But once you do plug it in, you get a very nice image of a battery on the LED display of the band that shows exactly where the current battery charge level is.
Something else that the Nike+ FuelBand does not provide is flexible, detailed reporting. Reporting of your data is only done in Day/Month/Year ‘views’ on the Nike+ dashboard, and there is currently no way to extract data into Excel for your own analysis. This may be something that Nike provides in the future, but it currently does not exist. The Nike+ FuelBand retails at $149, and has no ongoing subscription cost.
Data Comparison: Nike+ FuelBand vs. BodyMedia FIT Armband
So, now that I have worn both the BodyMedia armband and the Nike+ FuelBand for the last 3 days, let’s compare the data from both. Right off the bat with the Nike+ FuelBand, I realized that I’m not going to get a Sleep Duration measure like I do with the BodyMedia FIT Armband—but, for me, that’s not that big a deal since I rarely review the sleep data I get from BodyMedia (I already know I don’t get enough sleep). I also quickly noticed that the ‘Calories Burned’ measure on the Nike+ FuelBand was much lower than what the BodyMedia FIT Armband measured throughout the day. As for the mystical ‘Fuel’ unit of measure, it feels very much like Total Calories consumed on the BodyMedia armband.
So, with that said, below are the first 3 days of my use of both the Nike+ FuelBand and BodyMedia FIT Armband in parallel. I’ve included the daily view from both dashboards for each day, and labeled portions of each day to highlight certain times when specific activities were being done. Let’s take a look…
Thursday, February 23, 2012
In comparing the two, the first thing I noticed is that the Nike+ FuelBand does not register strength training (lifting weights) as much as it does with cardio activities, regardless of the level of intensity. On this particular day, I had a pretty tough workout at lunch lifting weights at 1pm, and then had very light activity at 5:30pm chasing balls during my daughters’ tennis lesson (I also hit a few balls with my wife and the ball machine). I ended the day watching DVR’d shows while running/jogging on my treadmill. In my opinion, my lunchtime workout and the evening run/jog session were much more intense than my activity at my girls’ tennis lessons—and the BodyMedia data supports this opinion. However, the Nike+ FuelBand registered my activity at my daughters’ tennis lessons as being at a higher ‘Fuel’ level—and my lunchtime workout was just a small blip. This doesn’t seem quite right to me.
I also noticed that the ‘calories burned’ (BM:3,317 vs NK:1,260) and ‘steps taken’ (BM:15,203 vs NK:12,160) were both different. More on this later.
Friday, February 24, 2012
On my second day with the Nike+ FuelBand, I did not work out or have any real physical activity other than walking during my workday and going out to dinner at night. I found that, on days where I am not involved with any intense workout-type of activities, both the BodyMedia FIT Armband and the Nike+ FuelBand present my data very similarly. This makes sense since the only sensors really needed to track my activity on this day would be the motion sensing accelerometers—which the Nike+ FuelBand and BodyMedia FIT Armband both have.
Note again the discrepancy between ‘calories burned’ (BM:2,805 vs NK:914) and ‘steps taken’ (BM:5,098 vs NK:6,463).
Saturday, February 25, 2012
On day three, I had a CardioTennis class in the morning, chilled out during lunch with the family, and then went shopping in Eastgate (groceries, birthday party gifts, etc.). Both the BodyMedia FIT Armband and Nike+ FuelBand registered CardioTennis very highly, and both registered my shopping activities in the afternoon similarly.
Note again the discrepancy between ‘calories burned’ (BM:3,020 vs NK:1,386) and ‘steps taken’ (BM:9,997 vs NK:11,573)
Discrepancy between ‘Calories Burned’ and ‘Steps Taken’
Regarding the discrepancy on ‘Steps Taken’ between the two bands, I cannot figure out what causes the difference between the two—some days the Nike+ FuelBand is higher, and other days the BodyMedia FIT Armband is higher. ‘Steps Taken’ doesn’t matter as much to me, but if ‘Steps Taken’ is something you track and is important to you, let it be known that I have no clue which one is more accurate!
Final Summary: Nike+ FuelBand vs. BodyMedia FIT Armband
After a few days of wearing both the Nike+ FuelBand and the BodyMedia FIT Armband, it is clear to me that the BodyMedia FIT Armband is the more accurate of the two devices, but that the Nike FuelBand is by far the more comfortable and convenient. The BodyMedia FIT Armband's accuracy is attributable to the many other sensors that it has for measuring how much you're sweating (Galvanic Skin Response), Heat Flux, and Skin Temperature, as well as Accelerometers. The Nike+ FuelBand only has Accelerometers. If you are really serious about counting calories, tracking your data, and extracting your data for further analysis—then the BodyMedia FIT Armband is the way to go. This is especially true if weight-lifting is a big part of your exercise regimen, since the Nike+ FuelBand doesn’t seem to provide accurate measurements on calorie burn or Fuel consumption when doing weightlifting or other strength training exercises. Note that this higher level of accuracy that the BodyMedia FIT Armband provides comes at a higher cost: a retail price of $199, a required $7/month subscription fee, and the minor discomfort of having to wear a band on your upper arm.
However, if you want to track your body’s activity but do not need high levels of data accuracy, do not need additional external reporting for analysis, do not want to wear a band around your upper arm all the time, and do not want to pay the additional $50 one-time cost for the BodyMedia FIT Armband along with the $84 annual subscription fee—then the Nike+ FuelBand is for you!
Personally, I’m torn. I love the convenience, look, and feel of the Nike+ FuelBand much more than the BodyMedia FIT Armband, but also like the level of accuracy and extra personal analysis you get with the BodyMedia FIT Armband (I love playing with data in Excel).
With all of that being said, I will be moving completely to the Nike+ FuelBand once my annual subscription with my BodyMedia FIT Armband expires. I think the Nike+ FuelBand will be pretty successful for folks wanting to start tracking their activities throughout the day--without having to plunk down a ton of cash up-front and in ongoing subscriptions. There's definitely a market for their product. I also can see Nike integrating their other Nike+ products with the FuelBand (running sensor, GPS watch, etc.) to keep Nike at the forefront of bringing more technical capability to help enable average folks and seroius athletes alike in achieving their broad range of goals. Also, I have to add that their NikeStore.com integration was effective on me as well, as I just ordered some workout shorts from them due to a display sales ad that was linked into their Nike+ dashboard (call me a sucker).
Hope this helps others trying to learn about both products... Here's a quick table I put together with the pros and cons of each band.
Let me know what you think in the comments...