Activity tracker

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Many trackers can also serve as a digital watch

An activity tracker is a device or application for monitoring and tracking fitness-related metrics such as distance walked or run, calorie consumption, and in some cases heartbeat and quality of sleep. The term is now primarily used for dedicated electronic monitoring devices that are synced, in many cases wirelessly, to a computer or smartphone for long-term data tracking, an example of wearable technology. There are also independent smartphone apps and Facebook apps.[1]


The term "activity trackers" now primarily refers to wearable devices that monitor and record a person's fitness activity. The concept grew out of written logs that led to spreadsheet-style computer logs in which entries were made manually, such as that provided in the US by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as part of The President's Challenge.[2] Improvements in technology in the late 20th and early 21st century allow automating the monitoring and recording of fitness activities and integrating them into more easily worn equipment. Early examples include wristwatch-sized bicycle computers that monitored speed, duration, distance, etc., available at least by the early 1990s. Wearable heart rate monitors for athletes were available in 1981.[3] Wearable fitness tracking devices, including wireless heart rate monitoring that integrated with commercial-grade fitness equipment found in gyms, were available in consumer-grade electronics by at least the early 2000s. Wearable fitness tracking computers with tightly integrated fitness training and planning software were available as consumer products by at least 2006.[3][4]

Electronic activity trackers are fundamentally upgraded versions of pedometers; in addition to counting steps, they use accelerometers and altimeters to calculate mileage, graph overall physical activity, calculate calorie expenditure, and in some cases also monitor and graph heart rate and quality of sleep.[5][6][7] Some also include a silent alarm.[6][8] Some newer models approach the US definition of a Class II medical monitor, and some manufacturers hope to eventually make them capable of alerting to a medical problem, although FDA approval would be required.[9] Early versions such as the original Fitbit (2009), were worn clipped to the waist;[5] formats have since diversified to include wristbands and armbands (smart bands) and smaller devices that can be clipped wherever preferred.[8][10] Apple and Nike together developed the Nike+iPod, a sensor-equipped shoe that worked with an iPod Nano.

In addition, logging apps exist for smartphones and Facebook;[7] the Nike+ system now works without the shoe sensor, through the GPS unit in the phone. The Apple Watch and some other smart watches offer activity tracker functions.[9] In the US, BodyMedia has developed a disposable activity tracker to be worn for a week, which is aimed at medical and insurance providers and employers seeking to measure employees' fitness,[11] and Jawbone's UP for Groups aggregates and anonymizes data from the company's wearable activity trackers and apps for employers.[12] Other activity trackers are intended to monitor vital signs in the elderly, epileptics, and people with sleep disorders and alert a caregiver to a problem.[9]

Earbuds and headphones are a better location for measuring some data, including core body temperature; Valencell has developed sensor technology for new activity trackers that take their readings at the ear rather than the wrist, arm, or waist.[13]

There are collar-mounted activity trackers for dogs.[14][15][16]

Much of the appeal of activity trackers that makes them effective tools in increasing personal fitness comes from their making it into a game, and from the social dimension of sharing via social media and resulting rivalry.[5][7][17][18] The device can serve as a means of identification with a community,[19] which extends to broader participation.

The standard activity-tracking smartphone or web apps present data in statistical form meant to be viewed after the activity has ended. However, research suggests that if we want a richer understanding of the data, we need intelligent computing to be included in the systems that run the apps.[20]

Some users and reviewers remain ambivalent towards the technology, making the point that in such a "mirror" displaying one's identity, misrepresentations are problematic.[21] All forms of lifelogging also carry privacy implications.[22] Social networks associated with activity trackers have led to breaches of privacy such as involuntary publication of sexual activity,[23] and the potential for advertisers and health insurers to access private health data through the devices is a concern.[9]

Wearable Sensors for Activity Tracking

Wearable sensors have been widely used in medical sciences, sports and security. Wearable sensors can detect abnormal and unforeseen situations, and monitor physiological parameters and symptoms through these trackers. This technology has transformed healthcare by allowing continuous monitoring of patients without hospitalization. Medical monitoring of patients’ body temperature, heart rate, brain activity, muscle motion and other critical data can be delivered through these trackers. Moreover, in sports training there is an increasing demand for wearable sensors. For example, measurement of sweat rate was possible only in laboratory based systems a few years ago, but is now possible using wearable sensors.[24]


Activity trackers are available both with and without display [25]

Certain movements of the user, such as working in the household, cycling, swimming, dancing or rowing can distort the results obtained from activity trackers. In a test of Stiftung Warentest, for example, no product determined even approximately the distance of a bike ride. Furthermore, the determined values for the human energy transformation are erroneous.[26] With the heart rate large deviations have been observed at wristlet trackers, and it is recommended for this purpose to use appropriate chest straps.[26]

Wristbands can be uncomfortable to wear and inadvertently being lost. For some products genotoxic substances were detected.[26]

The connection of activity trackers with social networks can lead to violation of privacy, such as involuntary publication of sexual activity.[27] The apps of some activity trackers not only transmit personal data, but also private address lists to servers on the Internet without notifying or asking the user.[26]

Producers and products

See also


  1. Menaspà P. Effortless activity tracking with Google Fit. Br J Sports Med. 2015
  2. "Governor Rell’s Committee on Physical Fitness calls on residents to join President’s Challenge to get more active", Press release, Stamford Plus, April 2, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Olympic Medical Institute Validates Polar RS800 Running Computer And Training System", Polar, November 7, 2006, retrieved February 25, 2014, archived February 25, 2014.
  4. Dave Phillips, "Polar RS800 not just another heart rate monitor", CNET News, October 3, 2007, retrieved February 25, 2014, archived February 25, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Jeff Beckham, "Fitness Trackers Use Psychology to Motivate Couch Potatoes", Wired, April 19, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jill Duffy, "The Best Activity Trackers for Fitness", PC Magazine, May 22, 2013.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Caroline McCarthy, "Work out, get on scale...tell your friends?", CNET, July 21, 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Rheana Murray, "Smartphones become fitness coaches with new wearable activity trackers", New York Daily News, August 16, 2013.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Dan Holden, "Worn Out: The Dark Side of Wearable Technology", Metro Silicon Valley, September 24, 2014, pp. 16–18.
  10. Danny Sullivan, "The test begins: My life with four activity trackers, fitness bands", CNET, March 28, 2013.
  11. "CES: Track your activity level, get cheaper health insurance?", Stream, Consumer Electronics Show, MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2013.
  12. "Tracker shares your habits with work", Technology, BBC News, January 7, 2015 (video).
  13. David Z. Morris, "Forget the iWatch. Headphones are the original wearable tech", Fortune, June 24, 2014.
  14. "Whistle wearable technology for dogs lets owners monitor pet activity", De Zeen, May 14, 2014.
  15. Jill Duffy, "Whistle Dog Activity Tracker Adds GPS Location Finder", PC Magazine, May 21, 2014.
  16. Heather Zimmerman, "Digital Dog", Metro Silicon Valley, September 24, 2014, p. 17.
  17. G. F., "Quantified self: Fit, fit, hooray!", Babbage, The Economist, May 24, 2013.
  18. Chuong Nguyen, "Zamzee Activity Tracker Hopes to Combat Obesity in Children", Ubergizmo, November 23, 2010.
  19. Sherry Turkle, "Always On/Always-On-You: The Tethered Self", in: Handbook of Mobile And Communication Studies, ed. James Everett Katz, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT, 2008, ISBN 9780262276818, pp. 121–37.
  20. Fredrik Ohlin and Carl Magnus Olsson, "Intelligent Computing in Personal Informatics: Key Design Considerations", In Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 263–274, accessed June 23, 2015.
  21. Mónica Guzmán, "Using tech to change your habits? Lessons from a behavior change fanatic", Seattle Times blogs, January 28, 2013.
  22. Anita L. Allen, "Dredging up the Past: Lifelogging, Memory, and Surveillance", The University of Chicago Law Review 75 (2008) 47–74 (pdf)
  23. Jack Loftus, "Dear Fitbit Users, Kudos On the 30 Minutes of 'Vigorous Sexual Activity' Last Night", Gizmodo, July 3, 2011. The company has changed privacy settings to avoid this: "Updates to your profile page", Fitbit blog, July 4, 2011.
  24. Ermes, Miikka (January 2008). "Detection of Daily Activities and Sports With Wearable Sensors in Controlled and Uncontrolled Conditions". IEEE.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Fitness Tracker
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 26.5 Fitnessarmbaender - Nur zwei von zwoelf sind gut,, December 27, 2015. Retrieved on January 6, 2016
  27. Jack Loftus: Dear Fitbit user Kudos On the 30 Minutes of 'Vigorous Sexual Activity' Last Night, Gizmodo, July 3, 2011.
  28. Richard Lai, "Huawei's first smartband has a pop-out earpiece for voice calls", Engadget, February 23, 2014, retrieved September 14, 2014
  29. 29.0 29.1 Molly Wood, "Fitness Devices That Do (Just) a Bit More. Review: LG Lifeband Touch and Samsung Gear Fit", Personal Tech, The New York Times, June 18, 2014.
  30. Matt Burns, "The LG LifeBand Touch And HeartRate Earphones Are The Wonder Twins Of Activity Trackers", TechCrunch, June 5, 2014.
  31. Daniel Rubino, "Microsoft Band: Unboxing and hands-on tour of Microsoft's new 'smart' wearable", WindowsCentral, October 30, 2014, retrieved October 31, 2014.
  32. Dana Wollman, "Pivotal Living hopes you'll pay $12 a year to use its fitness tracker", Engadget, October 22, 2014.
  33. Matt Burns,"Sony’s Waterproof Wearable To Be Available Worldwide In March", TechCrunch, February 23, 2014, retrieved September 14, 2014.
  34. Anurag Kumar, "Sony SmartBand Talk SWR30 launched with 1.4" e-paper display at IFA 2014", Gizmo Bolt September 3, 2014, retrieved September 14, 2014.
  35. Catherine Shu, "Nudge is a dashboard for all your fitness wearables and apps", TechCrunch, August 17, 2014.
  36. "Xiaomi Mi Band, la Recensione di ZoomingIn".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy. Patrick Brewster, 2014. ISBN 9781492348436.