The “gamification” of walking

WOW:  Before today’s ever present marketing buzz word “Big Data,” but after the onslaught of “Social,” and “cloud” there was “gamification.”  Somewhere in the 2010 timeframe you couldn’t visit five company sites without two or three telling you how important it was to turn your enterprise application into a game.  Well, I’m not sure I buy it for your ERP system, but my new “use all the time” consumer product has me re-thinking my initial skepticism.   Fitbit is basically a suped-up pedometer, but the total package has turned every day movement into “keeping score.”

My first foray into the “Quantified Self” movement was somewhere around 2007 with a precursor to the Zeo sleep tracker.  It was a watch that you’d wear at night that would record the movement of your sleep.  The goal then would be to report to you how long you slept and how much time you sepnt in different types of sleep.  It was expensive and unwieldy to use. I was very happy when the (now defunct) Zeo headband came out.  Zeo worked great, tracking different types of sleep, synching to your smartphone and instantly updating nice charts that graphed your night’s sleep.  The hardest part of using Zeo was nothing more than having to remember to put it back in its charge cradle each morning.  Unfortunately, Zeo went out of business, and no one seems to have scooped up the assets yet. I’d be happy to reengage.

Over the past few years the price and size of components required to accomplish various wearable computing functions has come down.  This is great as a ton of new products have come on the market.  For about six weeks I’ve been using a Fitbit One, and I’m ready to call it a WOW product.

The Fitbit pops into a small water resistant sheath that you can clip to your pants or other piece of clothing.  The accelerators inside the Fitbit track all of our movement during the day and can give you a detailed  accounting of steps taken, flights of floors climbed, and even calories burned.  The single button lets you flip through these stats quickly at any time.  The combination of being able to see stats on the phone or viewing in real time on the Fitbit itself make it easy to track how close you are to your daily goal – the recommended ten thousand steps a day (of course I took a screen shot of the day we hiked Muir woods – believe me, not a normal day).

Where I think Fitbit gets better is the accompanying smartphone app (i use the iPhone version).  Opening up the app automatically kicks of a Bluetooth syncs with the Fitbit.  This takes about fifteen to twenty seconds to update.  Once finished all the current stats are viewable on the phone.  In addition, the app gives you a quick place to change settings on the Fitbit such as changing goals for a particular metric or setting the alarm.


The last bit of Fitbit functionality is strangely enough a sleep tracker that is pretty much modeled after my original 2007 watch.  This is probably the only part of the Fitbit experience that is not there for me yet. To use the Fitbit One to track your sleep you need to place it in the pocket of a small band that Velcros around your wrist.  This is comfortable enough.  The issue is that you have to put Fitbit into sleep “mode” (no modes!)  By holding down the button you tell it that you’re going to bed.  This is easy to do, but also easy to forget either when going to bed or when coming out of sleep in the morning.  Finally, the level of detail is a pittance compared to the detailed breakdown you had with Zeo.

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