ReadWriteBody is an ongoing series where ReadWrite covers networked fitness and the quantified self.
I came to Las Vegas, the home of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, expecting the giant gadget trade show to feature a lot of new and improved fitness devices.
I wasn’t disappointed—and yet, I was.
There were plenty of heart-rate trackers and lots of Bluetooth-enabled devices, building on trends I’ve been observing in digital fitness for a while. This year’s crop of gadgets were smaller, lighter, and longer-lasting than in last years past as their innards have grown even more efficient and cheaper to produce.
Yet, it seems most manufacturers are targeting athletic types rather than the ordinary gym-goer or couch potato, who arguably stands to benefit far more from engaging with their body's signals and thinking about how much they move in a day.
Take, for example, the Spree Sports headband. It tracks temperature as well as heart rate—but the headband thing is likely to throw off all but the most dedicated exercisers.
To Sleep, Perchance To Sell
I did see one category that could be ready to break out into the mass market: Sleep trackers. Many fitness trackers promise to analyze your nightly tossing and turning as well as your daily steps, but I'm skeptical of the quality of their data. (I've found I get just as good results by measuring my total sleep time with a simple alarm app on my iPhone.)
Basis, the maker of a watch-style heart-rate tracker, is tying together movement and heart-rate data to more deeply analyze your sleep. Its devices already offered some sleep tracking, but after some updated software arrives later this month, Basis will be able to break down your sleep patterns into light, deep, and REM sleep categories.
Withings, the French company known for its wirelessly connected scale, took a step further with its new Aura system, which promises not just to track your sleep with a pad tucked under your mattress, but also improve it, using a system of lights meant to encourage you to wake up and go to sleep at the right times.
What I found exciting about this kind of gadget is that tracking sleep has the potential to help everyone, not just those who pursue vigorous exercise. Sleep problems are widespread, and are tied to everything from weight gain to heart disease.
I've found the simple act of marking when I go to bed and when I wake up is a good start. But I'm growing more interested in measuring just how good or bad my sleep is, and perhaps tying that to my performance at the gym. For that, I'll either need some kind of all-in-one device, or better connections between my apps so I can correlate all of my data.
Maybe by the time CES rolls around again next year, we’ll see something really revolutionary. Until then, we’ll have to sleep on it.