CES wrapped up last Friday. One of the most notable things in this year's show was the sheer amount of health and fitness gadgets that made their way onto the floor, with estimates of a minimum 25 percent increase over the number of last year's products in the same category.
We're not sure why health and fitness is suddenly a lucrative consumer electronics niche, but it seems to be. My guess is, the demand has always been there, but it took this long for the hardware needed to be cheap enough to reach a wide group of people. At any rate, it's a good thing -- one that can really be helpful to athletes, fitness pros and ordinary folks looking to better themselves physically.
Here are some of the more notable gadgets that caught our eye:
Ask any body language expert and they'll tell you how important good posture is to coming across in a positive way. More than that, though, good posture will help you steer clear of back problems down the line. And good posture is what the LUMOback seeks to help with.
An electronic belt worn around the waist, it constantly monitors your posture, gently vibrating when you slouch so you can straighten your back on cue. Since it goes around the waist, it catches mostly lower back slouching, although they claim it can catch a good deal of the instances when your upper back dips, too. All data about your posture is sent wirelessly via Bluetooth to an accompanying mobile app, where you can watch an animated character reenact your recorded posture throughout the day, allowing you to get a clearer picture of your posture habits.
Whether for projecting a confident body language or fixing long-running back problems, the LUMOback should make for a valuable tool in helping you maintain an upright stance. It's available now for $149.
2. Fitbit Flex
Fitbit has been around for the last five years and is, in fact, one of the pioneers of the whole fitness sensor craze. While their clip-on sensors remain one of the most popular in the market, the wristband form factor is definitely catching on. The Fitbit Flex represents their move into that scene.
Just like their previous products, the Flex can record your steps, distance traveled, calories burned, activity timespan, and sleep time, with the data automatically syncing with your phone over Bluetooth. It's water-resistant, too, so save for the time you spend doing laps in the pool or wallowing in the shower, you can keep it latched on your forearm for most of the day. Boasting a 7-day battery life (maxes out to 10 if the sensors/data transfer aren't used heavily), it's also incredibly convenient.
The best part? The internal sensors are detachable, so you can slot it into different Flex bands if you want to color-coordinate your fitness gadget with the rest of your garb. It will launch in the Spring, priced at $99.95.
3. Lark Life Wristband
Another new entrant to the fitness wristband category, the Lark Life Wristband is a 24/7 activity tracker that also doubles as an electronic fitness coach. Aside from recording data, it asks you questions throughout the day and processes everything it collects into meaningful information.
It comprises of two bands: one for daytime use and another for nighttime use. Both use the same core sensors and battery, although they vary in construction -- the daytime version is made from thermoplastic urethane with a magnetic clasp, while the nighttime band uses much softer lycra and microfiber materials.
Like most fitness bands, it's not entirely waterproof (just sweat-resistant), so 24/7 might not be an exact description of the tracking it can do. It makes up for that, though, with some solid features, such as tracking movements, monitoring sleeping schedule, integrated nutrition tracking and a mood tracker built into the app that prompts you with questions to record your mental state. The app then takes all this personal information to give you tips and alerts to help optimize your activities.
The Lark Life Wristband is available now, priced at $149.99.
4. Siemens Aquaris
Not every health gadget that came out at CES are aimed at the consumer fitness crowd. The Siemens Aquaris, for instance, is a rugged hearing aid that allows those requiring hearing assistance to wear them even while partaking in their favorite outdoor activities.
Armed with rugged qualities, the Siemens Aquaris brings flexibility to the short of hearing like never before. Want to dip in the lake without having to take out your ear gadget? Yep, it's completely waterproof. Don't want to damage it when it accidentally falls while you play 3-on-3 ball with your friends? It's shock-proof, too, so there's less likelihood of damage. Since it can keep out fine dust particles, you can keep your hearing aid without fear of breaking it in the middle of a sandstorm after you pass through the Stargate and dial into a horrible desert planet. Or something like that.
The Siemens Aquarius costs $2,500, inclusive of a fitting and examination by a hearing specialist.
Telepresence is likely going to a be a big deal in medicine over the next few years. In the meantime, we continue to see the field grow and mature. One of the more interesting telemedicine devices in CES is the HealthSpot, a telepresence kiosk with a load of medical tools built in.
Designed to give doctors a way to perform remote examinations, the patient slides up to the kiosk and activates it. With the onboard hi-def camera, TV and audio hardware combo, it lets doctor and patient speak to each other face-to-face over the internet. So the doctor can run some diagnostics, the kiosks come with built in blood-pressure cuff, digital thermomether, and digital stethoscope, among a host of other tools that medical workers will normally use when examining patients in person.
Currently, the HealthSpot kiosks are undergoing trials in Ohio, with mass deployment slated for the next year.
6. Withings Smart Body Analyzer
A big upgrade from their original connected weighing scale, the Withings Smart Body Analyzer bundles a whole load of sensors on top of just measuring your weight. The upgrade makes the device a heck of a lot more useful, especially for longtime fitness enthusiasts who likely keep track of well more than their heft.
When you step onto the scale, the device will measure your weight, BMI, body fat percentage and resting heart rate. Designed for keeping in the bedroom, it will also monitor indoor air quality (drawing such data as room temperature and CO2 levels), so you can track how the environment is potentially affecting your sleeping habits. Data it records are transferred either over Bluetooth or a WiFi connection, with the information available for viewing in both iOS and Android.
The Withings Smart Body Analyzer will come out in the first quarter, priced at $149.95.
7. Withings Smart Activity Tracker
You didn't think Withings was going to sit idly by while everyone else put out fitness trackers, right? Yep, they're getting in on the action, too. Instead of a wristband (which seems to be the most popular option these days), though, they're opting for a small gadget similar to a flash drive called the Smart Activity Tracker.
Armed with built-in sensors, the device can keep track of steps taken, stairs climbed, distance, calories burned, heart rate and sleep quality. The data is sent over Bluetooth to the accompanying Health Mate app, the same one which receives readings from Withing's scales.
The Smart Activity Tracker measures a small 44.3 x 22.1 x 8.3 mm. It features a touchscreen OLED display on the front panel, as well as a rechargeable battery with two weeks of battery life. To use, the device can simply be slotted into your pocket during runs and other physical activities. If you don't like stuffing pockets while you jog, it can also be used with either an arm band or a belt clip.
No pricing yet, but the Withings Smart Activity Tracker will be released at the end of the first quarter.
8. Masimo iSpO2
While the need to measure blood oxygenation, pulse rate, and perfusion index probably isn't as common as people's need to get a read on their weight, there is a segment of the market that requires just that. And for those people who take those readings for altitude sports and aviation, the Masimo iSpO2 just might prove the most convenient gadget for the job.
Designed to work with IOS devices, one end of the gadget connects to your iPhone (/iPad/iPod Touch) while the other clips to your finger. The built-in sensor on the clip will then do the readings, automatically displaying it in the downloadable iSpO2 app. The data can then be archived for checking your history, as well as sent to your email.
A non-invasive gadget for tracking and trending blood oxygenation, the Masimo iSpO2 is available now, priced at $249.
9. iHealth Pulse Oximeter
Similar to the iSpO2, the iHealth Pulse Oximeter also measures oxygen levels in the blood. Unlike it, though, the device works wirelessly over Bluetooth, making it even more portable and a lot less messier to use.
The Pulse Oximeter looks like a compact version of standard oximeters in the market, complete with an onboard display, so you can use it even without your iPhone. It reads both SpO2 and BPM,with the data automatically sent to the app for historical recording. Similar to the iSpO2, it's aimed at altitude athletes, although they also recommend it for people with breathing difficulties, heart issues and health challenges that require monitoring of blood oxygen levels.
It's scheduled for availability in the second half of 2013.
10. iHealth Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System
A gadget for diabetics, the iHealth Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System gives patients a way to measure their blood glucose levels on the road. Because it works with an iPhone, the data is wirelessly transmitted and recorded onto the accompanying app, where you can check the trending history of your blood glucose levels. Up to 500 test results can be stored on the app, which can also be set to alert you with reminders of your medication schedule.
Like the Pulse Oximeter, the iHealth Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System will hit the market in the second half of the year.
11. Scanadu SCOUT
When you feel yourself coming down with a fever, a thermometer is the likely first tool you reach for to get an accurate reading on your temperature. That should change soon if you get a Scanadu SCOUT, a small gadget that pairs with a smartphone to measure and record various diagnostic data (yes, Star Trek fanboy, just like a medical tricorder).
A small gadget that you touch to the temple, it comes packed with sensors that measure and record six vital signs, namely temperature, pulse transit time, heart rate, electrical heart activity, heart rate variability and blood oxygenation. It does all the measurements within ten seconds, with all data sent to the accompanying app over Bluetooth. That way, you can get a more thorough reading of your actual condition well beyond what a thermometer can provide.
Unless you're a doctor, though, you likely won't know what to do with those numbers. It could help, though, if you have a doctor you can call up when you get the chills late at night -- just relay the readings and he might able to prescribe what you need without having to waste time.
The Scanadu SCOUT is slated for release at the end of 2013, priced at $150.
12. AiQ BioMan Tank
Why bother getting a gadget for fitness tracking when your shirt can do the job? Well, there are plenty of reasons -- you don't need to do laundry on a wristband, for one. Just in case you'd rather hit the trail or the gym without any extra gadget hanging on you, though, the AiQ Bioman Tank is exactly what you want to wear.
That's right -- a shirt that integrates all the hardware needed to track your workouts and send it to your phone. Yes, I'm just as baffled as you, but isn't that why CES is so awesome?
How? Instead of using regular fabric for the shirts, the AiQ BioMan Tank uses fabrics with integrated steel yarns and threads that act as wearable electrodes, measuring your vital signs while you wear it. Yes, there's a Bluetooth radio somewhere in there, too, sending all the readings straight to your phone. And to top it all off, the shirt is machine washable.
We're not sure on availability or pricing for the tanks yet, but it sure is one product to watch out for.
13. MayFonk Vert
You've been trying to get on the high school varsity basketball team to no avail -- the coach just doesn't see the future Derrick Rose that you know you are deep down. Well, very deep down. In fact, you don't think he believes that you can do a vertical jump higher than any of the current players on the team. Well, convince him with the numbers using the MayFonk Vert, a gadget that measures your vertical jump.
When clipped to your shorts, it will measure your vertical jump and record the data to your smartphone in real time. That way, you've got irrefutable proof of that time you jumped almost as high as Spud Webb back when players still wore short shorts if only his legs were a little longer. Or something like that.
The MayFonk Vert is aimed at basketball and volleyball coaches who might find value in seeing progress and improvements in their players' vertical jumps. It's currently an Indiegogo project, with pledges starting at $79.
14. O-Synce Screeneye X Visor
Would you prefer to see your fitness tracking data while you're running instead of stopping to check your iPhone every few minutes? Well, ditch that fitness band and put the O-Synce Screeneye X Visor on your head instead.
A cap with built-in fitness sensors, it measures your heart rate, distance, lap times, calorie consumption and speed. It doesn't end there, too, since the cap integrates a heads-up display that lets you see exactly those numbers, so you're never in the dark about how you're actually doing.
Don't worry, there's no mini-TV weighing it down and blocking your eye sight. Instead, it uses a small, lightweight display illuminated by way of a light collection film inside the visor. Once you're done with a run, you can download the training data to a PC (via USB) for use with the bundled TrainingLab software.
The O-Synce Screeneye X Visor is available now, priced at €149.90.
15. Fitbug Orb
There's a wide range of options in fitness trackers. That is, if you're willing to fork out at least $99 or more. But what about the cheapskate fitness freaks among us? Well, there's the Fitbug Orb.
A tiny pill-sized gadget, the device can be clipped to your clothing or slotted inside a wristband, giving you plenty of options for wearing. It can measure most of the same stuff as its more expensive counterparts, including steps, pace, and sleep patterns, as well as sync to a phone via Bluetooth.
The best part? All that for the affordable price of $50, with the optional wristbands costing an additional $10 each. It goes on sale in the Spring.
16. Salutron SmartHealth
Prefer a full-fledged fitness watch to a sensor-packing wristband? Stop ogling those Fitbits and Fuelbands, then focus your attention on the Salutron Smarthealth.
A wrist-worn "physiological monitor," it can capture heart rate, calories, and number of steps, along with serving as a proper wristwatch with dates and times and everything. Even better, you can hold off on syncing it with your phone, since the onboard storage can handle up to a week's worth of recordings. Do note it comes in two models, C200 and C400, with only the latter featuring support for Bluetooth syncing with a smartphone app.
The Salutron SmartHealth C200 is available now, with the C400 coming in May.
17. Fitlinx Pebble
Another in the long line of fitness trackers that showed up at CES, the Fitlinx Pebble markets itself a different way. Instead of going after consumer's wallets, they're going after corporate gigs, selling companies on the virtues of starting a wellness program for their employees.
A bit more elaborate than your run-of-the-mill contraption, the Pebble Pebble can't just track walks and runs, but extends that to gathering data during cycling runs and elliptical workouts. Offering flexibility, it can be worn on a shoe, clipped on a belt, or attached to any other part of your clothing. It's also waterproof, so you can wear it, practically, anywhere.
We're not sure what kind of battery it has onboard, but the product page claim there's no charging required (maybe you can give it back for replacement when drained or something). The case is fitted with embedded LEDs that light up to give you a visual cue of how much of your preset fitness goals you've accomplished so far. Of course, it can also sync with the Fitlinx system wirelessly and comes with an API that allows companies to write their own programs as they see fit.
18. Mio Alpha
Back when it ran a Kickstarter project in August, the Mio Alpha ended up raising three times its funding goal. And for good reason -- it's a unique fitness tracker that does its specific job very, very well.
Marketed to serious runners and cyclists, the Mio Alpha is a watch that doubles as a heart rate monitor. While that's nothing new, it boasts accurate readings at even the most intense workouts -- something a lot of fitness trackers just aren't capable of doing without the aid of a chest strap. To do its work, the Alpha shines a light that's reflected off the capillaries on your wrist, then monitors how much light is reflected back to pull a reading.
The Mio Alpha is available in two styles, Shadow and Artic, priced at $199.
We're not really sure why the HAPIfork turned out to be very popular at CES. Maybe people have really wanted eating utensils that count how many times you put the fork to your mouth, so you can't lie to yourself and claim you only had three bites of the cake when the app says you took fourteen. Maybe people just saw too many fitness trackers at the same time and this offered a refreshing change. Or maybe it's the simplicity in the concept, as you can immediately figure out what it does and why with no need for an elaborate explanation.
Whichever the reason, the HAPIfork was definitely a scene-stealer, with its ability to count how many fork servings you've had during any meal, which is then recorded to your phone for eternity (haha, binge-eater... just kidding). It also recognizes when you're eating too fast, vibrating softly to tell you to calm down on the chow down just a tad.
The HAPIfork will hit stores in the third quarter, with no pricing announced.
20. iRiver ON
Best Buy-backed Valencell finally have the first consumer implementation of their PerformTek Precision Biometrics system. It comes in the form of the iRiver ON, a Bluetooth headset with fitness tracking built in.
A collaboration between Valencell and Korean company iRiver, the device bundles two erstwhile separate functions in one: fitness tracking and Bluetooth calls. That way, you can make calls while you jog while you record every calorie you burn -- all with just one extra gadget in tow.
The iRiver ON can get data on heart rate, respiration rate, distance traveled, speed, cadence, ventilatory threshold, VO2 max (aerobic fitness level), and calories burned, as well as sync it wirelessly with the accompanying smartphone app. No word on official release date or pricing, however.