Like so many of today’s cool inventions, Leonardo da Vinci thought of it first. The diaries of this 16th Century genius include a sketch of a wheeled device to measure the distance covered by a Roman foot soldier on the march. Three centuries later, when not busy drafting the Declaration of Independence, America’s third President Thomas Jefferson kept himself busy by assembling clever things from a swiveling chair to a modern-day mechanical pedometer, which kept track of the number of steps the wearer took.
And fast forward to today, as mechanicals give way to MEMS micro electronics mechanical systems we have the technology that fuels a whole crop of wearable devices, called activity trackers or health monitors.
Some of them come bundled into a smartwatch: The new Swatch Touch will allow you to check the time and calories spent at the same time. However, most popular personal trackers are standalone devices and the global brands available in India, in the Rs 7000- Rs 12,000 range, include the Nike+ Fuel Band, with its own display, a line that has now been closed by the sports shoe leader. There is also JawboneUP, launched in 2011, which even tracks you while you sleep, and then there’s Fitbit, which has a tiny display to check your walk or jog against your own target.
Meanwhile, Vishal Gondal, better known as the Indian pioneer of mobile games, started a company with investments from many NRIs to launch the GoQii wristband fitness tracker. It has some nice features including a vibrating alarm and a touch display. It is available only as part of a subscription of around Rs 10,000 a year.
But last week saw the India launch of a new activity tracker Mymo that is different in some interesting ways. It is created by a Dubai-based wellness tech company, Tupelo, with the hardware designed in Germany, software created in Bengaluru and manufactured in China. Unlike the other wrist devices, this one can be clipped on to the wearer’s clothing and is as small and light as one of those lapel badges they give you at conventions.
It also doesn’t waste any of its real estate on displays and controls which are limited to a few winking lights to tell you that you have synced via Bluetooth to your Android or iOS phone. This logs the steps you have taken, the distance you have covered, the calories burned. When you set up the app, you enter your height, weight and sex and it uses this to recommend your daily distance regime. Tupelo has another device that can be used to measure your heart rate as you exercise. Mymo works for 6 months on one of those coin sized batteries and stores 35 days’ data on board.
Tupelo CEO Martyn Molnar cites research that shows 85 per cent of those buying wearable activity trackers tend to drop out of their fitness regimes in the early weeks. They need strong incentives and Mymo gives it to them: a host of freebies like mobile talk time, groceries, airline free miles, vacation discounts… when they reach their fitness target. The device is available at a 20 per cent discount for Rs 3,375 at Amazon.in. But if you care to spend Rs 9,999, you also get the virtual services of a doctor and personal trainer.