Fitbit Flex Wireless Wristband Activity Tracker

Fitbit-Flex-Slate

It’s widely accepted that our sedentary lifestyles are killing us, which has helped the explosion in activity tracking devices. It’s very easy to let a whole day go by doing very little. Lots of people are apparently caught in the trap of equating exercise solely with going to the gym, which they don’t have time for. This is turn makes it all too easy to just do nothing.

However, it’s easy to miss out on the many, many opportunities that could be beneficial to our wellness. Taking the stairs, travelling by bike, or taking short constitutionals are all beneficial for small, seemingly imperceptible health gains. This is the driving force behind the booming activity tracker market, where tiny devices clip to your body and log all your physical activity, helping you to see where you need to focus to achieve your health goals.

Fitbit-Flex-Black

Fitbit are one of the leaders in this market and I spoke UK Country Manager Peter Groom about the Fitbit Flex, their entry into the wristband activity tracker market. You might know Fitbix from the Zip and One, tiny clip-on trackers that we made mention of almost 6 months ago. In the activity tracker world, Fitbit’s brand is associated with accuracy, something you lose in the transition to wristband devices. Other devices have populated the wristband space – notably Jawbone and the Nike Fuelband.

The Fitbit Flex crams most of the already impressive technical ability of the Fitbit One into a much smaller unit that can easily be wrapped around your wrist without noticing the weight or bulk. The Flex is designed to be worn all the time so this is really important in helping you forget about it and letting it do its job, whilst walking, working or even in the shower. There are obviously trade-offs with this form factor – the lack of altimeter being the most obvious, but the convenience gained is great.

The matte design of the wristband is understated and doesn’t draw undue attention. There’s a tiny display, comprising 5 LED lights that you tap twice to wake and get updated progress information. The number of LED lights illuminated will give you a quick idea of how close you are to your daily goal.

However a lot of clever work has gone into the Bluetooth 4.0 active syncing so if you pull up the accompanying app you can have a comprehensive look at what data it’s pulling up. Peter was keen to highlight the multi-platform approach Fitbit has taken so you use the app, website or PC sync.

Fitbit-Flex-Red

Five taps of the LED display tells the device you’re heading off to bed and it will record you sleep quality – number of hours, number of times you wake and sleep efficiency index. Four taps will tell it you’ve woken up. You can also use the app to set an alarm causing the device to vibrate. It’s *very* weird having a buzzing on your arm as you nap but it’s also very effective. It’s also cool if you want to get up early without waking your partner.

Charging is done via USB (there’s a supplied cradle) and is recommended every 5-7 days. Your app will tell you when the battery level is low. There’s also an accessory pack that gives you Teal, Tangerine and Navy bands for £23, complementing the Black and Slate bands that come with the device.

The Fitbit Flex will be out in late Spring 2013 for £79.99

Nutrino: Pocket Nutritionist

Neutrino-App

There are more than 1 billion overweight adults in the world and at least 300 million of them are clinically obese. Apparently. So at least this means that if you could stand to lose a few pounds you’re certainly not on your own, and with a bit of friendly motivation from modern technology it could be easier than you think.

Enter Nutrino, the first “virtual nutritionist” that takes the slog out of trawling over packets of food to work out calorie counts by constructing personalised recipes based on exercise levels, eating habits, preferred foods and personal goals. Available for Apple devices at the App Store and “coming soon” to Google Play, the app allows you to input data such as how active your lifestyle is and how much weight you want to lose, before coming up with a choice of meal plans that in theory shouldn’t turn your stomach or push you over the edge. Tables and charts break down protein, carbohydrate, fat consumption etc. and there’s a daily success rating based on how closely you’ve stuck to the target consumption.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, it can even save a trip to the supermarket by purchasing the ingredients necessary to rustle up these healthy snacks via the “Grocery list”. UK users can simply add items to this list and then place an order at Tescos or ASDA, with more supermarkets to be added in due course. It can also help when you’re eating out, and is being offered to chains such as Pret, pod, eat, Costa Coffee and Café Nero with the aim of showing you which of the foods available to eat there will fit your plan.

Finally, if you have a Withings compatible wireless scale and associated app you can sync it with Nutrino to keep track of weight gain/loss, with meal plans adjusted automatically to stay in line with your goals.

“We created Nutrino because we were tired of seeing so much of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to nutrition. We believe nutrition should be personal to each individual. People are using lots of different apps and gadgets to track their diet or fitness but there is nothing out there that delivers recommendations that are personalised to each of us.”

Jonathan Lipnick, CEO and co-foudner of Nutrino

Nutrino can be downloaded from the Apple App Store today for free, so there’s no reason not to give it a try. An Android version is “in development”, but there’s no confirmed release date as yet. For more information visit www.nutrino.co

TomTom GPS Sports Watches: Exercise and Technology – the Perfect Fit?

TomTom-GPS-Sports-Watch

I’m more active that you might expect for someone who edits a gadget website and spends all day and I love any chance I get to combine exercise and technology. I’ve tried many a pedometer the FitBit One being a current favourite) and I love my Withings wireless scales. But one of the coolest fitness I’ve used was the Nike Sportswatch powered by TomTom. So I was interested to hear that TomTom was coming out with a new product that “completely re-designs the GPS Sport Watch.”

TomTom-Running-Man

The new, ultra-slim (11.5 mm) TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport GPS sport watches feature an extra-large,high-resolution and high-contrast display, full-screen graphical training tools and the headline feature one-button control so it’s easy to access information without slowing down.

Swimming-Sports-Watch

“We know that most GPS watches on the market are too bulky and complicated to use while training. Runners and multi-sport athletes can now view their performance information at-a-glance, making it easier to achieve their fitness goals.”
Corinne Vigreux, managing director, TomTom Consumer.

GPS-Woman-Running

The new watches feature TomTom’s Graphical Training Partner – basically easy-to-read full-screen graphics so you can optimise your workouts with access to relevant information. There are graphical training modes: Run, Goal and Zone. The one button controls are great for navigating key stats (and also just for controlling your watch), especially when running, swimming or cycling (I hate fiddling with buttons in the rain or through cycling gloves). TomTom claim you can use the battery for up to 10 hours in GPS mode which is more than fine for my stamina levels.

TomTom-Cycling

Another great feature is the ability to accurately track indoor runs using built-in sensors to count strides, so your treadmill runs aren’t “lost”. Rather than locking your data down to a proprietary platform you can sync, analyse and share stats on popular running sites and community platforms, including the TomTom MySports website, MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, TrainingPeaks and MyFitnessPal. Long-lasting battery: Up to 10-hour battery life (GPS Mode)

The TomTom Runner and TomTom Multi-Sport will be available in Summer 2013. For more information head to TomTom.

Alpha-Stim: Two Minutes to Stop Smoking

Alpha-Stim-Aid

Products with Greek letters in their names tend to go one of two ways. They either become super popular and important (Omega watches) or flop massively (Betamax, Nu Coke*). So what will happen with the Alpha-Stim – can it actually help people stop smoking? 

Flirting with the realm of science fiction, the Alpha-Stim clips onto your earlobes and pumps microcurrents into your brain to cure cigarette addiction in as little as two minutes. Based on a technology used to get rock stars off heroin addiction, the Alpha-Stim can be used to treat anxiety, insomnia, depression and stress, although it has shown some of the best results on addition.

The device fires 50-100 microamps of electricity through the ears, which increases the frequency of alpha brain waves. The enhanced alpha waves are said to help induce a relaxed state that calms the nervous system. The exact mechanisms by which the Alpha-Stim produces these effects, however, are not fully known – so it’s still possible that it’s a secret mind-control device.

The best estimate is that the microcurrent waveform activates particular groups of nerve cells that are located at the brainstem – the groups that produce serotonin and acetylcholine. These two chemicals are widely known for their ability to improve human moods.

A big backer of the product, Dr. William S Eidelman witnessed the device being used on 2000 smokers, and recorded an average drop in the strength of cravings from 8/10 to 0/10 in as little as two minutes. Patients had to use the device 3-7 times a day to start with, but by Day 4 the number of required sessions had dropped, and between weeks 1 and 4 cravings had stopped entirely.

Eidelman is a bit of a controversial character – he shot to fame in 2004 after the Medical Board of California looked to revoke his license for promoting the use of marijuana to patients. The case was thrown-out, however, and the American continues to promote less-traditional forms of medication like the Alpha-Stim. Unlike cannabis, however, the Alpha-Stim is fully FDA-approved

Patrick Strudwick, from The Telegraph, tried an earlier version of the device in 2010, and said good things about the unit – although he noted that drinking alcohol and using the Alpha-Stim was not recommended.

Oh, and it’s also recommended for use with horses.

Find out more at Alpha Stim.

*Artist license taken with the spelling of New Coke

Zone Dome: Get Off the Beaten Track

RunZone

If you’re one of the UK’s 5 million recreational runners and are looking for something to add a bit of sparkle to a mundane slog on the treadmill, perhaps a trip through to rolling grasslands of Mongolia’s Himalayan foothills will give you that extra motivation to push on.

Thanks to the Zone Dome, the latest marriage between fitness and technology and product of self-confessed health and fitness veterans Running Unlimited, you can leave the insect repellent in the cupboard and become immersed in some of the world’s most inspiring locations from the comfort of your home or a local gym. The free-standing, 1.5 metre wide display shows one of five supplied themes that include Monument Valley, Route 66, Humphrey’s Peak, Dawn at Joshua Tree and even Area 51, though you didn’t hear that from us.

Able to select 20 or 40 minute runs at speeds of between 9 and 12 km/h, the Zone Dome is compatible with any treadmill and is aimed at gyms and hotels as well as luxury domestic use. Though unfortunately there’s no audio, we certainly like the idea of being able to run past elephants, giraffes and hyenas in Tanzania’s Serengeti, or trawl the rock-strewn landscapes of Monument Valley, but you might want to start saving the pennies if you’re planning to buy one for the home.

The Zone Dome costs £3,940 for the unit and five supplied destinations, with additional five-film bundles available to purchase as add-ons for £500. However, Running Unlimited says the Zone Dome could be “coming to a gym near you soon” and is currently in negotiations with a range of facilities across the UK, so if you’re not willing to shell out for a unit for the home just yet why not have a word with the manager on your next trip to Fitness First.

For more information and some pretty breathtaking landscapes visit Running Unlimited

Dyson AirBlade Tap Hand Dryer: Throwing in the towel

Dyson-AirBlade-Range

Dyson invited us out to South Kensington yesterday to show off the latest results of their mad tinkering. In an era of increasingly homogenised technology it’s always comforting to be in the presence of some old fashioned engineering geniuses who make things that look how gadgets are supposed to look. The star of the show was the Dyson Airblade Tap hand dryer but there were also tweaks to the existing Airblade models that you know and have complicated relationship with.

The Dyson Airblade Tap hand dryer washes and dries hands with no need to leave the sink so no more hands dripping water across floor. Or queues to use the dryer. The sleek design looks like something robots would use to hose down and is made from 304 stainless steel – an anti-corrosion steel used for the construction of boats. It’s not just shiny, but pretty tough too and can withstand pressure that would make a conventional tap explode.

Dyson-Airblade-Tap

As with all modern taps and dryers, infrared sensors are used to pinpoint hand positions and release water from the tap stem. Once hands are wet and drying is requested, integrated circuitry computes the information and activates two high velocity sheets of air on the tap’s branches. Unheated clean air is released to scrape water off hands in a process Dyson claims only takes 12 seconds. Having used the regular Airblade I’m a little sceptical although I do on balance find them faster than regular dryers.

Speaking of which the Dyson Airblade V hand dryer is now 60% smaller yet just as fast. Two sheets of high velocity air angled at 115 degrees span the width of each hand, and scrape off water in just 10 seconds. I don’t see this unit installed as much as the Dyson Airblade which is now a little lighter having lost 1.1kg of materials. It is also now HACCP approved for hygiene, so it is safe for use in the food and beverage industry.

Dyson Airblade Tap hand dryer: £999.99 All models
Dyson Airblade V hand dryer: £499.99 PC white/£519.99 Nickel
Dyson Airblade mk2 hand dryer: £649.99 PC ABS/ £799.99 Aluminium
Wiping on the back of your jeans: £000.00 Levis/Wranglers

Runware – the iPhone App that’s all heart

runalyzer

If you’re one of those joggers who go round and round, then Runware, the French-based Smartphone accessory company, have an App for you. The Runalyzer Sport Pack consists of a heart-monitor, armband and chest strap that will allow you to effectively measure your performance when exercising that will turn your iPhone into a mini sports coach.

The Sports Pack has been designed with the entire spectrum of user in mind, from the casual jogger, to the amateur athlete, right up to the professional sportsman. Or woman.

The company already sells a number of fitness applications that are available on Apple’s App store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod, but the Runalyzer Sports Pack is the first time they have released accessories that can be used during training and exercise. The pack includes the heart-rate monitor, an armband, chest strap and receiver for you to use with your designated Apple product. Although if you’re looking to strap an iPad onto yourself before you set off, we’d maybe recommend a rethink…

By using the App when you exercise, you will be able to compare your own rates with the recommended levels, which tell you how fast your heart should be beating during your workout. You can even set voice announcements that will help you increase or decrease your tempo at given points, which you can customise to your preference. This can all be combined with the inbuilt GPS facility to determine routes you can take when out and about, along with average speed taken, total distance and time. You can even calculate how many calories you have lost during the workout – perfect for losing weight or looking to trim down. It really does seem to have it all.

Budding Daley Thompsons can visit Runware for more information.

Electrolux Infisight and Zanussi QUADRO: Take your home cooking up a notch.

We recently did a feature on fitness gadget that covered all sorts of bits and bobs that will help you stay trim for 2013. However as I’m sure you know “great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” so we thought we’d also look at two new devices that will help out with your eating habits.

Food

Have a tiny kitchen? Join the club. Great. Now it’s even more crowded. If you’re trying to create dishes in a cramped urban setting you might want to investigate Zanussi’s family-sized microwave oven from its new QUADRO range.

Zanussi-Combi

The Zanussi ZKC38310XK can be used as a traditional oven, a microwave to reheat food and as a combination-microwave oven to cook food in half the time – handy if you need a second oven whilst entertaining … or if you just want a first oven for your tiny flat. The combi-microwave uses Thermaflow fan cooking to ensure that hot air spreads evenly within the oven so the crisp/moist mix of your food should be maintained. Yours for around £635.

Infisight-Oven

If you have a little bit more room to work with you might consider getting serious with the Electrolux InfiSight pyrolitic oven. Pyrolitc cleaning means that at the touch of a button the over will heat to nearly 500 degrees, turning all food residue and grease into a fine ash that can be simply wiped away. It’s the oven of choice for Bond villains.

The InfiSight has a colour screen which a database of recipes and you can choose between 13 heating modes, 87 pre-set cooking programs and 18 functions, including 20 settings of your own. The screen will then display your selected heating mode, the actual temperature and the remaining cooking time.

The InfiSight features a FoodProbe to check the temperature of your food and displays it on the colour screen so you get a virtual look inside your meal and have a good idea of when it’s ready to pop out. No more burnt dinners. You can also the cooking level of the oven so that your food is medium, rare or well done … through choice.

Yours for £1,099