All of us are carrying a valuable piece of real estate that many Internet of Things (IoT) developers would love to occupy - - - our wrists.
A bevy of smart watches, fitness bands and heart rate monitors are competing for that small piece of property once occupied by wrist watches (aka jewelry) that could only give us the time and date. How provincial!
Now companies like FitBit, Jawbone, Mio, Samsung and Huawei want to adorn our wrists with devices that not only tell time, but can monitor our physical activities 24 hours per day/seven days per week. Who needs an expensive Rolex when a $149 wristband gives us the time and a lot more?
We've been using the Samsung Galaxy Gear ($249) smart watch since its inception in 2013 and, although it's been reborn several times into the Gear 2 and now the Gear Fit, we discovered that it can perform several tasks we take for granted.
- It has built-in speaker on the wrist band that allows you to answer phone calls without fumbling for your phone
- It tracks steps, calories burned and other fitness-related vital statistics
- It notifies you if you get a message on your phone and you can read it on your watch
- It can monitor your favorite social media sites for important messages
- Plus you can play games on it
Of course the newer models can perform a lot more tasks - - - we don't even know what the highly-anticipated Apple Phone will do. The one huge drawback is that you need to be within Bluetooth range of your smartphone for most of these functions to work.
The newest entry into this arena is the TalkBand B1 from Huawei Technologies ($129).
The TalkBand is designed to act as a watch/fitness tracker and a Bluetooth/NFC communications device.
The design is a bit different from any of the other fitness bands we've seen in that the earpiece also acts as the display. You need to detach it from the wristband and use it as a headset to make and answer calls. The only complaint we have is that it doesn't have a volume control on the headset. There's just a button to answer and end calls.
Its key features include:
- It tracks steps, calories burned, active time, distance, hours slept, sleep quality and has a built-in alarm
- The USB charger is built into the wristband
- A curved OLED display
- Eight days of "working time" and 14 days of standby time per charge
- Battery charges in less than two hours
The folks at Mio have tailored their smart bands to the needs of the user. We played with four of their products, including the Mio Alpha ($199), Mio Fuse ($149), Mio Velo ($129) and the Mio Link ($99). Each one of these products is aimed at a different market.
Our favorite of the quartet is the Fuse, which not only tracks your exercise habits, but stores your workout data. Plus, it - - - wait for it - - - syncs with your phone to display the correct time, just like a real watch.
All of these products are able to monitor your heart rate without chest straps and sync with an iPhone or Android phone using the MioGo app, which is used to generate reports on your physical activity. But that's where the similarity ends.
The Alpha looks like a typical watch with an LCD mineral glass display, which is used to give you your heart rate in beats per minute, workout time and everything we've come to expect from a watch. The downside is that it can be a bit uncomfortable to wear, especially for folks with larger wrists.
The Velo is designed for bikers and uses a process known as ANT+ to transmit heart rate and performance details to bike computers and GPS watches. ANT+ is a personal network protocol developed by Dynastream Innovations to enable heart rate monitors and other devices that track fitness statistics to "talk" to other devices.
Finally, the Link has all of the features of the Velo, but also bridges the ANT+ capabilities to Bluetooth devices.