An app a day: smartphones that can protect your health

By Rob Sharp

The Basis Band, worn on the wrist, measures motion, skin temperature, sweat level, heart rate and blood oxygen. Photo / Supplied
The Basis Band, worn on the wrist, measures motion, skin temperature, sweat level, heart rate and blood oxygen. Photo / Supplied

Forget the bathroom scales. Those wishing to keep tabs on their health will soon be able to wear an "intelligent bracelet" to monitor their movement and food intake.

The band, packed with microchips that monitor the user's health levels and an accompanying smartphone app, is the latest product exploiting the public's obsession with measuring everything from how frequently they have sex to how far they take in a day.

Aliph, the US technology firm behind the Jawbone UP bracelet, says it aims to launch it globally later this year. While the manufacturers of the band, which also tracks sleep patterns, claim there are health benefits to personal micro-monitoring, some experts have raised concerns over the reliability of such devices, and whether it is wise to publicise details of one's bodily functions across the internet.

Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch Europe, said: "Jawbone has a great existing brand name and they have obviously been monitoring the success of other companies within the field.

"The lucrative nature of the health-gadget market has led to the funding they have been able to attract," he added. "For years venture capitalists have been talking about the power of this sector, and how what was lacking was people's ability to monitor their own health. The addition of product to smartphones is a killer combination".

According to Jawbone's director of European business development, Bandar Antabi, "lifestyle diseases have surpassed communicative diseases as the world's most common killer".

"If people adopt a better way of living, they are preventable," he added. "We are trying to provide a utility to allow people to live healthier lives".

Recent successes in the health-gadget field include Nike Plus, a sensor inserted into your trainers which can connect with an iPhone or iPod Nano, to record your running speed and Basis, a wrist monitor that traces heart rates, temperature and skin response.

Lesley McBride, a chartered physiotherapist who works with the England rugby under-20s squad, said: "While such tools can be useful, there are so many gimmicks out there."

Worried about ...

... your exercise regime?

The Basis Band, worn on the wrist, measures motion, skin temperature, sweat level, heart rate and blood oxygen.

... sleep (or lack of it)?

Lark is a wristband which functions as both an alarm clock and as a sleep sensor, while Sleep Cycle measures people's movement throughout the night.

... blood pressure?

Withings' Blood Pressure Monitor connects a blood pressure monitor into an iPhone. The iHealth Blood Pressure Dock uses a cuff to take blood pressure data.

... calories?

Then try the Fitbit pedometer, which tracks calories burnt, or the BodyMedia FIT armband, which calculates calorie loss.

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