Couch potato call: Mobile World Congress is a fit tech dead zone
BARCELONA—While this year’s International CES featured row after row of fitness and health related gadgets, the show floor at Mobile World Congress is noticeably absent of such devices. While MWC did dedicate a section of the floor to “Mobile Health Technology,” the majority of the vendors featured there were more enterprise- and back-end oriented, such as a company that provides tablet software for doctors to connect to patient records. We were a bit surprised not to see rows of booths offering consumer-level activity trackers, pedometers, glucose and blood pressure monitors, or treadmill desks. Still, we did manage to find a few booths that were showing off fit-friendly gadgets.
Specifically, ANT+ was in attendance, showing off a full line of devices powered by its technology, such as sports watches from Timex, Motoactv, and Garmin, and bike technology from SRAM, Power Max, and Cycle Ops. ANT+, a wireless communication technology that transfers data from sensors to receivers, is used in a great number of fit-tech devices, but doesn’t directly manufacture the gadgets themselves. Instead, they were promoting the mHealth Grand Tour, a 13-day bicycle ride from Brussels to Barcelona. Kicking off on September 5th, the mHealth Grand Tour is designed to promote diabetes management and to raise mobile health awareness.
The other fit tech company we found was Withings, which is showing off its line of fitness and health products, including a Wireless Scale, Activity Tracker, Smart Baby Monitor, and Smart Body Analyzer. While none of these products are new (we also saw them demoed at CES), the interesting part is that they’re now all compatible with Android—which is great news, as the Smart Body Analyzer looks to be quite the paragon of fitness technology.
Looking like a standard scale with a silver circle in the center, the Smart Body Analyzer can measure body mass index, body fat percentage, heart rate, CO2 levels, and recognize individual users. It can also push information from the scale to the Withings app via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to help keep you on track with your fitness goals. For the user, it's just like stepping on any ordinary scale, but the Analyzer offers much more information.
Withings also demoed its Activity Tracker, a miniscule device smaller than an iPod Nano that counts steps, meters climbed, miles or kilometers, calories, quality of sleep, and heart rate. The heart rate measurements are taken by touching a finger to the lights on the rear of the device; results on all measurements can be read and scrolled through via the touchscreen on the face. You can scroll through past data and check old results. There’s also an app that will gather the data collected by the Activity Tracker and organize it into easy-to-read graphs. The tracker can be worn on a wrist band, or clipped to a belt.
Outside of the Mobile Health area, we found one lonely fitness device—the MIO ALPHA
which makes a heart rate monitor watch that is optimized to take accurate measurements at performance level speeds. The ALPHA provides a complete review of your last run, your average heart rate, and time spent in your ideal zone, as well as displaying the time. It transmits this data off the device and into compatible fitness apps such as Wahoo using Bluetooth low-energy.
MIO will be releasing its own app in August; the ALPHA is already shipping to sporting goods stores such as REI. Upcoming features include additional measurements for speed, distance, steps, GPS, and heart rate variability.
Updated on February 28 with a video report.