Or, what smart gadgets are useful and why- if you want to lead a healthy life? The way I see it, health-related gadgets connecting to the Internet are often answers to simple problems when they first appear in their 1.0 version. Then, in order to be able to sell the 5.0 version, their manufacturers cram them with every little thing even if it doesn’t appear to be needed to solve the original problem. I’ve been using several of these devices for years; this post relies mostly on my experiences with them.
I’d like to show you three devices that measure and record health-related data. Recently, they’ve become unnecessarily overcomplicated in their latest reincarnations, but I still wouldn’t give them up. The great thing about these devices is that they all have less trendy, simpler, slower, less accurate and cheaper analogue versions. I still recommend the newer, Internet-linked versions. Let’s see why.
When I first came across the smart scale made by Withings, I looked at it mostly as a motivational tool. I knew nothing about my body mass index and didn’t care about my body fat, but I disliked seeing my former slim self disappear under layers upon layers of fat. So when I hit 116 kg, I bought the scale to be able to see on charts how I lose weight.
The motivation the scale provided was not as fast and spectacular as I’d hoped, but the scale did help me track the trends in my body weight.
When you buy things like this is, the second reason is almost always that it’ll be good for the children. This is what I had in mind, too. So the other function that drew me to this scale is that it can track babies’ weight gain.
To give you an example, this is my daughter’s weight chart: The scale cleverly recognises the person standing on it, based on the body weight of the family members. When two people in the family have the same weight, the recognition function doesn’t work, but the scale simply asks, who is it? You can select from up to three options by shifting your body weight, which I think is an ingenious solution. I don’t know what happens if four members of the family have the same weight… Our scale can accommodate 7 users, and it doesn’t get confused unless the kids mess up (on purpose, usually) the name selection.
We use the second generation of the scale now. This one measures temperature, CO2 levels, BMI, body fat, and it even tells you the weather forecast for the day. In other words, it has all these functions I don’t need.
We’ve used up about a dozen of the old school digital thermometers over the years. If we need to be certain of the reading, we still go back to the traditional mercury-in-glass thermometer. In our experience, the Internet-connected thermometer is more accurate than the digital ear thermometer, but it falls behind the mercury thermometer in terms of accuracy.
This device measures from the artery and calculates the temperature from that. In addition to its basic function, what caught my attention was that you can select whose temperature in your family you’ve just checked. What’s also important is that it lasts for a long time on a single charge. You don’t want your thermometer to run out of juice right when you need it.
As an aside, I’d like to give some tips on how to organise family health data. You should create a shared table (for example on Google Drive), and on separate worksheets add the following data for each family member:
Basic data: the person’s basic information that can be important for a doctor (date of birth, blood type, allergy, medicine taken regularly, social security number)
Illness journal: in separate lines, you can enter illnesses members of your family suffered from and the medicines they took. You should also mention if the medicine had any side effects.
Vaccination card: you should enter the same data that you have on your paper card. At least you won’t lose this one. In my adult years I’ve had at least three different paper vaccination cards, and I’ve always used the one I’ve managed to rummage up when I needed it.
Heart rate monitor watch
This is a device you most certainly won’t need in your daily life. Under normal circumstances, nobody needs to know their heart rate during the day. Although it’s interesting to see how you’ve had a 200 reading when someone made you mad, it doesn’t have much practical importance. The data from the watch starts to come in handy if you have a goal to achieve with your heart rate. A very typical example is to make a certain sports activity more effective. I don’t really know how to do this scientifically. I wasn’t reading articles about running before or after I ran, and I didn’t analyse my pulse rate charts. Instead, I kept an eye on the current heart rate, and watched what kind of signals my body was sending to me. Based on this, I have now learnt to optimise my running for distance, weight loss or for time – depending on what the current goal is.
Back in the day, I tried a chest strap heart rate monitor, but I never got used to it. It was just uncomfortable and clumsy. Since I use the heart rate monitor for sports, I only wear the watch when I’m engaged in some sports activity.
Things I wouldn’t mind trying
I’ve never had a problem getting up in the morning; maybe that’s why I keep postponing getting a gadget that helps with that. Supposedly it works in a way that you set a 30-minute window when you need to get up, and within that, the gadget decides the best moment to wake you. If any of you’ve had a good experience with such a device, please let me know.
Then there’s a watch that automatically measures your calorie intake, supposedly through your skin.
The air we breathe out also contains a surprising amount of information. You’ve surely come across the police checking your blood alcohol content from your breath. But Mint says there’s a lot of other data to analyse in your breath.
Oh by the way, smart toothbrushes have been around for a while. I personally stick with the good old manual toothbrush.
Not to mention the gadgets what make our sleep better. The super comfy anti snoring smart pillow that plays music, monitors and reacts to snoring, analyses sleep and intelligently wakes up the sleeper in the morning.
And what about devices that promise to analyse your blood quickly and accurately in your own home? I think they still belong to the realm of science fiction.