Is 2012 the year of the health sensor <-> app <-> web tipping point?

There’s never been a shortage of people looking to lose weight, get fit and generally improve their health. And the turn of the year always seems to bring out the best of intentions. 2012 feels a bit different, it seems that suddenly there is a tipping point of fitness / health devices and associated, usually smartphone based, apps to help people gather, assess and manage their health data.

Many of these devices have been on the market for a while, months or even years. Some less so. The observation is not that these things are – individually – new pieces of tech. The observation is that there seem a growing collective of these gadgets/apps and it feels as if there is about to be a tipping point into “mainstream” use (i.e. outside the gadget / tech and fanatical health communities).

What am I seeing?

  • Nike Fuelband (released about two weeks ago), the newest multi-purpose health sensor with fitness tracking app
  • Jawbone Up, another multi-purpose health sensor with fitness tracking app
  • Fitbit Ultra, another multi-purpose health sensor with fitness tracking app
  • BodyMedia FIT, another multi-purpose health sensor with fitness tracking app
  • Wahoo Blue HR heart rate strip for iPhone 4S which doesn’t need additional hardware for the phone, hit the shelves in the days before Xmas

Many of these are into their “second version”, suggesting that the first sold enough to be commercially interesting but feedback and experience are bringing a round of improved devices to the market. Additionally, the use of Bluetooth 4.0 means that increasingly there will be no need for buying into the ANT+ ecosystem to connect additional sensors to your smartphone (the Blue HR strap is one of these).

Not to be forgotten, there is an ever growing selection of smartphone apps which blend data from the smartphone’s sensors (typically GPS for distance / speed tracking) with the potential to use add-on sensors (heart rate, cycling cadence, etc.) to give blended exercise information. RunKeeper is probably one of the most notable of these, although there are many worthy of trying out.

Is there about to be a tipping point?

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