Fitness bands have been the arms-race tech of 2013, with every manufacturer who is even remotely connected to the sports space rushing to launch their own offering. Polar are next in line, with their Polar Loop set to join the market in early 2014. This is not just another ‘me-too’ fitness band though, as its set to be the first hybrid fitness band / heart rate monitor, allowing it to combine richer workout data with day to dayt activity and sleep patterns. We think this could be the must-have fitness band of Christmas 2013, so here is the full lowdown.
Polar are better known for their heart rate monitors, with the company running a deep line up of such devices. A movement into the fitness band market, joining their heart rate monitor rivals in doing so, is a predictable next step for the company. So what can we expect from the Polar fitness band?
First things first, the latest product out of the Polar stable looks set to be very similar to a lot of fitness bands in terms of its pure fitness band functionality. The formula is quite simple; a snazzy band, usually complete with LEDs and some garish colours, which tracks your movements and monitors your sleep. The recipe is simple and effective, brining a lot of the old joys of a pedometer and allying them with some newer modern tech, all of which is made possible by companion smartphone apps. This new tech means that the humble pedometer has found a whole new modern market, and the sales of devices like the Nike Fuelband have been astonishing. Its this success which has encouraged the rush of new market entrants that we’re seeing at the moment.
The premise of the Polar Loop band will be the same as the Nike Fuelband. You are encouraged to set daily targets, and the Loop will work with you to achieve these goals. It’ll do that through a combination of feeding back data to you, a form of carrot when you consider the layout is focussed on successes rather than failings. Polar have integrated a raft of motivational quotes and info into the feedback, making it something of a tech coach that works with you to cajole better performance. This carrot is met with a stick, in the format of notifications and alerts which tell you when you’re missing those targets.
Fitness bands are a lot more than mere step counters, in fact their goal is to help you achieve an overall healthier lifestyle. A big part of this is your sleep patterns, hence the reason why these bands are designed to track your sleep and to help you improve it. In order to do that, its naturally important that you wear the bracelet as much as possible, with the aim being to wear it 24/7. This is a big consideration with this sort of technology, and makes choosing the best looking (for you) band critical. Polar have opted to make their Loop available only in Black, complete with red LEDs. This is the formula created by Nike, but some reports indicate that a pink variation may launch early next year. There are options like the Pebble if you would prefer something a little lower profile, which doesn’t have to sit on your wrist all day long.
Now the aspect of the Polar Loop that may get fitness fans, as opposed to folks who just want to get a bit more active, excited is the integration of the Loop with heart rate monitors. Many ‘serious’ gym-goers and general sports enthusiasts choose to use this technology to provide a more accurate indication of the intensity of their exercise as well as the calories burned. Where this becomes particularly interesting with fitness bands is its ability to deliver much more accurate data around cycling and other such ill suited (for fitness bands) activities.
Fitness bands use an accelerometer, which is not dissimilar to the one found in many smartphones. This allows it to measure movement within your wrist, which the devices algorithms are able to calculate against set patterns that are indicative of specific activities. This is all based out of lab research, where the manufacturers look at the typical arm swing when walking verses running and other such comparisons. This lets them model typical day to day activities, providing intelligence for the machines when it comes to figuring out what the heck you’re up to at any one moment in time. This is great, but what about activities like cycling, where there is no particular indicative wrist/arm movement?
This is where the heart rate monitor aspect comes in. Naturally you wont want to wear a heart rate monitor all day long, but the great feature of the Loop lies in its ability to utilise this data when you do use a heart rate monitor. So if you’re a keen cyclist or swimmer, you can connect your heart rate monitor up to you’re fitness band, incorporating the richer data into your days activity stats.
This is a huge advantage for keen sports and fitness folks, because it takes the value of a fitness band to the next level. So how and when can you get your hands on one? The Loop is set to launch this October, priced at £68 / $109.95. It will be available across leading sports retailers, as well as directly via the Polar website. The companion app, which provides the actual data points for you, will launch alongside the device on iOS. An android version will launch pre-Christmas.