The Future of Fitbit Ultra
In the past few months I have been using Fitbit as an example for eHealth & Fitness services and also as an example of how connectivity, and consumer web services are changing the landscape. I finally ended up buying my own last week. I am definitely tracking my “steps” with the Fitbit Ultra and the other thing that I am doing is to monitor if I am sleeping well. But my motivation was to understand the intersection of technology with eHealth & Fitness. And I am big believer in the notion/concept of “Connected Life” and Internet of Things, and the Fitbit Ultra is an exemplary device.
So far the Ultra does what it claims and it’s amazing that the device uses an accelerometer to detect movement BUT it is the magic of software (in this case I believe it is good old C-based firmware) that turns data into knowledge. Take a look at the clip of job ad from Fitbit website:
And as a startup they have made a wise choice – of using an low power SOC like the MSP430 from TI – start with a technology that gives incredibly long battery life. I have gone a few days without having to charge my Ultra and it holds up very well. This can only be accomplished by ultra-low power processor coupled with the accelerometer to keep it powered! I also suspect, very strongly, that the MSP430 SKU being used actually is one with an RF Link built into it. The Fitbit Ultra needs the wireless link to sync with the PC and upload the data to the Fitbit site.
The challenge, I believe, is that the wireless technology from TI won’t be built into Tablets or PCs or Smartphones – and hence for bypassing the need for a PC or Mac sync with a dongle is important and it needs to be there future. And the same ad above makes it clear – Fitbit is looking into Bluetooth (and I would guess it would the LE Low Energy version to sustain battery life) and/or Zigbee (which also consumes very little power). The sooner they liberate themselves from the PC, the more innovative the Ultra will get… I would suspect & argue that with the sophisticated processing being done on the accelerometer data from the Ultra – there would be no shortage of beneficial use cases of such an incredible device.