Category Archives: Self Measurement

The Basis of Wearable Technology

As part of the process of self analysis, I have recently purchased, (with the permission of my wonderful wife, and the assistance of one Mrs Kelly Underhill of Arizona), a Basis watch (2014 Edition Carbon Steel).  Okay, so background here.  The Basis watch is one of the more advanced portable health trackers on the market at the moment, in that it continuously measures:

  • Sleep (REM, light and deep)
  • Steps
  • Calorie burn
  • Activities (walking, running, cycling)
  • Heart rate (without chest strap) (high levels of inaccuracy during exercise)
  • Skin temperature
  • Perspiration

As this device is currently not available for purchase for non-US consumers, I purchased it through Amazon.com and had it shipped to a US address (belonging to Kelly).  She then used the less convenient services of the US postal service and had it sent to Spain.  The delivery time from the US was remarkably quick and that cannot be faulted!

So what should one expect from a Basis watch you can ask and here is the unveiling of the device that I received.

The hardware:

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The Complete Basis Watch Content

Above can be seen a lot of box contains the watch, a USB charger, and a simple instruction manual.

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Charging Points on Watchface

Above can be seen the charging points on the side of the Basis watch

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The Rear of the Basis Watch, Showing the Sensors

Above can be seen the rear of the watch, which shows the HR monitor, and the skin temperature and perspiration sensors.

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So that gives you an idea of what to expect of the packaging, and what is contained inside.  It may not look like much and to be honest I thought the same.  However, my main purpose for the purchase was in getting a continuous heart rate monitor that did not require a chest strap, so big pomp and dancing girls were not required, only that it did what it claimed.  I had read some reviews and specifically noted that people had complained that the HR readings during exercise were not consistent, which I have been able to confirm in the week or so that I have worn the watch.  However, for cardio exercise I use my Garmin GPS watch (now in conjunction with the Basis), which has a chest strap and is mostly reliable.

Once opened I put the device on charge with the peculiar charging dock which clips over the top of the watch, holding the charging connectors in place.  This then led me through a series of onscreen setup pages, and required me to create an account with Basis, as the device will store information on their system, and that is how you view your data.

The Installation:

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This was a very straight forward process and at the end you are encouraged to select new habits, which will be recorded by the watch and that you will be able to examine your progress against.  I started with a habit to sleep 8 hours a night, which I am struggling to do, but it has certainly allowed me to snooze during the day with less guilt! 🙂

So let me show you a typical day view from the Basis website:

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The above screenshot shows my activity, which is mostly accurate.  For some reason it has me cycling at 9pm or so, which is when I was frantically working at cleaning a long tube of plastic (another story), but for some reason the Basis sensors put this in the ‘he is cycling’ camp!  It can also be seen that my heart rate during the sweaty walk I took in the morning and into midday was not very reliable and even missing at a point (12:55 to 13:55).  I find the rest of the information insightful, and I hope that over time I will be able to track various movement patterns and exercise levels to physical sensations and hopefully creating injury reduction.

One of the areas that I was not expecting to find as interesting as I do, is the sleep chart:

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This is the chart for last night which claims to be able to show my total sleep time, and the types of sleep I was having.  I am not aware of the algorithms or accuracy of this data.  However, I hope that with time I will be able to overlay this with my mood in the morning and my opinion of my restfulness to determine my perception of its accuracy.

Overall, I am intrigued by the initial offerings and the range of information available in wearing the Basis.

The final point, but one that may be terribly important if you are blessed (?) like me and have skinny, effeminate wrists.  The Basis is a unisex watch and to achieve this, they have made the watch face smaller than a typical manly watch, and perhaps larger than a typical female watch.  This being the case, it is just perfect for my wrist (at least in my opinion). 🙂

Anyhow, a new day of tracking awaits, so when are you going to start the journey into quantifying yourself?  How do you truly know if you are getting better or worse until you start measuring?  Get a baseline of your health and work on being an improved you! 🙂

The Latest Fixation of JJ

Some of you that know me out there have probably realised that I may not be the most conventional person, at least according to the popular view of my contemporaries.

As previously alluded to in the previous post: The Passing Of Time …, I am still deeply interested in the Quantified Self movement.

For those of you without a background of my health (you lucky people), this started a few years back during may participation in the Brighton marathon in the UK.  I noticed at around the 10-13 mile mark I was in trouble.  I was running at a normal pace (some may call it jogging, or excited walking), but it felt as if I was wading through treacle.  It was very difficult to continue.  I invested in a Garmin HR monitor shortly afterwards and started to track things more closely.  This revealed that I would have periods in which my heart rate became elevated, and in those times, the life of exercising was far more difficult than it really ought to have been.  So became my interest in measuring on some level.  When I later started looking into Search Engine Optimisation for work, I understood more deeply the significance of being able to analyse and control those things that we measure.  Without measurement it is all guess work.

We are living in a new age of wearables, and if you have been sleeping for the last couple of years you may not have seen the rise in such devices.  It is very common now for people to be seen with popular fitness tracking appliances, such as Fitbit, but there are countless devices and apps which do such things.  The primary functions of such devices and apps are as glorified pedometers, but additional metrics may be recorded and stored for later perusal and awarding of digital congratulatory badges.

This path has more recently led me into the idea of measuring other aspects.  In the UK in January I had a blood test done to take a snapshot of various aspects of myself which I am not able to detect easily through other means.  The report from the lab came back with the primary message that I am terribly low in 2 vitamins, B12 and D.  Which were to be expected, B12 due to Veganism, and D due to living in the Northern hemisphere.  There were some other minor signals, which I am still understanding and attempting to determine the possible effects of.  However, this leaves me wondering what else there is to discover.

I often hear people state all sort of comments about their health based on their personality.  Some people want to believe that they are healthy, and some people want to believe that they are sick, and this will be reflected in the things that they say.  However, either way this is rarely a true reflection of their health.  I am not immune to this, so having records mean that I do not have to rely on my less than accurate capacity of recall, and a unbiased measuring device is a great tool in order to remove the possible inaccuracies that I could quite easily assign to such subjective measures like mood.

The more things that I can track and measure, the more possible correlations and causations I hope to find.  From this I may be able to find ways to control my heart rate, and detect problems before they arise.  I realise that this is a new area of science, and open to all sort of inaccuracies, but hey, you need to take sides every now and then, so I am thinking to follow this one until the coffers run dry! 🙂

Please let me know your thoughts?  Do you track any aspects of your health?  Would you ever consider trying?  Do you think that you have a healthy lifestyle?  Do you think that I am a couple of saucers short of a tea party?  What ever your thoughts, please let us know!  It is always good to know how far I have strayed from normal! 🙂