By: Jade Lawson
Fitness trackers have some new competition and the future of popular fitness bands is changing.
The OMsignal biometric smartwear is breaking ground on a new, unexplored, area of fitness wear that allows users to measure heart rate, breathing rate, breathing depth, activity intensity, steps taken, calories burned, and heart rate variability. Measurement of these areas is possible in some of today’s top fitness bands and smartwatches, but these new shirts allow for a wider range of usage than just fitness or light daily activity. Popular fitness tracking bands like Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up24 are only capable of measuring steps taken and activity intensity. These tracking bands can only estimate calories burned based on the wearer’s personal data of height, weight, and age. Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up24 are sometimes marketed as being for day-to-day use, but they are most effective with high activity levels. The company Fitbit is aware that the market is changing, so they have just released information on their latest fitness trackers to be available early 2015 and they will be competing with OMsignal’s womens line. The Fitbit Charge is available now and the other 2 new Fitbit bands now include measurement of heart rate. However, OMsignal shirts are better fitted for use in daily lives and health testing because they have more health monitoring variables such as breathing rate/depth and heart rate variability. While these shirts aren’t meant to replace a visit to the doctor, they do take self-health monitoring a step further. They are a great tool in the ever-growing future of self-tracking, and personal health awareness.
How does it work? The biometric sensors that take in all the rates, activity, calories burned, and heart rate are in the shirt but, the shirt itself doesn’t send the data to the application. In order to send the biometric sensor data from the shirt to the user’s phone application the user must purchase a data module. This data module does most of the work; it uses continual data collection to record data even when the user is away from their phone. Continual data collection means users can be phone free when working out and still receive all their workout statistics later. The data module uses low-power Bluetooth LE to send the data to an OMsignal application, which limits use to iPhones 4s and newer, and androids with low-power Bluetooth LE capability. Currently the app is only available for iOS, but there are plans for operating system expansion in 2015.
Common concerns with technological wearables are waterproofing, battery life, and data protection. The shirts can be washed in a machine just like any other fitness shirt, but the data module isn’t waterproof. The data module sits connected in a pocket in the shirt and can be removed for wash or can be transferred to another shirt. While the data module is water-resistant (meaning it’s sweat-proof and capable of handling a light rain) it cannot function when immersed in water. The data module’s battery can last through 30 1-hour long workouts, or 2-3 days of continuous use. It is not as long of a continuous usage time as wrist wearables like Fitbit Flex, and Jawbone Up24, but the Data Module also conveys more biometric data variables. The data that is taken in by the module is recorded and stored on a secure server. The data is associated with the user’s account so in the event of the app being deleted, or user’s phone upgraded, it stays secure and is transferable.
Apps can sometimes make or break a product, especially when it relies heavily on the app’s functionality, design, and ease of use. OMsignal’s app design and functionality looks good, and seems like it will lift the product up, rather than bring it down. Omsignal describes their app best, “Prescriptive notifications assist post-training recovery by monitoring how your body behaves over time, with access to key data including heart rate recovery and breathing at rest, to monitor improvements in health and fitness. Lifestyle mode monitors your body’s energy, physical stress and activity levels, offering continuous insights throughout the day, allowing you to live a more balanced and focused life.”
The shirts are currently available for pre-order, and are to be shipped out starting November 24, 2014. They promote the starter or “up & running kit,” which usually costs $240. It is currently on sale for $199 for a limited time and includes 1 standard OMsignal shirt and a data module. There are a few other, more expensive, kits that include more than one shirt, as well as their lifestyle line. Sizing is from extra small to extra large, and can be worn under additional clothing.
Shirts that are meant for working out are fitted a certain way to improve blood circulation, enhance performance, and help muscles recover faster. Shirts that are meant for lifestyle are shaped and fitted to help posture. All Omsignal shirts have climate control and moisture wicking. They are made of anti-microbial material and fight-odor causing bacteria which eliminates “after-workout smell.”
It doesn’t go unnoticed that there are no women featured wearing the product on the website, nor are there women’s shirts listed on the product page. At the bottom of the home page is an email input to receive information on the women’s collection. A collection that OMsignal plans to release in 2015. It begs the question though, did they think men’s shirts were more important to get done first, were they easier, or was it just the way they went about design? There are quite a few women on the OMsignal team, so the delay in the women’s collection shouldn’t be considered male bias, but it’s been shown that when it comes to things that are considered “strong” and “manly,” like fitness, men’s products take priority. OMsignal has said “The sensors of the OMsignal shirt need to be worn directly on the skin to give the best readings and we are currently working on a female design that fits a women’s body perfectly.” OMsignal displays the women’s shirt in their promotional video seen below. The advantages displayed are focused less on those available to the men’s shirt in relation to activity and more focused on lifestyle. Lifestyle that includes pregnancy monitoring with an ability to observe an unborn baby’s heart rate separately from the mother’s heart rate.
A lot of work went into the creation of these shirts; they weren’t made by one person with an idea, but by a team. A team of 34 unique individuals ranging from smart textile and marketing specialists, to BioE scientists and engineers, software developers and engineers, and most importantly, a chief medical officer. It is important to note the type of people involved in the making of this product because it shows that it has a high chance for success and support down the road. Many years of research and testing got the OMsignal biometric smartwear to this stage, and plenty more research and testing will advance it even more in the future.
All supporting information taken from OMsignal.com
Images credit: OMsignal.com
Videos credit: Youtube.com/OMsignalTV