Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Changing of the Guard - Goodbye BodyBugg, Hello FitBit

Zack and I are some of the biggest technology wieners there are.  We are constantly using technology in our everyday lives and are always researching what is taking place in the development of technology.

Each of us have our various areas within technology that we like to use and research.  Zack's primary technology focus is obvious, video games and video game platforms.  He is able to give you an almost blow-by-blow history of the development of various video game platforms (i.e Playstation, Wii, Nintendo DS, etc.)  He can tell you the years that they came out, what their main features were and how successful they were.  The same holds true for various video game franchises.  For example, one of his favorite video game franchises is Nintendo's Mario Bros.  Zack know each of the many games in the series, who are the main characters and what platform for which it was released - Nintendo 64, Nitendo Game Cube, Wii or the WiiU.

Personally, I wish Zack had some other technology area of intense interest other than video games.  But given he is a 14 year-old boy, I guess it just is what it is.  I am sure as the years pass he will develop other, more worthwhile interests in technology.

As for me, my primary tech interests are GPS technology and body performance tracking.  GPS technology is pretty well self explanatory.  Body performance tracking is not so self-explanatory.  This term is not necessarily even an industry accepted term, instead it is just a term I use to describe what I attempt to do.

Body performance tracking is how well your body is working to accomplish a goal.  For me the goal that I want to track is how well I am getting to or maintain the weight I want and ensuring a high level of activity to meet fitness goals.  The tool that I use in this effort is my trusty BodyBugg.  Essentially, the BodyBugg is a wearable microprocessor that tracks how active a person is and then translates this into how many calories they are burning.  My first notice of the Bodybugg was when I saw a clip of the show "The Biggest Loser".  I noticed that each contestant on the show was wearing a band around their biceps.  Not sure of what it was I asked person who I knew watched the show if they were aware of what it was.  They were, and told me all about the BodyBugg.  Given that I am such a numbers guy, the thought of tracking all the things that the BodyBugg tracked was an instant hit with me and I knew I had to have one.  Luckily for me, the BodyBugg was sold by the health club chain I belong to, 24 Hour Fitness.  So for Christmas of 2009, I got my first BodyBugg.

Immediately taken by all the data the BodyBugg provided me, I set out to track as much information as I could about myself using the device.  Ever since I first slipped that band around my arm in December of 2009, I have rarely been without a BodyBugg on my person.  I did stop using it for about 7 months from the time of my leg surgery in October 2011 until after my final back surgery in April of 2012.  But other than that period of time, I have tracked how many calories I burn, how much I walk and when I burn the most calories through my BodyBugg.  I am currently on my third device as being on my body 24 hours a day, with the exception of when I shower, tends to beat the crap out of them.  Based upon this constant usage I have expected to buy a new device once a year.

Despite my love of my BodyBugg, I recently made a fateful decision that it was time to replace the BodyBugg with a different device.  My decision to do this has been driven by the fact that the BodyBugg hasn't evolved much over the last 4 years.  Whereas there are other types of equipment that are entering the market place that capture even more information about you, the BodyBugg hasn't really changed over the years that I have owned one.

After doing some research I made the decision to migrate to the FitBit Flex technology.  I won't be able to transfer my old BodyBugg data to FitBit but so far none of the companies in this space have focused on making your data very portable.  So the transfer of data hasn't really played a major part in my decision.  (I mention the transfer of data, because it is something that I will discuss in another post this week about GPS's.)

The were several factors that made me decide upon the FitBit as opposed to another platform.  The first is that it is a wrist worn device.  The BodyBugg has to be worn around your bicep and it looks kind of goofy.  The elastic band by which you wear the BodyBugg is notoriously crappy.  Velcro is used to clasp the band together, but the Velcro patches are secured to the band with a sticky glue that doesn't hold too well.  The end result is that after about 4 weeks of wearing the band, the Velcro patch comes lose and then you either have to get another band or jury rig something to fix it.  For me, this has meant wrapping this patch in duck tape, which is not an attractive option.  With the constant pressure of the band around my bicep over the years, my arm has gotten to a point that it hurts, therefore I wanted to move to a band that sat on my wrist.

Another factor is the data that the FitBit tracks.  In addition to  how far I walk it also tracks things like how well I sleep each night.  The BodyBugg has no similar capability.  There are also a variety of different reports about how well your body performs available on the FitBit website.  Along with these reports, the FitBit does a much better job tracking your "Lifetime" statistics than does the BodyBugg.

(The old - my well worn BodyBugg.  Notice the silver duck tape on the strap.)

(My brand new FitBit Flex, notice how much smaller it is as compared to the BodyBugg.)

It's been a long run, but the time has come for me to bid my BodyBugg adieu.  I purchased my FitBit Flex on Saturday and for now I am doing a side-by-side test between it and the BodyBugg to understand the differences between the two and how they are calibrated.  Neither of these tools is 100% accurate, you just need to try and understand how they are different in the nuances by which they capture the data.

This has been somewhat of a mundane narrowly focused post, but it is something in which I have a tremendous interest.  If anyone ever wants to know anything about BodyBuggs or FitBits or any kind of body performance tracking - drop me a line as I might be able to help you out.

In a completely different line of thought, I haven't mentioned the H7N9 Bird Flu in over 2 weeks.  That's because there has been a let up of the news coverage of what is occurring.  If I were all "conspiracy theorist" I would say it was because the situation is out of control and the Chinese government is working with the UN to keep a lid on how bad it is.  Thankfully I am not a conspiracy theorist!  The reality is that according to all published reports the spread of this flu has slowed.  Hopefully it means that my alarmist blog posts of 2 weeks ago were wrong!  Though more people have died and the World Health Organization has pretty much admitted that over 40% of the known cases seem to have been caused by human-to-human transmission.  I am hoping that the news article that popped up today isn't indicative or more flu activity and deaths!

Happy Tuesday to everyone!

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.


Krista said...

How is your comparison going? Is the flex close to being on target with the body bugg?

Jerry Kromer said...

Krista - The two are definitely different. My key focus is always on how many calories I burn and the Fitbit seems to use some different algorithms to determine this than does the Bodybugg. When I was wearing the two side-by-side, I found that they Bodybugg produced higher caloric burns per day than did the Fitbit. As I explored how the Fitbit determined your caloric burn, I came to realize it is much more of an estimate than an actual measurement. The Bodybugg on the other hand determines it's reading by doing an actual measurement. You can see the difference as how the 2 vary in their designs. The Bodybugg sits snugly on a patch of skin and has small like bumps that press directly into your skin. The Fitbit does not sit so snugly on you and it doesn't have the bumps pressed into your skin to measure body temperature etc. You can see from this that the Fitbit uses motion to determine your calorie burn as opposed to actually analyzing the caloric burn through a body temp reading.

Long story short, I love the reporting and data presentation that the Fitbit does, but I also like the Bodybugg because of my perceived view that it is more accurate. So I am still kind of torn but for now I am only wearing the Fitbit.

Robin Brindle said...


Thanks for this comparison! I was wondering the exact same thing about the Fitbit Flex and the Bodybugg.
I too have had the Bodybugg for a few years, and am also thinking of switching to the Fitbit for many of the same reasons; especially it being summer now. I can't cover it up with sleeves and it looks goofy on my arm, but I like to track for as many hours as possible for accuracy; which, bring me to my question. Now that you've had even more time with your Fitbit Flex and reading about your opinion of the differences; what do you think about the Fitbit compared to Bodybugg now? Is it still worth it for me to switch? I know that the Fitbit must not be as accurate (due to the lack of sensors), but how much (in calories) would you estimate they differ for you? The other thing is that my Bodybugg subscription is ending in 10 days, so I want to decide before/by then. I really don't feel that we should have to pay a membership fee for this. Fitbit Flex does not have a fee, right? Thanks so much for the help! -Robin

Shannon King said...

Jerry, I have both also and I've noticed the same things! My BB right now shows me as having burned 3100 cal, and the FF shows 2700. I definitely prefer the look of the FF. I've concluded that Fitbit uses your height, weight, age, and activity level to estimate a BMR? And then uses the pedometer to modify readings? Have you learned anything different on the tech side? There's NO info on their website.

Sweet Charity said...

Thank you so much for this! I have been dying for a comparison of these two. I feel like I'm not ready to leave the bodybugg's accuracy. When you're counting calories - a difference of 400 on a day to day basis counts!