Smart Fitness: Your Home as Your Workout Partner

Smart fitness with activity trackers suitable for smart homes: Making activity trackers part of home automation systems keeps you motivated both during workouts and throughout the day. This is how smart fitness looks like. 

Activity tracking using sports watches is becoming increasingly popular among the keep-fit community. No surprise there as these useful gadgets record the number of steps, stairs climbed and distance covered which gives you that really satisfying feeling of achievement. However, wearing a fitness tracker does not inevitably translate into doing more exercise, as shown in this study carried out by a team of sports scientists based in the US. The secret of staying motivated is setting yourself clearly defined and achievable goals. And what’s more, your home automation system can help you achieve these goals. For instance, connecting your fitness tracker to our platform allows you to stage a competition among friends that help you all get out of the door for a little evening jog instead of couch-potatoing in front of the box. Moreover, get the thumbs-up for reaching a fitness milestone or a well-executed session – all of this tailored to you, and in a fully automated fashion. We show you what smart fitness set-ups can do for you.

How activity trackers work

These days, activity trackers (aka fitness trackers) are the most widely used fitness equipment  across the board. Activity trackers share some of the features also found in smartwatches. They collect performance data during a variety of sports and activities, display them on a built-in screen, and use Bluetooth to forward them to a smartphone app. 

FitBit_Display
Different information are shown on the display, like here by FitBit

 

Garmin Display
Information in the app are easy visualized, as shown by Garmin

 

The devices assess your fitness using activity based-parameters such as the number of steps, mileage and altitude covered, and exercise duration. Depending on what product you choose, trackers are also able to differentiate between walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, swimming, gym workouts and other types of exercise.   

An increasing number of products now provide training guidance and automatically hook up to gym equipment. Almost all trackers come with software that uses your size, weight and age to tell you how many calories you’ve burnt during your workout.

Trackers at the very top of the price bracket also monitor your health. This includes monitoring your heart rate, your sleep pattern and your stress levels. Some product come with an app that helps women keep track of their menstrual cycle. What’s more, some smartwatch and tracker brands are currently testing prototypes that feature a built-in ECG which allows  them to issue health warnings.

In short, activity trackers help you stay healthy, both physically and mentally. However, these gadgets are by no means the only smart devices available to you when it comes to monitoring your wellbeing:  smart blood pressure monitors and smart scales collect other key parameters such as weight, BMI and body fat percentage, enabling you to build a comprehensive picture of your fitness progress and health.

Smarte Waage Polar FitBit.jpg
Smart scales are available from many manufacturers with different functions, two examples from Polar and FitBit are shown here

 

How to set-up and operated activity trackers

Some of the products are ready to use straight after you’ve taken them out of the box. However, in that state, they are basically nothing else than a digital watch. If you really want to unleash the potential of trackers you need to connect them to your smartphone.  Trackers support Bluetooth, so no problem there. Afterwards, you can use the app that comes with the product and usually supports both iOS and Android phones. However, if your phone operates Windows 10 Mobile, your choice of sports and fitness apps may be rather limited.

Using the app requires setting up a cloud-based account with the app provider. This means you don’t lose your fitness data even if you decide to update your tracker by replacing it with one from another brand. Also means you can continue to monitor your progress in the long term, and adjust your training accordingly if necessary.
Moreover, linking your tracker to the cloud allows you to share and compare performance data with friends, and that irrespective of what tracker or smartwatch brand they are using. Moreover, the cloud makes your smart home your workout partner that sends you notifications to keep you motivated throughout the day.

Get inspired: Smart fitness projects on Conrad Connect

You do like your sports but sometimes lack the drive to make it out of the door? Why not let your friends and your smart home help you out? Connect your activity trackers to our platform and use them in a fitness-inspired project. Whether you come up with our own created via our rule editor or pick one shared by members of our community is entirely up to you. Anyway, below two of the most popular Conrad Connect fitness projects:

FitBit_Sport in der Gruppe
Sport in the group is fun and energizes by comparing
the fitness data, here shown with FitBit

Fitness Competition: who clocks the most steps?

This Smart Fitness project allows you to compare performance data on your activity tracker with those of your friends. And that irrespective of the brand you or your friends use. Because your progress is recorded and shared on a Google spreadsheet, and you get a text message whenever you’ve reached one of your fitness milestones. Which also provides a bit of inspiration for your partner or friends. The current project set-up compares Fitbit data with Garmin data. Goes without saying that swapping the products used in the project for trackers from any other brand isn’t a problem at all. 

Gesund Essen_FitBit
Also regarding a healthy diet, your Fitness bracelet,
such as the one shown by FitBit, assist - especially in
connection with smart projects

Sweet alert: avoiding carb overindulgence

Nothing wrong with digging into the sweet stuff if you do a lot of exercises. However, what about days when you are still short of your fitness goals? Or those times when the smart scales in your bathroom tell you that your weight is still a bit on the heavy side? Check out this project that helps you resist temptation: whenever the contact sensor attached to the drawer you stash the choc cream eggs in detects activity, Philips Hue smart lighting is going red alert. And if you incorporate this project, too, a healthy fruit basket gets the limelight that it deserves the courtesy of Philips Hue Smart Lighting.

More Smart Fitness Smart Home projects

How to find a fitness tracker that suits you

When it comes to activity trackers, customers are spoilt for choice. Moreover, appearances can be deceptive. Means even if some products look pretty much the same on the outside, their features may be substantially different. So, how to pick a device that suits your needs, without paying through the nose? One way is to compare online product reviews by independent consumer associations or tech bloggers. However, considering the massive amount of trackers available these days, testers might not have had time yet to assess the product you are after. Fear not, for below are some guidelines that help you make an informed decision.

Smarte Alltagsuhr im coolen Design_Garmin
Smart watches are also available for everyday use with
cool design, such as shown here from Garmin

Smartphone support: To help you get the most out of a fitness tracker, the device needs to be capable of pairing up with your mobile phone. If you’ve got a recent iOS or Android phone, you gonna be okay. However, trackers that support Windows 10 Mobile are still few and far between. Also, check out whether the app is easy to use, works reliably and comes with excellent readability. Because, in the end, it’s both software and tracker together that account for the overall experience. Means reading some of the user reviews posted in Google’s and Apple’s download stores is always a good idea.

Design: Some trackers look like 22nd-century wrist computers. Some provide a genuine 20th-century watch retro vibe. And some resemble something in between. In short, plenty of styles to choose from. However, make sure that the tracker size corresponds with the size of your wrist. Round trackers come with diameters ranging from 36 mm to 46 mm. As we are talking sports products, wrist straps tend to be made of easy-to-clean silicone, with leather or fabric watch bands being less common. If you want to wear your tracker as a fashion accessory, opt for one that features a changeable wrist band.

Smarte Uhr im coolen Design für Frauen_Garmin
Or here, also by Garmin, as a smart everyday
companion with a feminine design

Features: Generally, the number of tracker functions roughly correlates to the different types of sports a tracker supports. Speaking of which, heart rate monitors and sleep tracking are features limited to more expensive devices. Advanced trackers notify you if you got a text message or received calls on your mobile. They also support the use of apps. If you want to leave your mobile at home yet still want to map your running routes, the product requires built-in GPS. Nowadays, trackers are increasingly moving on from being just sports equipment towards holistic health and wellness monitors. Devices featuring a built-in ECG are already in the pipeline. One thing you gotta keep in mind though: elaborate features normally tend to drain tracker batteries.

Battery life: Battery life you need to take into account when deciding on a tracker. After all,  you don’t want to run out of juice mid-activity, nor miss a session waiting for the device to recharge.  As a rule, activity trackers consume less energy than smartwatches which also support apps and audio playback. A fully charged battery should keep you going for a minimum of three or four days. Some products come with a button cell that lasts about a year. In the end, it’s up to you: if you favour power-guzzling features such as a colour display and GPS, you need to check the battery status at regular intervals. On the other hand, deactivating Bluetooth prevents the tracker from continuously synching with your mobile phone which boosts battery life.

Housing: Does your chosen product come with a display large enough to allow easy readability both indoors and outdoors? What about dust- and waterproofness? If you are going to use your tracker a lot, selecting products with a higher IP rating always pays off. And you can’t go wrong with a shatter- and scratch-proof screen, in particular, if tough outdoor challenges are your middle name.

smarte Kinderuhren_Garmin
Smart watches for children, as here e.g. by Garmin,
often come in different colours and patterns

Price: If you want a product that’s quality and fit for purpose, you are looking at prices between €80 and €250. Most cheaper trackers don’t cut the mustard. And if you want to go for top-end multifunction sports watches with built-in GPS, be prepared to shell out €500 or more.

Children’s watches: More and more brands supply activity trackers designed for children. Choosing a product suitable for your young ones follows pretty much the same lines as picking one for yourself. The main difference is the looks: tracker, wrist band and GUI are designed to appeal to children. Moreover, brands that allow parents to monitor the whereabouts of their children may come in handy.

Using Smart Fitness Devices on Conrad Connect

Fitbit: One of the trailblazers when talking activity tracking. Fitbit supplies a wide range of trackers covering everything from straightforward devices to technical marvels that make smartwatches go green with envy. Fitbit’s product line comprises wearables both with and without heart rate monitors, with the Fitbit Ace having been specially designed with children in mind. Fitbit trackers don’t just come with an iOS and Android app but also support smartphones running Windows 10 Mobile. Something you sure don’t see every day.

Fitness-Tracker bei FitBit unterschiedliche Modelle
FitBit offers different models of fitness trackers: Before buying, you should compare functions and design and then become active thanks to smart projects

 

Garmin: When it comes to digital sports watches suitable for different types of sports, Garmin’s been around from day one. Most of the company’s most recent smart models easily synch with mobile phones. Also part of the product line: a huge selection of activity trackers, some of them featuring a built-in heart rate monitor. More advanced versions come with a GPS means they don’t need a smartphone link to map out routes. And there are plenty of really stylish watches as well as products specifically aimed at children to choose from.

SmartWatches_Garmin_Übersicht
Whether in the office or outdoors: Your fitness tracker is, depending on the model, the perfect companions for different situations - but you should first know what you need and want

 

Polar: If you are looking for sports watches, bike computers and activity trackers, Polar is a brand worth checking out. For many years, the company has been popular with recreational, amateur and professional athletes alike, supplying products that track your activity and measure your heart rate. Besides their stylish design, Polar sports electronics come with a range of smartphone fitness apps and software for Windows PCs.

SmartWatches Polar Übersicht
With friends or your partner - doing sports is often more fun together! With fitness trackers, you can also compare results easily, such as here from Polar

 

Withings: Withings (at some point Nokia) stand for activity trackers that are crammed with the latest technology but deliberately avoid to look the part. Means most products feature a circular housing, analogue dials and three hands. The only giveaways that there’s more to them than telling the time are mini displays and an additional hand. Depending on the tracker, you also get a built-in heart rate monitor. What’s more, Withings are the first company that supplies a product that comes with a built-in ECG. Withings also supply a range of other health and fitness products, including smart scales that read weight, BMI and body fat percentage,  smart mats designed for sleep tracking and blood pressure monitors.