Small steps. Big impact.

THE FITBIT BLOG

The Fitbit Movement: Join Today!

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Here at Fitbit, we’re constantly inspired by the passion, enthusiasm, stories and advice from our users. Whether you’re emailing us progress updates, telling your friends about us on Facebook, or putting together your own step competitions with friends, our users are always impressing us with both their commitment to getting or staying healthy, and their desire to help their friends and family do the same.  It’s wonderful to have this common shared belief with you — that small everyday changes can be fun and will add up to big results.   And we believe, together, we can bring this belief to more people — and change how many people view fitness today.

For nearly a year, we’ve been experimenting with different tactics to help support and reward the efforts of those who are living examples of our mission to help make the world a healthier place, one step at a time. We’ve created the Fitbit Tell-a-Friend program, created a wide affiliate network, shared insider information, gathered customer stories, promoted your stories to others. Now we would love to open our ambassador program to all of you. As a Fitbit ambassador, you’ll be invited into a new community of Fitbit users whose goal is to share, inspire, and motivate people to be more fit — in a smart, fun, realistic and (Fitbit) way. Additionally, as an ambassador you’ll get insider access to Fitbit news, get to share your Fitbit story, and earn special rewards from us at Fitbit.

We’re still fine-tuning and growing this beta program, but by joining now you can help develop our community and determine its future! If you’re interested, you can apply by filling out this survey. We’ll be in touch with more information about joining to those who do! And we look forward to hearing more of your stories on Facebook and Twitter. Happy stepping!

Finally! Wireless Sync (beta) on Android!

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We’re excited to announce that wireless syncing with Android has arrived! Our free Fitbit App for Android now syncs your Fitbit One and Zip stats directly to the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Note II. With our app, you can sync your stats wirelessly (beta) and see how you are tracking against your daily goals, with friends, and against historic averages. You can download the app from Google Play today!

Android dashboard

Android dashboard

We know how important it is for our customers to get real-time access to their stats. Those who’ve been able to take advantage of wireless background syncing already have been telling us how they’ve worked to get their extra steps in after receiving notifications that they’re close to their goal, or how they find motivation from the instant feedback right on their Dashboard. We are very excited to bring this feature to our Android users!

We began working on the wireless sync for Android and iOS at around the same time. It took us much longer to get this working on Android phones than it did with iOS, and we appreciate our Android users’ patience in the meantime. We know many of you may be curious about the development of this feature, and we’d like to share some insight into some of the challenges we’ve encountered and what they’ve taught us in the process.

  1. Currently, the Android OS does not provide apps with access to the Bluetooth 4.0 chips in newer phones. To work around this, some phones instead have custom software that provides access to Bluetooth 4.0. Since this software is different for each phone, our team has worked on developing a solution for each phone independently.
  2. Fitbit is among the first to try and use the Bluetooth 4.0 in Android phones, and part of being the first means we got to help find and document any problems with the software. We also spent quite a bit of time piecing together how the software works, since it previously hadn’t been well-documented. For many of the problems we encountered, we were able to create our own work-arounds. For others, we coordinated with phone manufacturers and carriers to get more permanent fixes in place.
  3. For phones we have yet to introduce syncing capabilities with, we’re working with phone manufacturers to see which phones will allow our app to work with their Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities. This process involves us individually checking each model of phone. There may be better support for third-party apps to access Bluetooth in the future, and once this is available we will be able to easily support all phones with this update.

We’ve been working hard to improve the wireless sync experience, but the feature is still in beta. Syncing your stats will typically take about 30 seconds. In some cases, especially where there are issues with network connection, it may take longer. We’re working hard to provide the best user experience possible, so improved syncing speed is just one thing you can look forward to seeing in future updates of our Android app.

Fitbit is dedicated to making connected devices that fit seamlessly into your everyday life, and we fully believe that incorporating Android phones in all of our future efforts is a huge part of that. We truly appreciate our Android users’ patience as we continue to work on supporting additional mobile devices. We’re closely collaborating with phone carriers and handset manufacturers to try to support more phones. There’s a number of phones we’re actively working on, but we don’t yet have an ETA on when we might be able to release updates to include them. For now, you can see a list of all of the supported devices here. If your device is not on that list, we encourage you to contact your phone carrier to ask that they work to build out further Bluetooth support. Your feedback could help us speed this process along!

Happy syncing and logging — wherever you go!

–The Fitbit team

Wrist Tracking and More with Fitbit Flex

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We are so thrilled to be announcing Fitbit Flex to everyone. For many years, we managed to keep our research team very busy developing the technology to make Flex, our first wristband product, work the way we want it to work. We wanted to make sure we captured actual steps taken without capturing “steps” from everyday hand motions, like typing, gesturing, or even eating.

One big challenge we faced was that while we managed to not calculate steps from these sitting activities (eating), and avoid steps from driving, we wanted to capture steps when you’re walking but your hands are held still. When would this happen? Well, walking with a stroller of course! It’s actually a common complaint among wrist tracker users. To determine the right algorithms to sense and capture these steps required lots of development and testing.  If you have been near our office in San Francisco, you would have seen many researchers running up and down the street with strollers, wired with all these gadgets to see how we can capture those movements.

Additionally, we waited until now to launch a wristband because we wanted to be able to offer wireless syncing with Android phones as well as iPhones, iPads, and iPods with Bluetooth 4.0. We’re very excited to announce that our products will start syncing with the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Samsung Note 2 in late January/early February, and more devices will follow soon! Viva la mobile!

To keep up with all of our new developments and let us know what you think of Flex, make sure to “Like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

Fitbit Asks: Who “Won” Last Night’s Debate?

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After last night’s presidential debate, the nagging question seems to be “who won: President Obama or Governor Romney?”  It’s a subjective, squishy question that can only be made somewhat quantitative by polling a lot of people on how they felt about the debate.  But what if, instead, you could get some objective measurements on the candidates themselves?  What if you could get insight into their mental state while they debated?  That would be cool… and it’s the object of today’s Fitbit blog post.

You can tell a lot from a person’s face.  A person smiles, they’re happy (usually); a person frowns, they’re not.  That’s the easy stuff.  Believe it or not, you can go much deeper.  Did you know that you can actually measure a person’s heart rate from his or her face?  Really. And from someone’s heart rate, there are various inferences that we can make: such as if they’re stressed, or even lying.

Once we figured out that this was possible, our first thought was, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use this to measure the stress levels of our nation’s leaders? Say, for example, during the next presidential debate?” Last night, under the bright lights of the presidential debate stage, that’s exactly what Fitbit Labs did. Just by looking at their faces.

In the above images, a faint blue box shows the area we’re focusing on for our results. It’s pretty cool: using a regular video camera and some advanced computer algorithms, it’s possible to observe small color changes on someone’s skin as his or her heart pumps.  It’s very much like checking for someone’s pulse by touching his wrist, except in this case the “pulses” are color fluctuations in the face coming from blood volume changes under the skin. In order for this technique to work, the person shouldn’t move too much or the motion ends up interfering with the very subtle colors that you’re trying to measure.  And forget about fancy camera panning like you see used in movies for dramatic effect.

Of course, “normal” heart rates vary from person to person a lot as well. Luckily, in the US we actually publish our leaders’ physicals for the public to see, so we know what each candidate’s heart rate was starting off.

Table 1: Resting heart rate for Pres. Obama and former Gov. Romney from their most recent medical reports

Table 1: Resting heart rate for Pres. Obama and former Gov. Romney from their most recent medical reports

During Gov. Romney’s opening remarks, he stayed still for a few seconds and we saw that his heart rate was 73 bpm, or a 83% elevation above his resting heart rate of 40 bpm.  Not bad.  President Obama’s rebuttal a few minutes later came up at 96 bpm, or a 43% elevation above his resting heart rate of 67 bpm. Even though Romney’s heart rate was lower in the beginning, compared to his resting heart rate he was more worked up right from the start.

Now here’s a breakdown of the results across the debate:

  • Romney’s opening argument: 73 bpm (+83%)
  • Obama’s rebuttal: 96 bpm (+43%)
  • Obama’s closing speech: 59 bpm (-12%)
  • Romney’s closing speech: 75 bpm (+88%)
Or, maybe it’s easier to see as a timeline across the debate from opening to close:
Figure 2: Heart rate elevation for Pres. Obama and former Gov. Romney through the debate

Figure 2: Heart rate elevation for Pres. Obama and former Gov. Romney through the debate

What does this mean? Let’s walk through the debate.

There’s actually a number of different inferences you can make from the data we found. A person’s heart rate naturally accelerates during times of stress — such as a crucial debate being televised to millions of people that decide who will run the entire country. We could look at an elevated heart rate as a measure of nervousness. In that case, we would infer that President Obama was more nervous towards the beginning of the debate, but proved to be one cool cat as the pressure mounted towards the end. In this line of reasoning, Romney, was steadily nervous throughout – and to a higher degree than Obama was. But in this case, we’re making the assumption that the elevated heart rate is related to stress, when that’s not necessarily the case. What if, instead, Romney’s heart rate is a reflection of how amped up he is about his ideas? This could just mean that Romney was really “in the zone” for the debate, while Obama failed to bring a certain excitement for the task at hand. This was, in fact, a popular criticism of Obama’s performance.

So who DID win the debate? Well, if you want the candidate who kept his cool, it was Obama. If you want the one who was most excited, it was Romney. Maybe before the next debate Obama should drink some caffeine to get that energy up. It will be interesting to see how the next debate compares, now that the pressure is really on to be more energetic.

This also makes us here at Fitbit wonder if this sort of technology might have a place in debates in the future. Would a candidate ever agree to be hooked up to an EKG during the debate? Or at the very least, could such data be used to train for debates? We can’t wait to find out.

Disclaimers:

This is just our best guess at the candidates’ heart rates during the debate.  There are a lot of reasons to take these with a grain of salt, but we’d be thrilled to see if others could reproduce or refute our analysis.  Of the things to consider:
1. The heart rate measurements were taken during small clips when there’s no movement. No movement is necessary for accuracy, but ideally we’d have used longer clips (~15 seconds, at least).
2. There’s some natural variation in heart rates as well, especially when a person is calm, and “heart rate” is usually defined as the average heart rate over some time. Since we’re using short clips, we might not have seen enough heart beats to make an accurate measurement.
3. Lighting can change on stage and that would affect the results.
4. In all likelihood, both candidates are wearing makeup for the debate. Since we’re measuring changes in skin coloring, makeup can mask some of this.
5. The videos we used were compressed, and of lower quality. A higher definition video would likely be more accurate.
6. Heart rate alone is not the best measure of stress.  Measures of heart rate variability, skin conductance, etc. used together are much more reliable.

Find Even More Uses for your Fitbit Data with the Fitbit App Gallery!

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You can find all of the great apps that work with Fitbit in one easy location at our App Gallery! There’s currently eight different apps or websites we integrate with that span a variety of functions, from organizing your health information to finding even more motivation and community for your fitness goals. And they’re all completely free!

Ever since we first launched Fitbit there’s been a lot of interest in app developers wanting to create more uses for the Fitbit data, and we’ve been excited to see what they’re coming up with. We’ve also heard all of your feedback about wanting more sites to port information into Fitbit, or vice versa.

With the App Gallery, you can take your Fitbit data with you to sites and apps we’re partnering with. If you’ve been logging food on LoseIt or MyFitnessPal, you can now sync that information to your Fitbit.com account – and vice versa! Join a group challenge at Endomondo for some extra motivation, or track your heart rate with Digifit.

The App Gallery is something we’ll be continuously adding to. Any developer can make a Fitbit app with our API, so keep an eye out for many more apps to come!

Do you have a favorite app, or think you’ll try something new from the gallery? Let us know at welovefitbit@fitbit.com or “Like” us on Facebook to discuss your favorite app with other fans!

Let the Fitbit Aria Get You Where You Want to Be

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We’re excited to let you be among the first to learn about our newest product — the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale.  Aria will accurately track your weight, % body fat, and BMI over time and sync your weight data to your Fitbit.com account through your wireless network.  Online charts and graphs will track your weight and body composition over time to help you understand exactly what’s happening to cause any bumps in the road.

The Aria was inspired by you, our customers.  Many of you asked for an easier way to track weight.  We did just that and more.   Because the Aria syncs through your Wi-Fi, your data is automatically sync’d (no more numbers to input).   You can invite up to 7 other household members to create their own accounts with the scale, but only you will be able to see your measurements, even with those in your household.   And the scale is smart enough to recognize who you are just by stepping on it, so no need to worry about your information ending up in the wrong place.

Because the Aria is a Fitbit device, it’s integrated with all our online tools to create a complete weight management system.  Use Fitbit’s Food Plan and set your calorie targets; by logging food, you can plan and manage your calorie consumption throughout the day.  You can earn new badges as you work towards your weight goals, or share your information with friends and family to find the support you need.

Be among the first — and pre-order to reserve your Aria which will ship in in late April for $129.95.  Your credit card will not be charged until it ships.  Or click here to learn more about Aria.

Balancing Fitness with Work: An Inspirational Tale

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At Fitbit, we love to hear feedback from customers. Today we thought we’d pass on a particularly inspiring story from Chris, a businessman who found his busy lifestyle was taking a toll on his health and fitness. The Fitbit helped him so much, he even went out and bought a Fitbit Ultra! “I just saw the new ‘Floors Climbed’ feature in Fitbit Ultra and had to get it!  A key part of my getting back in shape earlier this year was to start by taking the stairs.”

Chris on the summit of Mt. Rainier

Chris on the summit of Mt. Rainier

Here’s his story:
“Last December, my health and fitness reached an all-time low. Four years ago, I moved to start FrontPoint Security. The business is doing fantastic, but it has been pretty ‘all consuming’ for the last four years. By December of last year, I had reached an all-time weight high, body fat high, and my energy level was noticeably the worst it had ever been.”

Chris decided he needed a change, and picked the Fitbit Tracker to help him on his path to get back in shape. He paid close attention to his Dashboard, invested in Fitbit’s Premium Subscription, and made it a point to reach his daily goals. He also made a long-term goal to climb Mt. Shasta by the summer of 2012, something he’d done ten years earlier with his dad.

“I ended up making so much progress that I climbed Mt. Shasta in July 2011 ­ about a year ahead of my plan. My weight had dropped almost 40 lbs., and my body fat dropped to around 10%. At the same time, my blood pressure got much better ­ and I was able to stop taking my blood pressure medication. And, my resting heart rate dropped from around 67 to just 41, where it is today.”

He made so much progress, in fact, that he’s since climbed Mt. Rainier as well – ­an even harder mountain that had been a goal ten years ago!

“I can easily say now that I’ve never felt better or been in better shape.”

Chris shows us that with a little motivation and information, it’s never too late to reach our goals. Share your inspirational stories with us at welovefitbit@fitbit.com.

Introducing the Fitbit Ultra. Now Track Stairs, and More!

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Our goal at Fitbit has always been to provide you with the most useful tools to meet and manage a healthy lifestyle, and it is with this vision in mind that we’ve released the new Fitbit Ultra.

The Fitbit Ultra comes with many new features, as well as everything that had already been included with the Fitbit Classic. It now contains an altimeter that shows how many floors you’ve climbed each day.  Stair climbing is one of the most efficient exercises that can be done, burning around four times as many calories as simply walking. With new online features comparing your floors climbed to different landmarks, we hope you find the motivation to take the stairs. Other new features offer encouraging messages when you pick up your Fitbit Tracker, allow you to add more personal touches to your Fitbit Ultra, and provide you with a clock and stopwatch to keep track of your exercises with even more information.

At the end of the day, it’s not about being filled with fancy gadgets just because they’re new. It’s about providing you with easy to use, fun, effective tools to directly fit your needs and provide you with motivation to keep going — whether you’re taking a walk rather than driving, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or just getting out and moving. It’s about reaching your goals in the most efficient and fun way possible. And it’s about becoming as healthy as you want to be.

Here’s to happy stepping, and climbing!

Introducing… Food Goal!

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Food Goal Goal Zone

Fitbit is happy to announce a new, flexible way to set and maintain weight goals! Here at Fitbit, our mission is to provide you with tools that encourage a healthy lifestyle. With Food Goal, you’re given a suggested calorie “goal zone” where you’re shown a range of calories you can eat throughout the day to still meet your weight goals.

Something you might not have seen before is the way your Fitbit Food Goal dynamically adjusts itself based on your day’s activities. Your calorie count goal for the day will go up as you exercise, and now you can actually see how exercising and your diet go together to help you meet your weight goals. Going for a walk during your morning break could now mean an extra cookie at the end of the day, or a morning run could mean getting to splurge a little for dinner.

Food Goal offers four different intensities as well: Easier, Medium, Kinda Hard, and Harder. Each intensity varies in how many pounds you might expect to lose per week to meet your goal by a certain date. So whether you’d like to lose two pounds a week, or see when you might realistically be able to meet your weight goal, you can pick the intensity that works best for you.

You can start using Food Goal today by logging in to your Fitbit account and going to your “Log” tab. Once you’ve started, find some encouragement on our Facebook page or email us your success stories at welovefitbit@fitbit.com.

Fitbit Makes Finding Fitness Friends Easier

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Have you ever forced yourself to go to the gym just because you’d already
made plans to meet up with a friend there? How about pushing yourself to
make sure you get those last thousand steps in because you know your
friend will be asking how many you did?

The value of friends in supporting your goals and celebrating your
achievements is undeniable. And with everyone’s busy schedules it’s not
always easy to meet up daily, or even weekly, to get this support. With
the right online tools you can build a great friend support network
online. That’s why we’ve just made it easier to find and invite friends to
Fitbit.com.

Fitbit now connects with Facebook so that you can find all of your
Facebook friends that use Fitbit.  You may be surprised how many of your
friends use Fitbit.   Never fear if you have some friends that aren’t on
Facebook: you can import your address book and send them an email
invitation instead. To start finding out which of your friends are using
Fitbit, log on to your account at Fitbit.com, go to
your “Home” tab, and look under “My Stats” on the left. You’ll find a link
to start finding and inviting friends.

Once you’re connected with your friends, it’s easy to see one another’s
stats through the competitive leaderboard, or view one another’s profiles.
It’s important to celebrate fitness milestones with friends, but, hey, a
little healthy competition isn’t bad as well.   So go on, get over to your
Fitbit Dashboard and start inviting with Friend Finder. When you do, let
us know how you and your friends keep each other motivated to stay fit!
Find us on Facebook or email us at welovefitbit@fitbit.com