The last time I wore a watch was more than a year ago – it was a minimalist Movado watch without any numbers on the clockface, leaving you to guess the exact time. The leather strap snapped one day, and I didn’t feel any compelling need to fix it, nor even to get a new watch. If I needed to find out the time, I’d just whip my iPhone 5S out of my pocket. And at the same time, with my phone, I can check if any new emails came in, or if someone replied to my facebook message.
That’s all a watch really does – tell the time. It has been made obsolete, more of a fashion accessory.
Recently though, I’ve been wearing something new on my wrist.
It’s the Mi Band (by Xiao Mi), it’s first foray into the wearables market and launched in the later part of 2014. It comes in several colours (Cyan, Green, Pink, Orange), which caters to the younger crowded. I picked a sleek black one, so that it doesn’t stand out too much when I wear it at work. As with other Xiao Mi products, it’s mostly available for purchase online, and I did. Delivered to my doorstep in a week.
It tracks 2 main things : Activity and Fitness
As you can see, it shows you the number of steps you’ve taken each day in both graphical and numerical form, dividing it into Walk and Run and giving you an estimated number of calories burnt. I like the histogram – it gives me a quick overview of how active I’ve been through out the day. It’s obvious here that I was mostly sedentary throughout the day until 6pm, which was the time I went for a run.
All this is done automatically, without requiring me to do anything other than wearing the band. As with all fitness trackers in the market, it’s great at tracking step-based activity, but doesn’t work well for non-step based activity (eg cycling, yoga). It would have been great if there was a feature to manually input these kind of activities, so as to be able to have a complete picture of your exercise patterns.
Another interesting feature is that you can set a target number of steps for each day. There are 3 LED lights on the wrist band – 1 dot lights up for every 1/3 of your target reach. And when you hit your daily goal, there’s a vibration and funky light pattern for 2 seconds – I thought that was fun. It can happen at anytime of the day, not necessarily during exercise. In my case, I used the default 8000 steps/day and found that I hit this target on days that I run, and somethings don’t reach 8000 steps on days that I don’t work out.
The ability to track sleep was one of the main draws of buying this tracking device. I always wanted to find out how well I was sleeping, as well as have an overview of my sleep patterns through the week (because I sometimes sleep at irregular hours). This is also similar to what is available on FitBit and Jawbone, but what I really liked was that it was hassle-free – there is no need to input your sleep and wake-up times unlike in the FitBit Flex/One. The fell asleep and wake up times were quite accurate. I’m not sure how exactly the device tracks whether you’re in deep or light sleep. In my case, I was generally in deep sleep for about 50 – 70% of the total sleeping time (How about you? I’m curious what other people’s readings are like)
The Mi Band is my first fitness tracker device I’ve bought and used, and it’s been interesting to find out more about my own habits and sleep health just by wearing it. What is most amazing about this is it’s price point – at SGD $20, it’s 1/9th the price of a similar FitBit or Jawbone tracker, albeit with a less sexy design and user interface. It’s definitely a herald of the state of wearables – they are going to get better and cheaper at breakneck speed.
Wearable Devices and Utility in Healthcare
I’ve been watching the wearables market quite closely – it’s a space that is evolving extremely fast, which makes it very exciting to me. The early wearable devices were called ‘wearable computers’ – you can imagine them as clunky, small computers attached to your wrists. Not sexy at all. (example photo), and would likely give you tenosynovitis or wrist ache
Over the last decade or so however, technology has evolved quickly. Sensors are getting cheaper and smaller by the day. Smart, innovative companies such as FitBit and Jawbone have created sleek, modern devices which appeal to the consumer and make you look cool and ‘in tune with the times’. It’s not surprising that they are on the road to a billion dollars in annual revenue at an astounding growth rate.
The largest company in the world is getting in on this too – Apple is releasing the Apple Watch later this year, it’s first new major product line in a while. Apple is a visionary company, and they obviously see the potential in this. With such a big force behind this movement, it will be a major boost to adoption of wearable devices. It’s not difficult to imagine a world where soon everyone will be wearing a device that tracks all kinds of information for us – how much food we’re eating, how much exercise we are doing, body temperature, heart rate and more.
What I’m really excited about is how this can be used in medicine and healthcare, to improve outcomes. As doctors, many times the main difficulty we have in making a diagnosis or prescribing a treatment is due to the lack of information – we’re not sure how long the patient has been ill, how rapid his symptoms have progressed, or how his body will respond to the treatment. Hence, we often adopt an experimental-kind of approach to diseases, based on our past clinical experiences – I’ll start you on medicine A at X dosage for your diabetes. Come back in 1 months time and we’ll see how you are doing and I’ll adjust again.
Now with all the data that is collected through wearable devices, we can transition from a world of static data (in healthcare) to dynamic data, where we have a real-time understanding of the patient’s status. With more data and the accompanying analytic tools, as doctors we can make better, more accurate and faster decisions on patient management in an objective manner.
At the same time, when wearable devices are ubiquitous, we have the opportunities to connect with and reach out to our patients in new ways, in order to influence their habits and lifestyle choices – adherence to medications, dietary intake, exercise, all of which are significant factors affecting disease outcomes.