It looks like complaints of humans choosing multimedia and smart phones over conquering other planets are a thing of the past. Both large corporation and start-up ventures manufacture fitness gadgets and complicate the functionality of these devices as much as possible. Who cares about a step counter, heart rate monitor or sleep stage monitor? New devices are capable of tracking your cellular activity and estimating the amount of water and calories you intake.
What Are These Devices And Where Did They Come From?
I have long been interested in tracking the main indicators of human body performance at home. I tested Jawbone Up, Sony Smart Bund, Gear Fit, and MiBand fitness bands. I have been using Withings body cardio for measuring body weight, fat and muscle tissue ration and tracking the state of my cardiovascular system for a year.
I first paid attention to Healbe a couple of years ago when it was a successful crowdfunding Indiegogo project. I was quite skeptical at that time as the possibility of non-invasive automated monitoring of glucose level in blood seemed doubtful to me.
Ever since I received my PhD, I have been carefully observing personal medicine news, gerontology (the study of aging – ed.) scientific research and gadgets monitoring human body. Continuous non-invasive monitoring of blood sugar is a holy grail of modern endocrinology and has been subject of intense research for over 30 years. Unfortunately, bio-impendance, which is at the core of Healbe, is unsuitable for diabetes patients. However, it is quite appropriate for tracking the users’ calorie intake.
Core Technology and Its Scientific Effectiveness
The band has five sensors: a heart rate monitor (based on piezo-sensor), bio-impendance sensor, accelerometer, temperature monitor and skin galvanic reaction sensor.
Bio-impendance monitor is the most esesntial one. Bio-impendance is a technology for measuring the resistance of body tissues, in particular, the percentage of fat tissue. Healbe uses it to calculate the ration between intra- and extracellular fluids. The level of glucose in blood is measured based on these ratios. Unfortunately, certain restrictions make this method unavailable for diabetics. Keep in mind that Healbe is not a medical device, in order for it to be accepted by medical communities as it is, experiments, publications in scientific magazines and studies on statistically reliable samples are necessary.
The manufacturers have commented that “At the moment special software designed for first-stage diabetics is being tested in the U.S.A. The decision to give a mass launch to this algorithm will be made upon receiving the results. The information will be available circa November 2017.”
Let me emphasize that this is a breakthrough for monitoring the health of regular people who are not ill.
We’re going to surprise you now. Healbe is a Russian company, its headquarters is situated in Moscow and their technology of non-invasive glucose level estimation was also invented in Russia. In 2013 the company opened its office in San Francisco, U.S.A.
It all started back in 1999 in St. Petersburg, Russia in Algorithm, the center for innovative technological consulting. At that time the experts began to devise a technology of invasive glucose level estimation. The scientists Michael Rubin, Evgeny Sokolov and Igor Misyuchenko were caught up by the idea of full automation of health monitoring. In 2003 their efforts were appreciated by GEN3 Partners which later became their strategic partners. First tests of a non-invasive glucometer were held in Algorithm as well.
This was just a start. Research and development carried out by physicists, programmers, diagnosticians, endocrinologists, physiologists and mathematicians from 2003 to 2011 evolved into a commercial concept of this product.
The idea of a non-invasive glucometer was no longer relevant. Instead the technology was embedded into a multi-functional personal health monitoring product aimed at controlling body mass, physical activity and stress level, Healbe was founded to bring this idea to life and Algorithm was one of the stakeholders there. R&D department is still based in St. Petersburg. The company began its activity on the market in 2014 and at that time FLOW technology described below was invented.
Who Needs Healbe?
GoBe 2 is definitely unsuitable for athletes due to certain inaccuracy of its monitoring. The accuracy can be attained only by pro devices with chest or other sensors. Such a band will hardly be useful for long-distance runners as it lacks GPS.
This tracker is for a different audience. People who prefer to track their health state not only in gym but also at work will likely appreciate this band. Even if you don’t take up sports, you will be able to manage your daily routines better with information regarding the quality of your sleep, amount of physical activity and stress level.
No available analogue is capable of counting calories consumed, and many users may find only step counter and sleep stage tracker data insufficient.
It is important to realize that no fitness tracker will magically change your life if you don’t put any efforts as it is just an assistant. For instance, it is insufficient to only rely on the information regarding the energy intake. This band will be able to neither estimate the ratio of proteins, fats and carbohydrates nor calculate the glycemic index of food intake. To put it simply, it is obvious that even though a granola bar and a piece of a chocolate cake have similar calorie levels, they are digested differently.
An accelerometer will let you control your physical activity.
A calorie counter is automated and you won’t need to manually look for calorie statistics of consumed products and record this information.
A sleep tracker will help you understand the impact of your life style on sleep quality and how to improve your sleep.
A stress level tracker allows tracking your emotions during the day.
A hydration level monitor will send a reminder in case you drink little. Mineral water is recommended for drinking as potassium, manganese and sodium salts retain water in human body and thus have a positive effect on your body water balance.
A Two-Month HealBe GoBe 2 Test Drive
The use of the band is typical: wear it over your wrist tight enough for the information to be recorded without errors. At first it feels extremely uncomfortable (although this is my personal opinion), but you get used to it with time.
Heart rate can be monitored with a band or a smart phone app easily. HealBe GoBe 2 measures it all the time (every five minutes) and thus the battery can live for two days only. Tracking is quite accurate, the deviation from treadmill sensors is 10% and we hesitate as to which tracker is more accurate.
The device also monitors the amount of water in your body and estimates energy intake. It seems that I actually ate about 20% more than tracked, but the manufacturer claims that it is product labels that provide incorrect and rough information concerning the calories. FLOW technology is implemented in GoBe 2 for analyzing any data received via bio-impendance sensor. It allows the band to track fluid dynamics and thus estimate the amount of glucose in cells and measure its caloricity. Okay, we have no choice but trust the manufacturers as no scientific magazines have yet made any publications on the matter.
Speaking of liquids, I should mention that this device made me drink lots of water all the time. It kept sending me reminders four or five times a day. As a result, I drank about two liters daily, which is the volume recommended by the WHO. It turned out that mineral water is more preferable as regular water leaves your body faster especially when you exercise. The band’s Android app allows specifying the volume consumed, this feature is promised to be made available for iOS as well.
The step counter, on the other hand, works with interruptions and stubbornly does not count any steps on the treadmill. The count is correct during an ordinary walk.
As HealBe developers promise, the next update (scheduled for July 2017) will have an improved count of cycling or riding a motorcycle, a fitness section will be added and during swimming the sensor will count strokes rather than steps. Weight lifting is scheduled for launch in August, and treadmill will be detected by August 2017.
The band tracks data during the day to estimate your stress level. This is a breakthrough in comparison with the Shealth app which relies on heart rate only for this purpose and for tracking sleep stages. Miband and Jawbone do this as well, but according to the manufacturer, they collect less data than GoBe 2.
Supply and Warranty
The band was supplied in a stylish case which makes an impression of a reliable manufacturer. The actual band, a cord, a charger, a manual and information bulletin as well as some other accompanying documentation are supplied. Everything is detailed and intuitive. The manufacturers give a worldwide one year warranty. Even if you bought your band back in 2014 and didn’t use it, it will be upgraded to a modern version free of charge.
Peculiarities of Use
Unless you sync the band with the app daily, it will take substantial time. The band is supposed to fit tightly and some find it uncomfortable. When I tested the app, it seemed unfinished to me. I was unable to launch help immediately, but it worked well when I updated the app. So far some of the options mentioned in the manual are unavailable in the application, for instance, blood pressure measuring cannot be carried out. As the developers explain, “Blood pressure measuring was turned off as 25-40% statistical error is unacceptable. The option will be re-introduced in GoBe 3. At the moment we find it improper to track blood pressure on the wrist, so we are trying to implement other technologies while retaining the key sensors”.
Xiomi MiBand 2, Jawbone Up3, Samsung Gear Fit 2 и Healbe GoBe 2 Technical Characteristics Comparative Chart
For the purpose of comparison we picked several trackers tested by us within the last few years, namely the Chinese bestseller Xiomi MiBand 2, the market pioneer Jawbone Up3 and Samsung Gear Fit 2, made by the industry giant.
We compared objective indicators only that are related to health monitoring.
|Xiaomi Mi Band 2||Jawbone Up3||Samsung Gear Fit 2||Healbe GoBe 2|
|Autonomous Performance||Up to 7 days||Up to 7 days||Up to 3 days with GPS off||Up to 2 days|
|Sensors||Accelerometer and heart rate sensor||Accelerometer, thermometer, bio-impedance sensor||Accelerometer, gyro and heart rate sensors, GPS, barometer||Piezo-sensor, bio-impedance sensor, accelerometer, temperature sensor, skin-galvanic reaction sensor.|
|Screen||OLED, monochrome, 0,4″ (about 10×6 mm), non-touch screen||n/a||Touch screen, color, curved, Super AMOLED, 1,5″, 432×216 (317 ppi)||LED 5x92|
|Water Resistance||IP67||Splash protection, no standard reported||IP68||IP68|
|Compatibility||iOS 7.0 / Android 4.4 and higher devices||iOS 7 / Android 4.3 and higher||Android 4.4 and higher devices with at least 1.5 Gb of RAM||iOS 8 and higher, Android™ 4.3 иand higher with BLE support|
Functionality Comparative Chart
|Xiaomi Mi Band 2||Sony SmartBand 2||Jawbone Up3||Samsung Gear Fit 2||Healbe GoBe 2|
|Hydration Level Tracking||-||-||-||-||+|
|Stress Level Tracking||-||-||-||-||+|
Dr. Anatom’s Personal Experience of Using HealBe
It works in general, but it seems to me that the result is about 20% than my own calculation. Obviously, my impression is subjective as I had to chance to thoroughly calculate the energy value of food consumed.
I doubled my water intake; insufficient fluid level notifications pop up often, four to five times a day on average. Given that it is recommended to drink at least two liters a day (and even more if you take up physical or intellectual work), I am totally on board with that.
Heart Rate Tracking
The accuracy is acceptable for me. The advantage of the tracker is its non-stop performance. The deviation from treadmill detectors is under 10%. I doubt this level of accuracy will be sufficient for athletes.
Stress Level Tracking
The monitoring is constant during the day which is beneficial for further analysis and understanding the factors influencing your stress. Subjectively I felt that the tracking is more accurate than that offered by, for instance, Shealth app which relies on heart rate only for stress level statistics.
Step Counter and Distance Tracking
It counts accurately regular steps; I compared the data with the results of my phone accelerometer and MiBand fitness tracker. The deviation is within 10%. The tracker doesn’t count treadmill steps well and marks down about 50%.
Personally I felt that the tracking is more accurate than that of MiBand or Jawbone.
GoBe 2 Drawbacks
The time of autonomous performance leaves much to be desired. However, two days seem quite acceptable given that the heart rate is constantly measured.
The band is supposed to fit very tight to your skin and this takes time to get used to. As the developers promise, GoBe 3 will be equipped with a light sensor and will become more convenient. We’ll see that in 2018.
Who Are The Rivals, If Any?
As of now, Healbe has no analogues. Its competitors can only count steps and measure heart rate, but none of them can count calories or assess hydration level.
How do such devises evolve? Once upon a time Jawbone launched its first fitness band. It was crooked and obtuse and couldn’t work for longer than two months. It was a breakthrough at that time, though, and people bought it. They wanted access to monitoring and were ready to endure all the inconveniences and ignore the flaws. Upon receiving customer feedback the manufacturer began improving the second and then the third version.
Healbe chose another strategy, a long-term scientific one. They have been long developing the technology and performing lab tests (not customer tests!). Now they are offering a finished product rather than a prototype. Of course, there is always room for improvement and perfection, it can be made more convenient and user-friendly, but in general this is a sound, tested and working device made by Russian scientists and engineers .
Our Opinion of HealBe GoBe2
Rating: 9/10. This is a really unique gadget which has no alternative so far. We took one point off for short battery life (two days only) and because the sensors work only if the band is attached very tightly to your skin, which is inconvenient as the band is pressed against you and causes certain discomfort.
The developers promise to fix all of this in the next version. They are now thinking how to do this. “On the one hand, if we increase the capacity of the battery, the band will be consequently much larger. We strive for minimalism while maintaining unique design and effective functionality. The new generation will be launched during the CES (International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas, USA – ed.). It will be much smaller and new possibilities will be added. The light sensor won’t require you to fasten the strap tightly, but it will be a mere add-on to the main indicators as it will have a substantial statistical error (the same sensor of the rival Polar A350 has a deviation of about 60%).”
In general, today this is the most advanced and finished fitness band. It is worth its $179 price tag as the price is fully justified.
Where to Buy? Buy online at https://healbe.com/us
Go Be1 is available on Amazon.com for a price of ~$59.99. Check the current price