Thursday, January 11, 2018

Activity Specific Tracking

It is very likely that someone you know struggles with obesity.  In fact, 36.5% of adults in the United States are classified as obese.  In 2008, the annual medical cost due to obesity related health issues was $147 billion, and on average, medical costs for people with obesity were $1,429 higher than those of ‘normal’ weight [stats based on CDC data].  Rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer are increasing due to the rising rates of obesity.
Recent efforts to combat obesity include wearable tech devices.  While these devices are nice to look at and show off, they are clearly not the answer to curing obesity, as rates continue to rise.  Despite this, millions of people line up to buy these products, with analysts estimating the wearable tech device market to be worth between 34 to 50 billion dollars.  This market could be captured more successful by a device that works.
The fitness wearable tech market is inundated with patents describing methods to track heart rate, movement, types of movement, calories burned, sleep, etc. All these patents typically share a similar feature; the device is meant to be worn on the user, typically on their wrist or chest, for the entirety or at least a majority of the day.  Does it not make more sense for fitness to be tracked while the user is doing the fitness?  For example, a patent search for smart watches yields about 22,000 results, while a search for fitness tracking shoes or smart shoes yields about 1,000 each.  If you like to run, you buy running shoes.  Thus, wouldn’t it make sense for those running shoes to be able to track your run, with data regarding speed, areas of impact with the ground, force of impact, running technique adjustments, and other running related data?
United States Pat. No. 2016/0346617A1 teaches a sensor configured to couple to a barbell configured to communicate with a bracelet worn by a user.  The sensor and bracelet may work in tandem to monitor the user’s workout and provide tips if desired.  However, this presents obvious issues.  For example, how can the system accurately determine if the user is bench pressing or shoulder pressing?  The motions are practically identical, so developing a wearable device sensitive enough to distinguish between the two exercises is a major challenge. Additionally, technique may not be accurately monitored, which may lead to injuries.
Improvements to such a patent may include utilization of a user’s smart phone imaging abilities, storing data to the user’s smartphone, and the like.  Such adjustments may result in more accurate fitness tracking and improved public health.


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