Fitbit is a US-based fitness tech company that began in 2007. Their primary focus is the production and distribution of wearable fitness and activity trackers for men and women of all ages. They have simplified trackers such as the Fitbit Zip (a clip on tracker no longer in production), all the way up to wearable smart devices with a wealth of analytical power and features like the Fitbit Charge 3 or Fitbit Versa 2.
A selection of Fitbit products is all well and good. But how does Fitbit work? How does it improve and refine your workout, how does it track your activity, the sport you are taking part in, or your sleep? How does it help you to be a more active and productive individual?
In its purest form, a Fitbit is an activity tracker. The creators of the company James Park and Eric Friedman saw the potential of a tracker that one can wear. More than a decade later, this futuristic concept has not only become a reality, but also gained massive popularity.
The wide selection of Fitbit’s that are available today expands on this concept by adding various technologies to it. The Fitbit Zip is a simpler model, allowing you to step count and automatically syncing the data collected with the Fitbit app. This is basically a high-tech pedometer. More advanced models like the Fitbit Ionic have a location tracker (using built-in GPS), personal coaching modes (with the help of Fitbit’s Coach app) and are a helpful companion (with the use of reminders and daily goals).
The main difference when it comes to Fitbits is whether they are a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. A basic tracker like a Fitbit Flex 2 only tracks distance travelled and number of steps taken, and from this estimates your calorie burn. Compare this to the Fitbit Charge product line. They provide the user with more advanced fitness tracking features as well as heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking as well. These both belong in the fitness tracker category.
The Fitbit Blaze, a feature-rich smartwatch, provides all of the above and is a more rounded wearable experience with features like contactless payment. Therefore, the Blaze belongs in the smartwatch classification.
What do Fitbits Do?
Fitbit devices track your body’s activity, whether that be the steps you’ve taken, how long you’ve slept, or how fast your heart is beating. The analytics gathered are then transferred to the Fitbit app on your smartphone. From there, you can view your fitness stats in a dashboard, and your goals and requirements can be shifted and amended to suit your personal needs.
This benefits users as they have hands-on insights into their activities. Such insights include their shortcomings in workouts, the part of their morning run where they excel, the moment their heart is working harder than ever, or the moment in the night where they shift into a deep sleep.
All of this information can help a person refine and improve their daily life, and therefore improve their health.
How does Fitbit work?
Different Fitbits work with different sensors and tracking technologies. For instance, the simplest devices like the Fitbit Zip, Fitbit Flex 2, and the Fitbit Alta, among others, have a 3-axis accelerometer included in their design. This allows them to collect somewhat simple data on a person’s physical activity.
Those devices that measure heart rate do so using a proprietary technology known as PurePulse, a continuous, wrist-based tracking system that uses optical heart rate monitoring. Those with advanced activity tracking are equipped with SmartTrack – Fitbit’s proprietary auto exercise recognition technology – utilizes algorithms to correctly predict what exercise or training method you are taking part in. The more advanced sleep tracking included in some models combines heart rate monitoring with sedentary analysis to produce a well-rounded estimation of your sleep and sleeping patterns.
The Fitbit Ionic uses GPS (Global Positioning System) to triangulate and specify your location. In doing this, the Ionic can calculate the distance and length of time you’ve been moving. This is what is known as a standalone GPS. All other Fitbit models that have GPS actually piggyback off of the GPS of your phone using Bluetooth. This is what is known as Connected GPS.
The models that measure heart rate like the Inspire HR, Alta HR, and Fitbit Versa 2 do so using an optical heart rate monitor. The monitor is on the underside of the bezel. This placement ensures that it is in contact with the user’s wrist.
Fitbit trackers count steps using the 3-axis accelerometer built into the hardware. Your steps are then stored and synced with your Fitbit account. The algorithms in your Fitbit then use this data to assess distance traveled, calories you’ve burned and the steps that you’ve taken.
More advanced Fitbits can use their processes to ascertain what type of exercise you are taking part in, and therefore deliver more specific stats to you. This feature is what Fitbit calls SmartTrack technology. It does this by tracking the intensity and patterns at which you are moving.
The accuracy of Fitbit’s tracking devices is usually fairly good, and with every product they bring out, they improve and refine their tracking technology.
How does Fitbit track sleep
The more basic Fitbit sleep trackers will assume you’re asleep if you remain inactive or completely unmoving for an extended period. Your Fitbit also assesses the length of time your movements are. From this data, it can evaluate your sleep quality.
Any faulty loggings can always be amended or deleted via the Fitbit app.
A Fitbit tracker with heart monitoring technology combines both tracking of your movement and your heart to estimate the sleep stages you go through in the night. It will then display how long you spent in a light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep.
Fitbit’s sleep tracking can help regulate your life and improve sleep quality. If you do not get enough of a deep sleep, you can shift your bedtime routine to improve your experience.
How does Fitbit track heart rate
Fitbit tracks your heart’s activity using an optical heart rate monitor. Capillaries and veins expand and contract when the heartbeats. Fitbit’s PurePulse technology utilizes light to detect and chart the rate of blood flow through the wrist, measuring the expanding and contracting of your veins.
Heart rate monitoring allows the Fitbit to give an insight into your stress levels, the calories you’ve burned, and optimize your workouts.
The tracking of your heartbeat means it can actively help you through stress as well. Fitbits with heart monitors also come with guided breathing sessions to help regulate your heart rate when needed.
Fitbit Pay is the company’s contactless payment platform. Installed on the more advanced models, it allows users to swipe their watch on contactless payment systems to pay money from their bank.
You need an Android, iOS, or Windows phone to set Fitbit Pay up. On your Fitbit app, you will need to connect a bank account to your Fitbit device. From there, your card should appear when you activate it through your Fitbit.
Fitbit states that security is assured when using the method as it uses a randomized card number that can’t be replicated. The retailer will not receive your actual card number.
The Future of Fitbit
Fitbit is a majorly successful tech company, but like all companies, it has its weaknesses. They need to move fast to keep up with competitors like the Apple Watch and Garmin devices.
But recent news that Google is acquiring Fitbit will fill fans of the brand with the hope that more refined ingenious products are on the way. We can surely expect to see new devices and updates that connect the two brands more closely. The next Fitbit might even have powerful search functionality and an updated voice assistant too.
It may be a fantastic business decision or one that could result in heartache. Whatever the outcome, the next Fitbit devices to hit the shelves will be watched by many technology fans around the world.
Liam writes articles for a myriad of sites and publications. With a deep-set love for electronics and music, often finds himself drawn to writing about the latest bands and gadgets. He has a degree in Drama and English, enjoys acting, producing music and writing in a number of formats. He also works as a copywriter, providing content for clients around the world.