It turns out that the ear is a pretty handy location for a fitness wearable. It keeps your arms free, isn’t affected by non-fitness activities like shoveling potato chips into your mouth, and it gets you into the mood when some funky music is piped through them. Sensogram Technologies, a Plano, Texas based company, realized our ear’s utility and potential, and have designed a unique wearable fitness tracker around it. Known as the SensoTRACK, this unique device measures your heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiration rate, and supposedly even blood pressure. It also counts steps, calories burned, senses your speed, activity level, geolocation, altitude, body posture, and pace. All this can be synced to an iOS or Android app which also shares that data with a web portal that offers advanced fitness and health analytics.
On the eve of the launch of SensoTRACK’s Kickstarter campaign, we asked Sensogram’s founder, Dr. Vahram Mouradian, to share a little more about how SensoTRACK works and why he thinks tracking works best on your ears.
Scott Jung, Medgadget: Sensogram is one of a few companies incorporating biometric sensors into earbud-style devices. What makes the ear a capable and attractive point of sensing?
Dr. Vahram Mouradian: The ear provides several functional advantages for SensoTRACK. First, it is the optimal location for a fitness device as it does not impede the body’s range of motion. The ear’s involvement in any physical activity is minimal to non-existent. With devices on the wrist or arm, there is considerable jarring or swinging motion that the device must intuitively comprehend is different than the actual activity (running, for example). Second, fitness bands that cross the chest are anatomically impeded from achieving significant accuracy for women. Third, the device’s optical, thermal, mechanical, and proximity sensors can all be encased in an ear worn device without being exposed to light or significant movement that could lessen or dull accuracy. Finally, the temporal artery offers substantial access to many parameters and is in a closer proximity to the heart thus giving more accuracy. Situating the device in this location provides unencumbered access to a highly accurate source of biometric information while enabling free range of motion.
Medgadget: What kind of users can best benefit from SensoTRACK?
Mouradian: SensoTRACK is intended for active people seeking to get the most out of their fitness and well-being routines. It is equally adept at measuring biometric parameters during low-impact (walking, yoga, etc.) activities as it is during high-impact (running, weightlifting, etc.) activities. Because it is located on the ear and connects wirelessly to a smart device, it will not impede in the user’s activity while giving a real-time, accurate reading of the body’s response. SensoTRACK’s time stamp and geolocation features also allow users to review points in their routine or route when the body’s reaction was of interest. Another advantage of SensoTRACK being able to run in a Standalone mode (without pairing it with any personal device) is the elimination of needing to carry a second device, any phone or PDA on the body, making it more convenient and less complex in its operation. The target market consists of three segments: 1) age group 35 y.o and older, who want to monitor their vitals, i.e. health, as a result of their activity, including watching the genetic potential issues, any preexisting conditions’ effect on the activity type and intensity; 2) health conscious and practically healthy people of age group 25 y.o. and older, interested in an activity balanced and optimized per their target goals; 3) age group of 50y.o and older, interested in self monitoring and/or family member monitoring as a means of measuring staying active while observing their current state and real-time activity. The most common use case would be to motivate any of the aforementioned group of people to be active. The result of the activity in a form of health/vitals improvement could be observed and learned, serving as the best motivation to get going. The device can also enable those of a younger generation who have left elderly loved ones at home or have moved away from them to alleviate the constant pressure to monitor the well-being of their parents and family members that they may be under. This is a seamless way to do that while not interfering with the user’s daily activity. Finally, the virtual personal trainer is another use case. Each user can have SensoTRACK monitoring both biomedical and physical parameters, as well as the physical condition, and, per user’s goals and preferences, manage the activity and keep track of it. The audio interface with the user allows one-way ‘interaction’ between SensoTRACK and the user.
Medgadget: How did you come up with the idea for SensoTRACK?
Mouradian: I wanted to know how the intensity of a workout affects my body. So, I started collecting gadgets – pedometers, heart rate monitors and more – but I couldn’t find any device that could measure vital signs, such as blood pressure, respiration rate, oxygen saturation and heart rate simultaneously while on the move. Further, no single device could measure and display all these parameters with a time stamp and display all of the data on a screen of my choice. My goal was to create a device that shows users precisely how exercise affects each biometric parameter. While the objective was clear, the path was difficult. First, the device needed to be able to capture desired information. Second, the device must be wearable; therefore it required a body location that could be both functional and convenient. Third, the device had to support mobility; thus, no environmental or physical artifacts such as sunlight, wind, electromagnetic waves or motion could affect its operation.
Medgadget: Once SensoTRACK collects the data about your body, what tools (if any) do you offer in terms of analyzing the data and suggesting lifestyle changes?
Mouradian: The sleek SensoTRACK dashboard displays all of a user’s parameters for review. During the activity, SensoTRACK either is aggregating internally or, in the case of the smartphone/PDA availability, it is communicating with that device to upload the parameters in real time to the smartphone/PDA and further onto the secure cloud interface. This occurs through a built-in Bluetooth LE connection. The SensoTRACK user can check their progress in the moment or review the routine/activity later on the dashboard. With the device’s time stamp and geolocator, SensoTRACK users will be able to analyze how they responded to a particular hill, pose, swing, rep, whatever activity-specific challenge created a change in their output. Users can take that information to alter their activity accordingly to improve their fitness level or ease the workout to alleviate stress points.
Medgadget: How and when can readers buy a SensoTRACK?
Mouradian: SensoTRACK is launching via a Kickstarter campaign. On the Kickstarter campaign, supporters will be able to pledge $199 for early access to SensoTRACK, with shipments scheduled to begin in February 2015. SensoTRACK itself will hit the worldwide market starting in April 2015.
Kickstarter: SensoTRACK: Motivating fitness for better health