One of the cool things we’re seeing with mobile devices like Fitbit (see disclosure below) and Nike+ and smartphone apps like Runkeeper is the ability for them to act as powerful sensors that can provide feedback on our health and well-being. But one of the most promising ventures in this field is an upcoming product from Pulse Tracer called Basis, a watch monitor that packs in a bunch of sensors that monitor not just movement but heart rates, temperature and skin response.
The company, which is preparing to release its wrist band monitor soon, is fresh off raising $9 million in funding from Norwest Venture Partners and DCM. And Thursday, it’s announcing it has brought on a new CEO: Jef Holove, a former VP and general manager at Logitech who was lured away from Eye-Fi, where he was CEO. It’s another good sign for what could be a very ground-breaking device with the potential for bringing online behavioral tracking to a much wider audience.
As we’ve noted, there are already some popular options for people on the market like FitBit and Runkeeper. But they’re primarily measuring motion and distance using accelerometers or GPS. Basis, which is expected to sell for $199, is outfitted with not just an accelerometer, but also an optical blood flow sensor to measure heart rate, a sensor to measure body heat and also a galvanic skin response sensor. Put it all together, and you have a lot more data to measure not just how active someone is, but how their heart rate is doing, how their temperature is faring and how much stress someone is experiencing, which can be measured by changes in the skin and sweat.
“We’re providing a lot of data that enriches the picture of your health,” said Holove. “We can correlate different things. We can compare heart rate to low movement and find out if this is a stressful moment or something else is going on.”
Holove said Basis’ form factor is also critical because it doesn’t require strapping on an unfamiliar device like some heart monitors. It can be worn all throughout the day, which ensures a lot of data is gathered.
Basis isn’t just designed to gather information. It works with online tools to help people analyze the information and what the implications are for people. And there are game mechanics built in to motivate users to keep up their activity level. Those parts sound like other solutions on the market, but, provided Basis actually works as advertised, you’re getting a river of data that should reveal a lot about how people are living. If people can keep using the sensor because of its watch design, it will help ensure the feedback loop continues. We’ll know more when the device goes on sale. Holove wouldn’t commit to a launch this year, though the company is taking pre-orders.
There’s a big opportunity here to improve our health through mobile devices as they take on more functionality at a more affordable price. People also want to take more control over their health these days, but it sometimes takes helpful tools to get them going. At $199, Basis still isn’t cheap, but it has a good shot at winning over people if it can do what it says it will: not just gather data, but provide good analysis and encouragement behind it. If this can work, it will also put us further down the road toward the idea of the quantified self, a concept of helping people understand themselves better through self-tracking.
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.