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Withings goes after Fitbit with its pulse-reading Smart Activity Tracker (update: hands-on video)

Withings goes after Fitbit with its pulse-reading Smart Activity Tracker (update: hands-on video)
Daniel Cooper
Daniel Cooper|@danielwcooper|January 6, 2013 7:30 PM

Withings' assault on our paunchy bellies doesn't look like it's going to stop, now that the company has launched a portable sleep and activity tracker that's clearly designed to go after the Fitbit Ultra. The Smart Activity Tracker makes some impressive claims, offering pulse monitoring if you push your finger onto the back of the device, calculating calorie consumption and monitoring the quality of your sleep. The 43.3-millimeter device has an OLED touchscreen display and will instantly upload your data to the Withings Health Mate app over Bluetooth Smart, and promises to go a full fortnight without needing a recharge. The company hasn't made any statement as to when it plans to release the unit, or how much it'll cost you, but we're looking forward to putting it through its paces.

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We're here on the floor at CES Unveiled and have been able to get our greasy paws upon the company's Fitbit One rival, the Smart Activity Tracker. The device is barely an inch wide by half an inch tall, and is clad in that piano-black gloss plastic that we adore for its fingerprint-attracting properties. It's only about as thick as the microUSB port required for charging and it's light enough for you to forget is even attached to your belt loop. Speaking of which, it's not built into an easily-attachable shape, you'll need a holster to use it by day and an armband for the night.

The company may find comparisons with the Fitbit One uncomfortable, but the two devices really do feel like they're from the same family. On-screen graphics are very familiar looking, and you use a button to cycle through options such as pedometer, calories burned, distance (miles or km) and if you swipe backwards on the touchscreen that runs beneath the display, you'll see historical data for the previous three days. The biggest difference is the built-in pulse monitor, which requires you to jam a finger onto a sensor based on the underside of the device. It took us a few attempts with the unfinished hardware to get it working, and it takes a few moments for the reading to take, but it seems like a useful addition to the device.

The company is promising it'll run for a full fortnight between charges, but will need to send data over Bluetooth (or Bluetooth Smart) to your mobile device once a week. While Withings is still refining the product, it's expecting to have it ready by the end of March -- and while it wouldn't talk about pricing, there was a reference to it being "competitive" to comparable devices. A cursory Google let us know that the Fitbit One is currently available for $99, so let's use that as a guide for now.

Dana Murph Contributed to this report.

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Introducing Withings Smart Activity Tracker - 8 Grams of Innovation for a Healthier Life!

LAS VEGAS– EMBARGO UNTIL January 6, 2013 at 3:00PM PST – Withings announces today its newest health monitoring device, Smart Activity Tracker, a powerful and pocket-sized personal tracking tool designed to help users achieve their personal health and fitness goals. For the first time ever seen on an activity tracker, the Smart Activity Tracker adds pulse measurement to the number of steps taken, strides run, distances covered, calories burned, and quality of sleep. The device syncs via Bluetooth Smart with the Withings Health Mate App where all the data is collected and stored in real time.

The WHOi warns that physical inactivity is now identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (6% of deaths globally), and advises undertaking regular physical activity throughout the week. Awareness of one's personal activity levels is an essential factor for leading a healthy lifestyle. Users of the Smart Activity Tracker can set up and send alerts to indicate inactivity or reminders to be active, directly to their smartphone. This feature is especially important to those that work behind a desk all day or are sedentary. It's also an easy way of encouraging physical activity throughout the day in order to live a healthier life on a daily basis.

Cédric Hutchings, CEO and co-founder of Withings says: "Understanding how to analyse your fitness is the first step to improving it! The amount of technology that we've packed into this tiny sized and easy to use new- generation personal trainer will take us further into a new dimension of connected health and wellbeing where device, user and services are closely and permanently linked".

No larger than a small memory stick, Smart Activity Tracker is designed to be unobtrusive. It can be inserted into a pocket or used with the included belt clip and/or arm band. The front of the device features a fully functioning touch surface that will allow users to navigate from screen to screen and the back houses the heart rate sensor where users simply place their finger to take their readings. The device has a two week battery life and has an on-board micro USB port for recharging.

Smart Activity Monitor tracks not only the number of steps taken in a day, but differentiates moderate from vigorous activity. The device also calculates the number of stairs climbed and calories burned depending on the users' body composition. The duration of sleep, plus the quality of that sleep is also calculated when the device is worn during sleep. By adding heart rate to the tracker, users can paint a larger picture of their total health by monitoring their resting heart rates and heart rates after physical activity.

The Withings Health Mate app collects all the information provided by the Smart Activity Tracker via Bluetooth and categorizes it into 3 different health categories-Activity, Heart and Sleep. This data can be easily shared with a physician, dietician, sports coach, support group or social media network.

Technical Specifications:
 Connectivity: Bluetooth and Bluetooth Smart
 Dimensions: 43.3 x 22.1 x 8.3 mm
 Battery: Rechargeable with 2 week battery life
 Display: OLED touchscreen display
 Compatibility: Android devices, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad, iTouch 4 and 5 For more information on the Smart Activity Tracker, visit www.withings.com/en/Smart-Activity-Tracker

Withings goes after Fitbit with its pulse-reading Smart Activity Tracker (update: hands-on video)