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How Do Sensors Work Inside Fitness Trackers?

Fitness trackers have become one of the most common wearable technologies around the globe, and the key to that is the versatility offered by this technology. Fitness trackers come in various shapes and forms, all tailored to the consumers’ basic needs such as armbands, wristbands, chest-straps, clip-ons, rings, and even bras with built-in heart monitors. Companies now even opt for embedded fitness trackers in smartwatches allowing for even more options than just counting steps.

The real question here is, how can something so small do so much? The essence of these gadgets is the built-in sensors for literally everything, using every bit of information that they can get, such as distance traveled, heartbeat, sleep tracking, calorie consumption, pressure difference, and even fall or crash detection. Each of these metrics is measured either individually by a specific sensor or is the product of several readings; we will be discussing these sensors in detail.

3 axis accelerometer, Altimeter, Barometer & Gyroscope

Now, these guys are mainly related to movement calculation, and through complex algorithms, they analyze movement to ascertain what activities you’re engaging in and alter the heart rate interpretation accordingly.

3 axis accelerometer sensors are the base of all fitness trackers, interpreting the body’s orientation, inclination, and tilt through sensing gravity as well as linear accelerations. Along with IMUs, the sensors track movement in each direction.

Gyro sensors, also known as angular rate sensors or angular velocity sensors, are devices that sense angular velocity. The more axes, the better. A 3 axis gyroscope can be paired up with a 3 axis accelerometer to provide a ‘6 degree of freedom’ motion tracking system. Most reliable fitness trackers use this combination to get a better grip on the 3D workout motions that an individual may perform.

A barometer relies on atmospheric pressure to carry out its job, which is quite similar in one aspect to the altimeter, yet, it also determines the weather of the day through the amount of pressure exerted by the atmosphere on it.

An altimeter is on the more developed and complex side than a barometer as it’s designed for climbing mountains and isn’t even offered in that many fitness trackers. Still, the foundation of both sensors remains the same, which is altitude determination through a change in atmospheric pressure.

Both the altimeter and the barometer contribute to the burnt-calorie count throughout the day.

Heart-rate, Tissue Oxygenation, Respiration-rate & Sleep patterns

Bioimpedance sensor

Through the use of two outer electrodes to drive tiny electrical energy and two inner electrodes to pick up changes in voltage, they measure tissue-resistance to the current, giving a lot of information regarding several metrics. Combining these metrics forms an image of the body composition which the fitness trackers translate into heart-rate and respiration-rate. It also gives an idea about how much body component ( muscle, fat, or water), needs to be lost or gained. This is the same technology used in smart scales.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor

An ECG sensor records the pathway of the tiny electrical impulses traveling the heart muscle. Any alteration in this pathway or the frequency of these impulses can be catastrophic, so, through constant monitoring, it’s a lot easier to pick up these small changes so that the situation can be handled early-on and with as little damage possible.

Optical heart rate sensor

As the frequency of heart-beats increases, blood tends to rush in the blood vessels faster and faster. What an optical heart rate sensor does is that it shines a light on these blood vessels, mainly capillaries, and detects the reflection of that light. The more blood in the capillaries, the less the reflection of the light and the more the heartbeat. Now, this sensor is a lot more accurate in chest-straps, but of course, it’s a lot more practical to wear a watch than a belt around one’s chest.

Pulse oximeter

Oxygenation of distal body parts is very important; it’s measured through pulse oximeter sensors that emit light; usually, LEDs, into the tissue, and have a photodetector collect light reflected or transmitted from the skin. Oxygenated blood has a vivid red color, while de-oxygenated blood sends back a bluish picture.

Place Detection And Connection


A Compass is surely a must in all fitness trackers; it’s simply a magnetized needle that points to the North.

Global Positioning System (GPS), satellites are the answer to this one, through signals transmitted back and forth, the satellite calculates the distance between itself and the fitness tracker and through very specific calculations determines your exact place in the world.

A magnetometer measures magnetic fields, primarily that of the earth. It can be used as a compass and to pinpoint your exact movements.

If the smartwatch on your wrist happens to be LTE enabled, that simply means that is has a built-in cellular connection, making it independent of your smartphone.

Other Sensors

A temperature sensor that provides a reading of your body or the external temperature.

UV sensor which tells the fitness tracker when you might be absorbing dangerous UV radiation and warns you to seek shade if you are likely to burn.

Ambient light sensors detect the time of day by separating the forms of light visible to the human eye and processing them to adapt the screen to the amount of light needed by you. This is exceptionally helpful in protecting the user’s eyes and pocket to be real as it expands the battery’s life-span.

A capacitive sensor is another way to save the users’ batteries by waking the device’s screen only when worn or looked at.

In The End

The Fitness Trackers industry has taken quite a few leaps in the past years, and although the gaps between results of various devices is evident proof of the long way that this industry has to cross, we cannot deny that being able to know how much cardio you have done, calories you’ve burnt, the weather for the day and how much sun-ray you took all from one small device is quite awesome.

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How to Use Fitness Trackers to Improve Your Sleep?

In the past few years, fitness trackers have become vital in our lives. They can keep track of our health and tell us what is going wrong. They can detect many things, including our heart rate, oxygen consumption, and sleep patterns. 

With the stress and anxiety of our fast-paced life, most of us face problems with sleeping, but having a fitness tracker may help us detect the problem.  

How Do Fitness Trackers Improve Sleep?

1. Building Awareness

Tracking your sleep will make you notice things you didn’t even know about. It will give you insight into how you sleep, making you realize patterns and detect problems. For example, by analyzing the data that your sleep tracker gathers, you may realize that you usually do not sleep well when you get into bed after 10 o’clock. This will help you get into bed earlier and solve the problem. As easy as that!

To make it work, you have to analyze the data and notice what works for you and what causes you insomnia. It would be best if you kept making some changes to your sleep to finally be sure about the things that are good and bad for your sleep. 

It is of extreme importance to know that the result of your sleep tracker might not always be accurate, so it is always better to double-check. For example, if you realize that going to sleep within an hour from eating keeps you up at night, try not to do that for a couple of nights and check the data again and then eat and sleep directly and review again, compare the data, and there you are, finally sure!

To be able to monitor the data, get a wearable that its graphs are easy for you to understand. For example, Fitbit relies on colorful graphs and a simple, intuitive display. The Oura Ring has a dark interface with a focus on lots of bar charts; whereas, Garmin Connect tends to have a sportier, more detailed look. 

Remember, trackers are not going to improve your sleep unless you are dictated to monitoring the data, double-checking, and making changes. 

2. Providing A Holistic Review

Some sleep trackers keep up with everything that happens in your day-to-day life. They take your physical exercises, diet, stress, effort, and much other stuff into consideration. They then try to know what effects all of these have on your sleep. 

Such devices also record sounds, which means that they can detect sleep apnea and the noises around you that may be interrupting your sleep. 

The Oura Ring is the device that provides this holistic approach nowadays. It also shows you, through clear bar charts, what activities you should focus on in your daily routine and what activities you should stay away from or at least lessen from. 

3. Setting Realistic Expectations 

For a sleep tracker to help you, you need to determine what you need it for. Do you need it to track your sleep, to tell you why you are always sleepy, or because you have a sleeping problem?

A sleep tracker will not be able to help you if you want it to fix a sleep disorder; however, it is of great help if you want to know more about your sleep and become more aware of what makes you sleep well. 

4. See Objective Information 

Sleep trackers will show you how many hours you have slept. This is especially good for insomniac patients who suffer from sleep misconceptions. Such patients believe that they have not slept or that they have slept for way fewer hours than they actually did. 

Getting objective information about how much you have slept will help reduce your anxiety and will give you a better perspective on your problem so you can know how to approach it.

Bottom Line

Fitness trackers are not magicians; they will not just fix your sleeping problem. All they can do is help you pinpoint the issue. They can give you objective information, tell you how many hours you sleep, shed light on the activities that are good and bad for your sleep, and so on. You need to have enough determination to fix the problem yourself.  

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All the Things You Can Track With Wearables

Wearables are anything worn that can detect certain aspects of your activity or body. They are not only fashionable, they are also very functional for they can be used to track a variety of things. 

This article is going to tackle fitness trackers and smartwatches and what they can track.

What Do Fitness Trackers And Smartwatches Track?

1. Distance

Almost all basic wearables and smartwatches provide such property thanks to gadget’s accelerometer. This could be helpful during marathons or while going on a road trip.

2. Steps

Most probably, you already know that fitness trackers (AKA activity trackers) and smartwatches track your steps. Smartwatches also have accelerometers to track basic activity metrics, like step count. Thanks to the accelerometer they have, they can correctly count how many steps you walk daily. 

You can also set a goal for yourself; let’s say 10000 steps per day, for example. Such trackers will help you monitor the progress you make towards reaching your goal. This can get you motivated and help you become healthier!

Wearables do not only count your steps, but they can also count how many floors you have climbed. So if you usually climb a lot of stairs, having a fitness tracker will help you see the bright side of this as you will be surprised by how many floors you have climbed and how much this helps you burn your enemies; calories. 

3. Calories

Fitness-trackers, even the basic ones, can show you how many calories you have burned during any of your activities. This option is of extreme importance as it boosts your spirit. It makes you see for a fact that whatever you do helps you burn calories, so it makes you want to keep moving forward with whatever the activities you are doing without getting bored and without doubting the point of it all.  

Regarding smartwatches, all Apple Watch models can track the calories you burn. Users can check this data from the Health app. This is a basic option because wearables just need to have an accelerometer to be able to count calories, no biggie. 

4. Heart Rate

Some fitness-trackers from the Samsung Gear Fit 2 to the Garmin vivosmart HR can track your heart rate, both your resting beats per minute and your rate when you’re mid-workout. Such an option could be handy, especially for runners. 

However, if you need precise measurement, it is better to buy chest strap heart rate monitors. 

If you need a smartwatch that can measure your heart rate, get devices such as the Apple Watch Series 1, the Apple Watch Series 2, the Huawei Watch, or the Motorola Moto 360 Sport.

5. Workout Routes and Pace

Sophisticated and expensive fitness trackers include built-in GPS. They can map your runs, walks, jogs, and other types of workouts. Moreover, GPS enables the fitness trackers to track the pace and split times distance in real-time. Such trackers could be beneficial if you are a runner training for a marathon, for example. 

Samsung Gear S3, Apple Watch Series 2, the Motorola Moto 360 Sport, and many running watches from brands like Garmin are smartwatches with a built-in GPS.

6. Sleep Time and Sleep Quality

Some wearables can track your sleep activity if you wear them during your sleep time. Devices such as the Jawbone UP3, Basis Peak, and Withings Activité have sensors via which they collect data to analyze your sleep patterns. 

For example, if they detect that you turn over a lot, sit up, or stir, they will count this time as your awake time, and then they will calculate your total night sleep. 

This may not always be accurate, so if you are facing a real problem, it is better to visit a clinic

7. Fitness Score

Both smartwatches and fitness trackers can measure your fitness score. Trackers like Charge 2 devices can measure your fitness level compared to other people of your age and gender. This “cardio fitness score” is a measure of your cardiovascular fitness based on your VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use when you’re working out at your highest intensity.) You will find this option under the heart rate section of the Fitbit app. 

8. Active Minutes

Most of us do not have a clear and objective view of how active we are during the day. Some of us tend to exaggerate their time of activity, and others never believe they have done enough. If you are one of these two types of people, rest assured that with having a fitness tracker that tracks your active minutes, you no longer need to worry about this.

Fitness-trackers like Fitbit can tell you with accuracy how many minutes you have been active, and how many minutes you have spent doing a particular activity, or workout. Moreover, when they detect that you have rested for an extended period, they send you reminders to push you into doing exercises.

Specialized Wearables

There are some other specialized wearables that track specific stuff. 

1. Diabetes Risk

A pair of temperature-monitoring socks from the brand Siren Care that prevents diabetic foot ulcers by tracking foot temperature.

2. Fertility

Ava’s bracelet measures your skin temperature, breathing rate, and heat loss to tell you how fertile you are.

3. Sun Exposure

June bracelet is a UV wearable bracelet that helps to protect you from harmful sun rays by telling you how much you have been exposed to them, so you can avoid such harmful rays later. 

Bottom Line

It is known that wearables can track steps and distance, but now you know that they can track a lot more than that. Before buying any wearable, check that it best suits the things you need to monitor. 

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