In the past 7 months I have become a quantified self enthusiast and I have been using a number of tracking devices & smartphone applications to monitor my body & behavior. It has been a great experience to bring on the surface personal health & fitness elements which otherwise go unnoticed in the general blindness of “common sense”.
In this post I want to share my conclusions (see also slideshare presentation) from running a short experiment comparing data coming from Fibit (specifically Fitbit One), the Nike+Fuelband bracelet, and the smartphone application “Moves”. My main driver in running this experiment is to find which application measures more accurately the steps I take per day, but also what does this mean for the calories I burn.
To do this experiment I followed the simple rule of having both tracking devices and my iPhone (for the Moves application) always with me. Simply put, if I didn’t use one, I didn’t use the other. This was more difficult with the iPhone device as sometimes I forgot my phone on the desk for short period of times. That’s why I focus more on the comparison between Fitbit One and the Nike+Fuelband. Nevertheless I saw value including the Moves application data anyway.
I find two main conclusions from this experiment:
- 1. Fitbit One counts more steps than the Nike+Fuelband bracelet.
I am not a technical expert and I cannot argue about the technical differences between the accelerometers used from Fitbit One and the Nike+Fuelband bracelet. I do see, though, that the Nike+Fuelband bracelet and the Moves application come close to each other. In a recent post by Gary Wolf comparing the Nike+Fuelband bracelet with the Fitbit he argued that “the FuelBand reliably captures intentional steps, which it interprets as exercise. The FitBit gets these, but also registers more ambiguous movements, which in its framework count as activity. The Fuelband is made by a fitness company. The FitBit is for general lifestyle use”. So I believe the Nike+Felband bracelet is more accurate. I believe that a tracking device should count actual steps rather than counting steps coming from ambiguous movements.
- 2. Fitbit One calorie calculation indicates that I burn significantly more calories than the Nike+Fuelband bracelet.
There is a big difference between the two tracking devices on calories burned. For example, on April 30, 2013 Fibit One indicates that I burned 1 calorie for every 2.9 steps I made, while the Nike+Fuelband bracelet indicates that I burned 1 calorie for every 6.8 steps. Again, I cannot argue here with certainty which device is more accurate but I would allow a guess and that is Nike+Fuelband. If this is true, though, then it is bad news for people who connect their Fitbit data with Myfitnesspal. This is because whoever has a daily calorie goal consumption in myfitnesspal will find themselves getting more calories allowed to consume because Fitbit indicates that you burn more than you probably actually do…this is still, though, an assumption.
As a closing note, I believe that there is value in both tracking devices because they both serve the goal of making you aware or alert on how much you are moving. What is really important is the trend.