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I am quantifying myself – it’s cool, but confusing

by Andrew White  |  July 18, 2013  |  3 Comments

I took delivery this week of my new Withings’ “Pulse” device.  This small device that sits on a belt holder or on a wrist band (a flat, wider watch) and it monitors heart rate, sleep and activity levels.  I purchased the device since I already use the Withing’s blood pressure monitor, and I have been using the vendors’ iPhone application to monitor weight (and BP and hear rate).  The UI is first rate and easy to use – with nice, flexible graphs.

For the last three months I have been an avid user of Jawbone Up.  This wrist band also monitors sleep and activity levels, and the corresponding application tracks this data and allows me to add food and calorific intake easily.  I had used a Jawbone Up device back in March but it had proven faulty after 4 weeks of collecting data.  The vendor was quick to replace it – though they used the slowest delivery method possible and I had to wait nearly 10 days for the replacement.  This somewhat tarnished the initially quick response to accept responsibility and offer a free replacement.

I actually thought that the Jawbone Up was the one for me – until Withings released its Pulse.  The promise of a “unified platform” (does that sound like an ERP sales man?) sounded pretty compelling.  So for the last week I have been using both devices.  The experience is somewhat interesting.

  • Withings “ERP” approach: It isn’t there.  It turns out that the small print tells me that I need another application (i.e. different vendor) for the food and calorific monitoring.  Thus on one app/device I monitor “adding calories” and I need another for “spending calories”.   I cannot see in one place the net change.  So I had to keep using my Jawbone Up. In other words, the promise of ERP is great, but very hard to do.  Best of Breed remains “in”
  • Jawbone Up v Withings Pulse: Oddly, the two devices report different data for the same activity.  After a nights’ sleep, both devices report different mixes of deep and light sleep.  For example, last night was a short night (I am, after all, in the middle of a 2-week briefing cycle with vendors in support of a Magic Quadrant) and after I woke, before breakfast, I walked the dog around the block (my “loop” where I live).  Here are the findings:
  • Jawbone Up: I still liked its UI and capability for tracking calorific intake.  However its graphing capabilities are poor.  It’s like looking at a green screen fixed inside a Windows UI.  Instead of showing me two, fixed bar’s, allow me to graph ALL the data and let me scroll down the set – not pick which two I want to see in the fixed window.

Jawbone Up

  1. Sleep data: total sleep 5.21 hours of which 1.55 was light sleep and 3.25 was deep
  2. Activity steps: 1,039

Withings Pulse

  1. Sleep data: total sleep 6.01 hours of which 3.49 was light and 2.12 was deep
  2. Activity steps: 1,160

Last night was not typical sleep-wise.  Being very tired, I am imaging I could have been restless or laying very still- but not necessarily getting that healthy sleep.  However I work feeling tired, so I felt the Withings was probably more accurate.  But if I look back to Sunday this week, it was a more regular 8 hour night and the data was still as different.

The activity different looks small – but this was the first 20 minutes of the day.  By the end of the day, I get very different results – Pulse at over 8,000 steps and Jawbone Up around 6.000.  That is significant.

So I am not sure which “quantified self” is the real me.  Maybe I need to understand how the devices work so I can make a judgment call as to which one I trust most.  Any thoughts?

By the way, I have tried Zeo in the past.  This has great graphics (for sleep monitoring) but wearing a head band was a big goofy so that didn’t work long.  It might be that Zeo was more accurate than either Jawbone Up or Withings – based on its proximity to my brain!  My wife also tried BodyMedia – that was a larger flat arm band (or pocket/strap based unit).  This was more oriented to online analysis than smart phone so that didn’t work either.  I also had tried another arm band-based sleep monitor last year.  I forget the name, but it was updated too often by the vendor I gave up. I wanted to try the Basis watch but that vendor seems way too quite and is not even responding to emails.  Either way, I can’t wait to see what my doctor says when I turn up for my next check-up!

It’s a fascinating program- tracking ones’ own health data.  In the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the healthcare industry initially uses the data provided, and perhaps then takes ownership of the channels and devices in the market.

Category: personal-analytics  quantified-selt  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a research vice president and agenda manager for MDM and Analytics at Gartner. His main research focus is master data management (MDM) and the drill-down topic of creating the "single view of the product" using MDM of product data. He was co-chair… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on I am quantifying myself – it’s cool, but confusing

  1. Akanksha says:

    I wouldn’t go for it to be honest. It may be good for people with health troubles but neither would I want to digitize my life to such and extent nor do I think that it would add value to my health. Most importantly, I think I would still want to be more human than a robot!

  2. Andrew White says:

    HI Akanksha ,

    Thanks for the post. I have to admit that I am a tad geeky. Not over the top, I hope. But just playing with new gadgets and seeing what they do is fun. I happen to have logged enough data to help me lose some weight too. I have only just started and hope that I can actually be fitter – without any major change in diet. I hate those silly programs that have odd diets that change weight; and as soon as you revert to anything normal, the weight goes back on. Lastly, as I get older, the “health” situation becomes more interesting to me. So the extra data may help – who knows. I will let you know (via post) when and if I find out .

    Our research shows that those under 22 (or there about) are “into” these things easily and without any real stated health goal, other than “it’s fun” and “want to track what I do”. Us oldies seem bound by “if it helps my health improve, I might try it”. So there is a divide in driver across age groups; I suspect that there are other drivers across other segments.

  3. Simon Levin says:


    As another “oldie” I also recently bought a Jawbone Up and have been wearing it for about a month now.

    I have to recognize that the device is not absoluetly correct but is relatively so. In other words are my steps accurate – no, is the recording of my sleep patter accurate – no. But then neither are likely to be so from a device that simply sits on my wrist.

    However the device is wrong in the same ways every day and so the trends it shows are very helpful and have enabled me to lose weight. Equally I do not expect the device to be accurate – I look for it to be indicative. At that level it works and, for me, works well.

    Net, net much like research :-) look for indicative insight and a meaningful analytic trend over time versus expecting deep-down scientific accuracy out-of-the-box. At least I would compare it that way with my former research.

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