The Apple Watch is all the rage right now and everybody’s happy about it acting like an iOS version of Android Wear. We’re happy about the Apple Watch, even though I think it’s rather overpriced, compared to the competition. It’s overpriced even if we compared it to the Samsung Gear S, which has its own antennae. Regardless of that, Tim Cook prides himself and Apple with the Apple Watch, positioning it as an all-in-one device which can track fitness activity all the while feeding you important notifications. If there are fitness buffs out there, athletes and sports personalities who want a good fitness tracker tailored for their needs, should not buy the Apple Watch. Why splurge on a $350 minimum price Apple Watch when you can spend $150 and get a much more advanced fitness tracker that does what you need it to do: tracking fitness like a pro. I’m talking about the AmpStrip, which was designed and is being currently tested in beta by FitLinxx.
FitLinxx has a 20 year background with fitness gear, including fitness tracking software and hardware. Did you ever hear about the Pebble? They were the ones that made the first Pebble almost 10 years ago. There’s also a Pebble+ available, but we’ll get to that later. First off let’s see why the Apple Watch looks like a gimmick next to the AmpStrip, from a fitness tracker point of view. We can say the same thing about the Microsoft Band, the Moto 360 and many other smart watches out there, but the Apple Watch is the most overpriced of them all so I enjoy venting about that. First off, the Apple Watch aims to be an all-in-one device, which is a problem when it comes to fitness tracking.
The AmpStrip is designed with just fitness tracking in mind, and it’s actually a lot less noticeable and bothersome than the Apple Watch. This insanely small fitness tracker is about the size of a band-aid that you would buy in the store and you stick it somewhere below your pecs or boobs and it will stay there for about a week, depending on the workouts you’re doing. While the AmpStrip is stuck on your body, you won’t have to worry about it discharging, losing connection, or not registering your biometrics. While the Apple Watch has to be charged at the end of the day and its optical heart rate sensor can’t read through tattoos in some cases, the AmpStrip uses a more advanced technology, namely a single lead ECG sensor that is much more accurate than the optical sensor. Before moving on with what the AmpStrip is, you should know that it’s for athletes. It is geared at athletes and professionals and it’s actually the first consumer product from FitLinxx,
The AmpStrip was very successful on Indiegogo, managing to surpass its funding goal of $50,000 by quite a lot. In five days time, the AmpStrip managed to reach its goal and gather $400,000 which helped FitLinxx get through the prototypes and testing and are now in the beta phase of the project. You can pre-order the AmpStrip for $150 off Indiegogo, and the estimated shipment date is July, but there might be some delays in delivery as the company is working on the beta with early adopters and partners. We’ve had a chat with FitLinxx CEO Dave Monahan about the AmpStrip and why it’s actually better than the Apple Watch if we’re looking at fitness tracking abilities. You can read the interview at the end of this post and find out how FitLinxx managed to get AmpStrip on the market so fast and what lies ahead for the revolutionary wearable fitness tracker.
Before heading down to the interview, I wanted to explain a few things about the AmpStrip and why I said it was better than the Apple Watch. As Dave Monahan said in our conversation, the AmpStrip is not for everyone, it’s for a niche that encompasses athletes, sports-oriented people and medical professionals, in the long run. Dave also told me that the advanced technology of the AmpStrip will eventually lead to medical-grade health trackers, pending FDA approval. Right now, the wearable is made with the sports industry in mind. That’s because the band-aid type wearable doesn’t have communication functions, but it does provide high-end fitness tracking.
Athletes probably know this better than I do, but heart rate is the most important thing that athletes need to monitor when exercising. Although the Apple Watch, Microsoft Band and others can monitor heart rate, they do not monitor it around the clock and do not differentiate between variables, resting heart rate, workload and more detailed readings like that. When an athlete trains, they want to monitor their bodies non-stop so that they can gain more insight about when their bodies are ready for another workout and how long it takes their bodies to refuel and rest after a workout. The AmpStrip can monitor heart rate, steps, posture, calories burned, active time, respiration and further down the lane: sleep and stress levels, which are things that the Apple Watch can also partly do, yet it does it with an accuracy that is hard to match. That’s most valid for the ECG heart rate monitor.
I say further down the lane because the AmpStrip is upgradable, at no cost. FitLinxx is planning on sending out multiple updates to the wearable, adding new user-requested features such as sleep tracking and stress level monitoring. The benefit of AmpStrip is that it offers important insight non-stop, around the clock and the associated app helps you monitor your health and fitness level without missing any data. Although optical sensors are neat, they do lose between 20 and 35 % of the data they collect. When fitness tracking with the Apple Watch, for example, usually you need to turn tracking on and tell the device what you’re doing in order to be able to track your activity. Also, swimming with the Apple Watch is not cool (you will have to replace it afterwards).
That’s where the AmpStrip impresses its user. The wearable tracks your movement, heart rate, rest and posture without you having to tell it anything and it needs no interaction from you as the user until the adhesive that holds it on your skin flakes off or the battery of the device dies. Essentially, the AmpStrip is made in such a way that you’ll forget you even have it on. Moreover, it’s completely water- and sweat-proof, so you can monitor your swimming routines as well, which you can’t do with the Apple Watch. Since we’re on adhesives, you should know that if you’re planning to order the AmpStrip off the Indiegogo project page, you’ll also get 3 to 6 months of adhesives for the price, but be sure to check the specifics of the perks that you select.
The battery life for the AmpStrip is way longer than the Apple Watch battery life, as it goes for at least 3 days on a single charge, and that’s when we’re talking about heavy workouts. Otherwise, with regular workouts of about an hour or two each day, it will konk out after about a week, even 10 days. The adhesives that you use to stick the AmpStrip to your body have the same shelf-life, so you’re pretty much covered with a package for the next few months. Since the device is on non-stop, you can imagine that it has some work to do tracking your activities and health metrics. Dave attributes the good battery life to their own patented technology, but the components they use are pretty standard.
Still, FitLinxx did a very good job with the AmpStrip, as it uses very little energy and transmits data straight to servers that will then feed it back to the apps that you use. The AmpStrip uses Bluetooth LE to transmit data to your mobile device, be it an iOS iPhone or iPad or an Android smartphone or tablet. That’s one of the best features of the AmpStrip and a feature that makes the Apple Watch fade in comparison, although only from this point of view: cross-platform compatibility. According to FitLinxx CEO, the wearable will also be compatible with Windows devices in the future, so that’s a great feature to see in a modern fitness tracker.
The AmpStrip works with its own app, but it can also be connected to third-party fitness apps like RunKeeper to use the data. And that’s where the fun part comes in. Dave Monahan told me that there’s a good chance that the Apple Watch will also be compatible with the AmpStrip later this year, which means that Apple Watch owners who are athletes can actually use both devices to keep track of their fitness levels. They slap on the AmpStrip on their chest, sync it up with the Apple Watch and monitor their activity directly from the watch. That’s neat, but what happens when you go swimming and you can’t take any other device with you?
FitLinxx thought of that and made the AmpStrip capable of storing 24 hours’ worth of data internally for later access. By the way, I did mention that the data the AmpStrip collects goes through some FitLinxx servers, but you don’t need to be concerned. I’ve asked Dave about security and privacy, and he informed me that the data is completely secure, thanks to 64 bit encryption and the fact that the data is not associated with a user. So even if someone manages to get a hold of the databases from the servers (which he assured me: is hard to do), they won’t be able to trace the data they find back to specific persons. Sounds pretty fair, in an age where privacy has become a key concern for many people.
Seeings as AmpStrip is a new and revolutionary product, I asked Dave whether they had more plans for it. Besides emphasizing the fact that the AmpStrip can be complimentary to the Apple Watch, he also told me that low-cost versions of the device are a possibility. Even though $150 is not that much to pay for a high-end fitness tracking wearable device, average consumers might not see the need for such a device as they don’t need the same type of body monitoring as athletes do. That’s why Dave thinks that producing stickers that only track one type of activity for a fraction of a cost would be a good step forward for the AmpStrip. Otherwise, they will be focusing on upgrading the current model with new features and getting the FDA approval for a new medical-type AmpStrip in the next year or two.
The importance of accurate heart rate tracking is overlooked by fitness tracker manufacturers, because people tend to forget that resting heart rate, your base measurement for heart rate metrics, should be taken the moment when you get up from bed after a good night’s sleep. The AmpStrip can sense posture and will know when you’re getting up from bed after a night’s sleep and that’s when it will take a resting heart rate measurements.Then it will be able to differentiate between heart rate variables and exercise loads and the effects these have on your heart rate and will let you see the data it collects and map your health and fitness levels accordingly.
Since heart-rate monitoring is the main feature of the AmpStrip, you can imagine that the ECG sensor within the wearable is almost as good as the equipment you would find in medical facilities. That’s a great plus because it offers high accuracy measurements and constant monitoring, so that you can have a lot of insight into how your body is working, healing and developing. Although the AmpStrip is not made for those who just do the minimum exercises each day, it could be a great investment for those who want to monitor sleep, stress levels and exercise, all at the same time. Check out the interview excerpts from below to find out how the AmpStrip came to be, what lies ahead and why you should be intrigued!
Ch: How come AmpStrip is your first consumer product after 0 years of activity?
Dave Monahan: In the past, putting a consumer product was very expensive because of the costs that piled up starting from retail to marketing. You had to pay retailers to put a product on shelves and overall, you had to get about $25 million to get a product to market. Now, with the rise of social media and all the ways you can get your message out in a low-cost way, we decided to bring the AmpStrip to market. We took it to Indiegogo and raised a lot of money and got a lot of interest, and in the end, we didn’t have to spend on marketing as much as we would have previously. With the success of the campaign, retailers also started contacting us, which was a good sign that our product, the AmpStrip, had an audience. You have to have a good product that people actually want, that narrowly focuses on specifics and we thought we had that with the AmpStrip.
Ch: Can you share some info about the battery tech that went into the AmpStrip?
Dave Monahan: We are using off the shelf, wireless rechargeable technology, but the reason we get such good battery life on the AmpStrip is in the way in which we handle data and in the algorithms and calculations that go into the management of that data. We’ve been in the wearable technology market for a long time and our engineers are specilalized in energy-efficient software and firmware development. We use a lot of proprietary, patented techniques to either process on the device or send it to the servers and processing data on the backend. On the other hand, the way in which the device sends data to the smartphone or tablet that it’s connected to has been made energy-efficient with our technologies that improve the way in which the flow of data is handled over time. Battery life is critical to consumers and the AmpStrip was designed with that in mind.
Ch: What are the best features of the AmpStrip that make it the best wearable for fitness buffs and athletes?
Dave Monahan: Once you stick the AmpStrip on, you will forget about it and it won’t bother you during your workout like other devices do. Chest-straps and wrist bands can be annoying and uncomfortable when doing long exercises. The AmpStrip stays in the background, it’s comfortable and you don’t have to think about it. The automatic feature, the fact that the AmpStrip takes measurements without intervention is one of the best parts. The long battery life and the upgradeability are also very important and pretty rare in the wearable industry. When it comes to upgradeability, we can do a lot more over time based on user feedback from the AmpStrip users. The fact that the AmpStrip is a completely waterproof wearable is also very important to athletes. It can resist both in fresh water and salt water, but we’re currently testing the capabilities of the AmpStrip to see the variables and metrics. Until now, tests are going pretty well, the AmpStrip holding out during a hour ocean swim, the Boston marathon, swimming marathons and such. The adhesives do have to be changed if you do long, exhaustive exercises, but if you use it for daily exercises, the adhesive will last for a week. We’ll let people know about the variables after our tests are complete.
Ch: Is the July release date set in stone?
Dave Monahan: It’s not, because we’re still going through the testing and manufacturing process, but as soon as we know an official date, we will keep you updated. We went from prototype, to alpha and then beta, where we are now. The product is ready for release, but we want to test it across a broader audience and we are refining the elements and are in talks with manufacturers about details and engineering issues. It will definitely be released in the second part of this year, but I can’t say for sure exactly when.