My new Fitbit Zip is proving to be a wonderful motivator when it comes to exercising. I now find myself going out of my way to walk a few more steps, just to see them reflected on my personal online dashboard.
What can I say? It's great to be me! And why do I say this? Well, apart from the fact that I'm dashingly handsome, a trendsetter, and a leader of fashion (it says so in the introduction to my books, so it must be true), I love gadgets and gizmos, so I'm the luckiest of lucky little rascals because people send me all sorts of goodies to peruse and ponder and play with.
For example, do you know about Microchip's recent announcement of the PIC24F 'GC' MCUs With Intelligent Analog? These little scamps boast all sorts of features that make them ideal for a wide variety of portable applications. Well, a couple of days after I'd posted that column, a Fed-Ex package from Microchip landed on my desk. When I opened this package, I discovered something called a Fitbit Zip:
To be honest, I'd never heard of the Fitbit family of wearable electronics before, but if you bounce over to the Fitbit Store, you will discover that they currently have three products:
* Fitbit Flex: Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband
* Fitbit One: Wireless Activity + Sleep Tracker
* Fitbit Zip: Wireless Activity Tracker
Well, I must admit that I was intrigued. When I opened the Fitbit Zip package I discovered the teeny-weeny Fitbit Zip itself, which is shown here next to a quarter:
This was accompanied by a replaceable battery that is said to last anywhere from four to six months, a moulded plastic clip by which you attach the Fitbit Zip to your person, the smallest wireless USB dongle I've ever seen in my life (to plug into your PC or Mac), and a strange piece of plastic whose function was a complete mystery to me.
The instructions accompanying this little rascal couldn't be simpler. They say "To set up, go to: www.fitbit.com/zip" (in multiple languages). When you go to this site, you see three simple pictograms—the first shows you inserting the battery; the second shows you plugging the wireless dongle into your computer, and the last shows you clicking a button (which you do actually click on the pictogram) to download and install the software driver onto your computer.
First came the battery. There is a groove in the back cover to the Fitbit Zip. I had to borrow a penny from Bob in the office next to mine to use as a sort of screwdriver in order to open the back, insert the battery, and close it up again. A few seconds after I'd done all this, I noticed another graphic on the screen showing "What's included in your Zip box"—it turned out that the mysterious plastic "thing" was in fact the "Battery Tool" that you use to open and close the cover (give me strength!).
Next came the wireless dongle, which was followed by the software download. As soon as the software is downloaded it broadcasts a wireless message (presumably to any and all Fitbits in close proximity) telling them to display the (relatively) unique 4-digit numerical codes associated with them. Then it tells you to look at the code being displayed on your Fitbit's screen and enter that code into your computer. This way, if multiple folks in close proximity each have their own Fitbit, everyone (computers and Fitbits) knows "who is who." Also, as part of this initialisation, your computer uploads the local time into your Fitbit. This provides a great illustration of just how simple the entire process is.
Last but not least, you use the supplied plastic clip to attach the Fitbit Zip to your person, and then you are up and running (or walking, as the case might be). Thereafter, the Fitbit keeps track of every step you take.
Once every 20 minutes or so it synchronises itself with your PC. If your PC is turned off or is out of range, your Fitbit will just try again 20 minutes later. Whenever you feel like doing so, you tap the screen of your Fitbit to cycle through a series of displays showing things like the number of steps you've taken thus far this day (the goal is 10,000 steps each day), the number of calories you've burned, and so forth. You can also bounce over to the Fitbit website to see your own personal dashboard showing all of this information as illustrated below:
The above image shows only my daily values. You can also see your cumulative totals along with a bunch of other information. Also, as another illustration as to how simple everything is, your Fitbit resets itself back to zero at midnight without you having to do anything at all. (Don't worry, it will still remember any unsynchronised values from the previous day(s) and upload them to your PC the next time they link up.) There are also lots of other cool features, like the ability to form/join groups with other users and then compete against each other.
My Fitbit Zip has proved to be a real motivator to me. I'm once again using the Treadmill Desk in my office every day while performing tasks like answering emails and taking part in online chats. I'm also parking my truck further away from things like supermarkets and malls so as to get a few more steps towards my daily total. Yesterday, for example, while changing planes at Dallas airport, I walked all the way from Gate 37 at the far end of Terminal D to Gate 9 at the far end of Terminal A (this is not a short walk).
I actually ended up getting more exercise than I expected, because when I finally reached Gate 9 in Terminal A, I discovered that there had been a gate change and my flight was now departing from Gate 38 in Terminal A—I gate I'd walked past quite some time ago. "Oh dear," I said to myself (or words to that effect).
In conclusion, I have to say that I'm very, very impressed. This is such a simple concept, but it's certainly got me doing significantly more exercise (in the form of walking) than I was doing before. The main thing for me is that it's so easy to use. All I have to do is make sure I'm wearing it—I don't even have to turn it on and off. How about you? What motivates you to get out of your chair and do some exercise?