Basis: A Health and Heart-Rate Watch for Wellness and Fitness

Promoted as a health tracker where style finally meets substance, the Basis fitness watch combines a motion tracker with a real-time heart-rate monitor to create a tracking tool that promises to help you make healthier choices.

One of the many challenges with fitness technology in the past was that to gather different types of information, a person needed to wear different devices. The Basis watch claims to fix that challenge by combining the popular tracking of movement through steps with a strapless heart-rate sensor. The multi-sensor band combined with the online personal dashboard was designed to help people incorporate healthy habits into their daily lives.

As regards setup time, from taking it out of the box, to charging the device, setting up an account online, downloading the app to your smartphone and getting everything working as it should, you can expect anywhere from 20-60 minutes. If you need to contact support for help, they offer a number of different ways to do so and will often send a video link on the best way to install everything.

One thing that makes the Basis different from other fitness tracking devices is the ability to measure heart rate optically. This means that you don’t need to wear a heart rate strap around your chest, but rather through a sensor on the backside of the watch, Basis will measure heart rate through monitoring the changes in blood flow within the capillaries on your wrist. During the day, measurements with normal physical activity and low-to-moderate workouts seem to work well and fall within the proper range of heart rates; you can expect updates to the software to make things even more accurate. For higher-end workouts or athletic training, test the heart rate values from the Basis with your normal device (by hand or using a strapped heart-rate monitor) before you change your tracking and workout planning to the Basis.

Another point of difference for the Basis is the behavioural change science that comes free on the personal online dashboard. The Basis online component is one of the better ones out there when it comes to not only the content, but also a plan towards your health and fitness goals in small, manageable steps. The website is divided into three sections – My Habits, Insights and Data. The My Habits section does a nice job in creating small but manageable steps towards better health, starting from simply wearing the device for 12 hours, progressing to taking 2,000 steps before noon, then to more persuasive activities. The Insights section gives a nice interactive one-page view of your results, activity and sleep scores. The Data section is where the number crunching and statistical evaluation takes place. There, you can plot and compare heart rate, steps, calories, skin temperature and perspiration throughout the day, and how each may impact the other measurements.

One of the more recent trends in health-monitoring devices is in the tracking of sleep. The Basis watch has one of the nicer interfaces for sleep tracking and is rather easy to use. Unlike other devices where the user needs to tell the device they are going to sleep, the Basis watch “knows” when you go to bed and when you get up, taking away that extra step in sleep monitoring. Although the sleep score doesn’t show up on the watch display, after a successful sync of the watch to your smart phone over Bluetooth, you will be able to see total time sleeping, a quality-of-sleep score, and the number of times your sleep was interrupted. While this type of sleep monitoring won’t replace a sleep study from your doctor or diagnose you with sleep issues, it will give you a general view on your quality of sleep, and if you see trends that may become a problem, you can take your sleep information to your doctor to start the conversation.

The Basis watch will also measure your skin temperature and perspiration levels, but other than including the measurements on a fancy graph, little exists into what other benefits may come from monitoring these. For the average user, knowing either will have little impact on the quality of your workout. Cheers to Basis on being able to create a tool that can measure each, but the question remains, so what now?

As with all new technology, the Basis watch will go through a few rounds of enhancements before the general public adopts the technology, but functions well as is. Bottom line, if you can afford the price, the worst thing you get is a cool-looking watch, the best thing you get is a virtual coach in the watch to help you towards better health.

What we liked:

  • Heart rate sensor from wrist.
  • Real-time data display.
  • Enabling health habits on dashboard through small changes in fitness and sleep routines.

What we didn’t like:

  • Watch band can be bulky and uncomfortable.
  • Only two scientifically reviewed studies around design of technology (from their website).
  • Initial setup can be challenging for non-tech users.
  • No education on the value of measurement of skin temperature or perspiration levels.

The price of the Basis watch is $199 from Amazon.com and mybasis.com.

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