Thoughts on Microsoft’s quiet entrance into the wearables market

Last Wednesday Microsoft announced their Band to the world in a sort of sneaky way. Many of us followed the rumors and knew something was cooking but Microsoft surprised even the enthusiasts. I wondered how Microsoft was able to pull that off, but it seems they understand how to create a buzz in a way other companies are successful at – the original Surface RT is a great example of this.

I, for one, was surprised and went out to my local Microsoft store first thing Thursday morning. I got there at 10 am sharp and found around 13 people ahead of me just as eager as me to score one too, many more followed suit. My store didn’t have the massive lines other stores had, but people starting to fill the store afterwards.  There were definitely a few shoppers critical about it initially but I noticed that they eventually changed their minds and ended up purchasing a Band – I thought it was interesting to see.

I have been using the Band for five days now and start to love it more and more. I am not a fitness person by any means but this gadget makes me realize more about my health then I ever did before, which in some ways is actually a good thing because I am at an age where healthier living does start to matter.

This gadget is filled with sensors and very capable to keep track of your everyday life movements, the way you live your life and how well you take care of your body, where you have been and how long you have been there. Besides that, we have the Microsoft Health app that syncs to the Band so all your information is stored in the cloud.

It’s good to see that that Microsoft’s Band works with other platforms (Android and iOS) which is very smart of Microsoft and will ensure a much wider acceptance rather than being exclusive to a single platform.

This smart band is a very capable tool and collects some vital information, so I sincerely hope Microsoft protects our sensitive info and if they do decide to take the Google route, they should provide a way for users to opt out of it even if it means that the Band becomes less useful.

Let’s take a look at what is inside the Band that will track our lives in more ways than other fitness bands do. (It is a little confusing on Microsoft’s website what the 10 sensors exactly are, because they mention only 7 or 8).

1: Optical heart rate monitor

Your Microsoft Band continuously monitors and reports your current heart rate. Measurements of the fluctuations in your heart rate help add quality to your calories burned measurements and to performance stats that you get when you track runs, workouts, and sleep. See Track your heart rate for more info.

2: Accelerometer/3: Gyrometer

The accelerometer/gyrometer in your band detects motion. This info is used to calculate things like number of steps taken, which can be combined with info from your profile and heart rate measurements to estimate how many calories you burn throughout the day or during a workout. For info on tracking these measurements, see Track your calories burnedTrack your exercise, and Track your steps.

Motion and heart rate also indicate periods of restful and light sleep. For more info, see Track your sleep.

4: GPS

When you turn GPS on during distance travel activities like running, hiking, or biking, it records your route, and collects info about the distance you’ve travel. When you sync your band with your phone, you’ll find a map of your route in the Microsoft Health app so you can retrace your favorite routes later.

GPS data is also used to refine distance and speed calculations. Use the Run Tile to start and stop GPS tracking. For more info on the GPS, see Using GPS mapping.

5: Microphone (which I was a little surprised about but hey, it is a sensor)

Use the built-in microphone to speak to Cortana, your personal digital assistant (available only on Windows Phone 8.1 Update). The microphone is near the left side of the touchscreen. When Cortana’s enabled on both your phone and on your band, just press and hold the action button, and speak into the mic. See Using Cortana for more info.

6: Ambient Light Sensor

Info from the ambient light sensor can be used to adjust the brightness of your touchscreen display automatically. To use this feature, set Brightness to Auto Set. Here’s how:

From the Me Tile on your band, swipe left, and tap Settings > Brightness.

7:  Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) sensors

The GSR sensor measures the conductivity of your skin between the GSR sensor under the clasp and the secondary GSR contact point under the face of your Microsoft Band. This tells your Microsoft Band whether you’re wearing it, so it can adjust how it monitors your activities.

8: Skin temperature sensor

9: UV sensor

Get a snapshot of the UV level where you are by tapping the UV Tile, so you can decide if you need sunscreen, a hat, or maybe a few hours indoors.

10: Capacitive sensor (touch screen) which is obvious and maybe therefore not mentioned.

Anyway, I LOVE my Band. It Rocks!

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