The band was first revealed by mistake through Microsoft’s supporting apps for the iPhone, Android and Mac computers, which allow the Microsoft Band to connect to smartphones, tablets and computers beyond Windows.
The new fitness gadget is a Bluetooth band that records the number of steps the wearer takes in a day, the intensity of her sleep, exercise performance and calories burned. It also tracks heart rate, location via GPS, skin temperature, perspiration and UV exposure making it one of the most complete fitness trackers available.
It will last around two days on a charge with 24-hour heart rate monitoring, although use of the GPS during runs will reduce the battery life, according to Microsoft.
‘Combine health and fitness data to create powerful insights’
Four years in the making, the Band also has a microphone and connects to a smartphone to display notifications and activate voice assistants such as Windows Phone’s Cortana, in a similar fashion to Google’s Android Wear smartwatches.
The Band will connect to Windows Phones, iPhones, Android devices and Windows and Mac computers to sync data. Fitness tracking is powered by Microsoft’s new Health service, which like Google’s Fit and Apple’s Health aims to collate fitness and health data from third-party apps and services as well as the Microsoft Band.
“The Microsoft Health platform includes a cloud service for consumers and the industry to store and combine health and fitness data to create powerful insights,” said Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president at Microsoft in a blog post.
Microsoft’s “Intelligence Engine” will process data from different sources combining fitness information with data from a user’s calendar, email and location to build a more detailed picture of their health.
“Nobody else has the big data or machine learning to attack fitness and productivity challenges in this way,” said Zulfi Alam, Microsoft’s general manager of personal devices.
The company said that the data would be securely stored in its cloud service, and that users will be able to actively share that data with medical providers using Microsoft’s HealthVault.
Jawbone, MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal and RunKeeper will be some of the first apps to connect to the new health platform, with more added later.
Lucrative health market
Microsoft is the last of the big three traditional technology companies to enter the medical market with a new health service. Apple released its Health app and service with the iPhone 6 and iOS 8.1 while Google released Fit Wednesday – each of these apps and services are designed to both monitor fitness directly and the allow third-party apps and service to connect and share data.
Many in the technology sector are vying for a slice of the healthcare industry, which is a potentially lucrative market worth about 10% of the economy of developed nations. In Britain, more than £100bn a year is spent on the NHS, according to the Department of Health.
Fitness trackers and the “quantified self” movement represent a small proportion of that market. But the personal data trackers offer potential for setting baseline measurements against which changes caused by disease could be measured providing better, more personalised diagnoses from medical professionals.
The explosion in the market has been fuelled by the intersection of biometric sensor cost and capability, which has made devices such as heart rate monitors a viable addition to consumer gadgets costing under £200.
A similar revolution is underway in the medical field, where new sensors and ways of detecting disease away from laborious and time-consuming diagnostics are proving effective for certain diseases such as HIV.
The Microsoft Band is available exclusively in the US for $199.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Thursday 30th October 2014 12.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010