October 2016, the CEO of Fitbit announced a transition from a “consumer electronics company to a digital healthcare company”
Fitbits claim to do many things, those including monitoring heart rate and detecting sleep patterns.
A court case has been initiated by 1000’s of complaints from users for the devices inaccuracies. Researchers in California carried out a study using 43 healthy adults. They measured each of the adults heart rates using two of Fitbit’s devices that claim to have heart rate monitors – Surge and Charge HR – one on each wrist.
The same 43 adults’ heart rates were tested on a Bioharness device, which carries out a tradition ECG*. The data was compared between rest and exercise including, skipping, treadmills, jogging and climbing the stairs. The Fitbits miscalculated the heart rates up to 20 beats per minute, and altogether missed some heartbeats. This is a big deal, as users such as athletes may be inappropriately trained to elevate their heart rates to an unsafe level which can bring on other health risks such as a heart attack.
In a separate case, the sleep trackers have been found to overestimate sleeping an average 67 minutes per night. Thinking you are sleeping for longer can cause serious health consequences especially in the long term.
In both circumstances, Fitbit are “claiming” features that each device does and charging a premium price for the functions, but not accurately delivering them. If they want to become a digital healthcare organisation they’ve got a lot of work to do…
*An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a simple test that can be used to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity.