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CCATP #621 — Bart Busschots’s Health Tech Update

Bart Busschots takes us through the new health tech he’s added since he was last here on the subject. From more bike equipment to blood pressure monitoring, to sleep monitoring to thermometers and more.

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Bike Tech Update

I’ve added a little more bike tech to my daily drivers since we did the dedicated bike tech episode a few months ago. (CCATP #604 – Bart Busschots on Tech of Buying a Mountain/City Bike)

Lights

I recommended the entire Cat Eye USB-powered line up last time, and I stand by that recommendation completely. So much so that I actually added another Cat Eye product to my toolkit!

Due to careless pocket choice, I managed to lose one of my real lights, so rather than replacing it with another one of the same, I used the loss as an opportunity to try a helmet-mounted bi-directional light for the first time.

I picked the USB-rechargeable version of the Cat Eye Volt400 Duplex (product code HL-EL462RC-H) – Amazon Affiliate Link to Cat Eye Volt400 Duplex. This light comes with a velcro-based removable helmet mount and has a multi-function rear-facing red light on one end, and a multi-function headlight on the front.

The velcro works fine, but since I plan to keep this mount on my helmet for the entire winter I replaced the removable velcro strap with two ZIP ties for an even more solid mounting.

I keep the front light on the lowest headlight beam, and the rear light flashing. I’ve been using it for over 10 hours now and its first charge is still going!

Having your light point where you are looking rather than where your handlebars are pointing is a complete game-changer. I wish I’d made this switch years ago!

For safety, I still run with front and rear-facing strobes on the handlebar and saddle-post as well as the helmet mount — that way when I look from side-to-side at a junction I don’t become invisible to people directly in front of or behind me!

High-visibility Water-Proof Bag Cover

It’s winter, it’s Ireland, so I’m gonna get rained on cycling in and out of work! I like my Crumpler laptop backpack a lot, but it’s not perfectly waterproof. It does fine in a light rain show, but proper Irish rain it too much for the zippers to keep out.

I needed a cover that I could keep with the bag, and ideally, that would replace the bag’s own high-visibility markings.

On Black Friday, Cycl, a company the NosillaCast introduced me to, had a nice deal on their Backpack Cover — In the US: cycl.bike/…

It met all my needs — it reverses into a perfect little pouch so I can keep it in my bag at all times easily, and, as an added bonus, when opened out the pouch becomes a very convenient zipped pocket! The markings are extremely high-visibility with an orange base colour accented with highly reflective strips. The cover also secures well over the bag with a releasable strap that you thread around the bag and under the shoulder straps so the cover simply can’t come off while you’re in transit.

It has been well tested since I got it a few weeks ago — I can attest to its waterproofness 🙂

Health Tech Update

It’s been quite some time since I chatted about my connected health tech on the show. At the time I had a Withings Bluetooth blood pressure cuff and Body Composition scale. I’ve had the scales since Black Friday 2016, and the blood pressure monitor since at least the Black Friday before, if not the one before that.

The scale is Wifi connected so it can operate entirely independently of my phone. It continues to work perfectly, and I use it every Saturday morning at 09:00 am. It seems to go through about one set of batteries a year, so I guess it does about 50 measurements per set of batteries 🙂 It has never failed to take a measurement, and the measurement has always made its way into the Withings app and Apple Health without issue. It just works, and I love it as much today as I did the first day I got it.

The blood pressure cuff worked very well for many years, but it finally sprung a leak and stopped being able to make pressure a few days before Black Friday (great timing eh!). It was Bluetooth rather than wireless, so it couldn’t operate independently of the phone — you had to control it via the Withings app on the phone.

I chose to replace the dead blood pressure monitor with Withings newest and most advanced model, the BPM Corenot yet available in the US. This device does measure blood pressure, but it does a lot more than that — it’s also an ECG and digital stethoscope. Like the scales, it’s wifi rather than Bluetooth, so it can work entirely independently of the phone.

The UI on the old monitor was simplistic to the point of being almost non-existent — there was a power button, and that’s it! The reason this was OK is that you had to use your phone to control the device, so it didn’t need anything beyond a button to wake it up.

Since the new monitor is designed to be used stand-alone, it needs, and has, a UI.

Their choice of UI is both very futuristic and cool looking, and, more importantly, really easy to use! The main body of the monitor is a cylinder, and the outside of that cylinder is a touch-sensitive surface with a grid of invisible LEDs that shine through the casing (a bit like the power light on older MacBooks that still had power lights). The grid is big enough that it can be used to render information clearly, helping you to use the product. There is also a single physical button which does dual duty as the power and “OK” buttons. The power button on the old monitor was small and a little awkward to press and hold, this one is much better — it’s basically the entire top of the casing!

You simply press and hold the button to power the device up, press the button again to start the measurement, let it do the blood pressure bit, then, when that’s done a big animated arrow tells you to grab onto the metal bit for the ECG. Finally, when the ECG is done it shows the results followed by the name of the person it’s going to record the measurement against. You can swipe on the surface to change between people and ‘guest’, and when you have the right person selected you just hit the button one last time to save the measurement. You get a really pleasing animated tick-mark, and then the device powers itself down. Seconds later you’ll get a push notification to your phone telling you the measurement has arrived.

There’s a big range in the aggressiveness of blood pressure monitors. Some of them feel like a tourniquet, while others are really quite gentle. The old monitor was already quite gentle, but the new one is even kinder to your arm! The ECG also works well, but I’ve found the digital stethoscope to be very finicky. You need to hold really still, and you need to do it in a very quiet room — no listening to podcasts while taking a measurement!

All in all, I’m finding the new monitor to be a wonderful refinement of the concept. The new UI makes me smile every time, and being freed from my phone is a lot more convenient than I had expected.

Sleep Tracker

Since it was Black Friday and Withings were offering some nice discounts I decided to go all-in and buy all the medical tech I’d been dithering about for ages.

Top of the list was a good high-quality sleep tracker. I wanted as good and sensor-laden a tracker as I could get for home use. A fitness tracker primarily designed to count steps was not what I had in mind!

The Withings Sleep mat mat had caught my attention some time ago, so I went for it. Allison’s Amazon Affiliate Link to Withings Sleep Mat.

This is a mains-powered (via a USB-adaptor) Wifi-connected sensor pad that you place under your mattress and leave there. It detects when you go to bed, and when you get up, it wirelessly transmits its results to the cloud over wifi. You really do just set it and forget it!

This thing contains an impressive array of sensors, allowing it not just to measure your movement, but also your heartbeat, your breathing, and any snoring you might be doing.

It then grades your sleep on a whole array of categories, and most importantly, tells you how many minutes you were snoring for, and it even lets you listen back to a sample of your snores!

I’ve only been using for a few weeks, but already it’s illustrated yet again how superbly good I am at lying to myself! I was pretty sure I got the 6 hours of sleep I need to be well-rested most nights, and only missed it the odd night. WRONG — most nights I was only getting 5 hours, and I know from experience that’s not enough to avoid cranky Bart! I can also now graphically see how much worse I sleep when I have alcohol, or when I foolishly have a coffee after 8 pm. I knew all this academically of course, but seeing it reflected in measurement of my actual sleep has hammered home the point very effectively indeed. It’s only been a few weeks, but already these measurements are helping me to make tweaks, and verify that they are having a positive effect.

Digital Thermometer

Something I’ve been interested in for ages is a thermometer that just works! No shoving things in or under anything, and no waiting, just tell me if I have a fever or not, and if I do, how worried I should be! To that end I picked up a Withings Thermo to round out my Black Friday binge 🙂 Allison’s Amazon Affiliate Link to Withings Thermo.

This is a wifi connected device with a UI that’s basically the same as that for the new blood pressure monitor. One button and touch-sensitive a grid of white LEDs. You simply run the sensor over your forehead on one smooth motion and get an instant reading. You can then allocated it to a person or a guest, and it magically shows up on your phone.

The Withings App Doesn’t Suck Anymore!

The only thing I was cranky about when we last discussed health tech was the app the Withings products connect to. At the time Nokia had recently acquired Withings and replaced the perfectly functional Withings app with a new Nokia Health app that was unreliable and hard to use. It was so bad I almost ditched the hardware I loved over it.

Thankfully Withings is free from Nokia again, and while it’s technically still the same app, a few years of slow and steady incremental improvement have utterly transformed it. I now prefer it to Apple’s Health app.

The Withings app remains compatible with Apple Health, being able to both read and write data to and from Apple Health, so it can act as your only health app if you like, and the data captured by the Withings devices can be easily shared with any Apple Health compatible app.

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