Much like my current aversion to smartwatches I’m equally disinterested in the idea of a fitness tracker. As a man of science I do like the idea in principle as anyone looking to better themselves should track as much data as they can to ensure what they’re doing is actually having an effect. However all the devices on market don’t appear to be much more than smart pedometers with nice interfaces something which doesn’t really track the kinds of things I’m looking for (since most of my exercise isn’t aerobic in nature). I don’t discount their value for others but if I was going to invest in one it’d have to do a lot more than just be an accelerometer attached to my wrist.
I may have found one in AIRO, a rather Jony Ive-esque device coming from a new 3 person startup. For the most part it sports the same features as other health trackers, presumably through the same method of an incorporated accelerometer, but its real claim to fame comes from its apparent ability to detect metabolites in your blood, without having to cut yourself to do so. AIRO also claims to be able to detect the quality of the food you’re eating as well which, from what I can tell by looking at their website, seems to be related to the macro-nutrient breakdown. As someone who regularly struggles to get enough calories to support their goals (yeah I’m one of those people, believe me it’s not as great as you might think it is) and really can’t be bothered to use a calorie tracker this is of particular interest to me, something I’d consider plonking down a chunk of change for.
Of course the sceptic in me was instantly roused by the idea that a device could non-invasively determine such things because such technology would be a boon to diabetics, not to mention any research program looking at monitoring caloric intake. Indeed something like this is so far out of left field that most of the mainstream coverage of the device doesn’t go into just how it works, except for referring to the fact that it measures calories and macro-nutrient breakdown based on light. It sounds like a great theory but since there’s no source material provided to show how their method works, nor any validation using standard means like doubly labelled water or even short term experiments with strictly controlled caloric intake.
I was going to leave it at that, and indeed not even write about it since I wanted to see some validation of the idea before I said anything, but then I stumbled across this article from ScienceDaily which links to a German study that has been able to measure blood glucose with infrared light. The function of their device sounds different to the one AIRO purports, instead using the infrared light to penetrate the skin and cause a resonance in the glucose within the bloodstream which their device can then pick up. Their device sounds like it would be anything but wearable however with a “shoebox sized” device planned to be released within the next few years. This doesn’t validate the idea behind AIRO but it does lend some credence to the idea that you’d be able to extract some kind of information about blood metabolites using light pulses.
So I’m definitely intrigued now, possibly to the point of shelling out the requisite $159 to get one delivered when they come out, but I would love to see some validation of the device by the inventors to prove their device can do what they say it can do. It’s not like this would be particularly difficult, hell if they send me a prototype device I’ll happily engage in a tightly controlled caloric diet in order to prove it can measure everything, and it would go a long way to convince the sceptics that what they’ve made really is as good as they say it is. Heck I bet there’s even a couple other startups that’d love to do some testing to prove that their products also work as intended (I’m looking at you, Soylent) and having that kind validation would be extremely valuable for both involved.
Now I love me a good piece of Apple information just like the next guy, they’re just too hard to resist as they’re some damn fine blog fodder. Still for the most part I steer clear of product speculation and rumours simply because I’m not really interested in writing on fluff and my posts would be lost in the deluge of other blogs parroting the same “facts”. Still every so often I come across a bit of Apple news that deserves reporting on, like how people were getting the whole Antennagate thing wrong, and yesterday brought across another piece of news that had all the tech bloggers in a tizzy.
Yet again I feel they’ve all got it wrong.
What I’m talking about is the the iOS location fiasco that’s currently winding itself up in the media today. In essence its been shown that iOS devices have a log of all your location data from the day you first turned on your phone. The file in question resides on your phone but is copied across to your PC when you sync with iTunes. If you’ve selected to encrypt your backups the file will be encrypted but it is stored in plain text on your phone. People are crying foul over how Big Brother Apple is tracking them and how this is a major breach in privacy and you’d be forgiven for thinking that if you didn’t bother going beneath the surface of these stories.
Now I was considering writing about this yesterday (instead choosing to post some inane dribble, sorry) but I had really no desire to comment on something that seemed like a non-issue. Whilst I’m not keen for someone to follow my every move I was pretty sure that the location database that people were mucking around with was more than likely a cache of previous location data, most likely used in future GPS calculations to improve accuracy. Additionally there was absolutely no evidence that this database had ever made its way to Apple or anyone else for that matter and the only program that has the demonstrated ability to read those files can only do so if its unencrypted and not on your iPhone.
The privacy issue is a different beast however but in reality no one would try to use something like that location cache to track you. Whilst sites like Please Rob Me might provide insight into how such data could be used for nefarious purposes the thing is that most crime will still be committed the old fashion way, by going up to your house and seeing if anyone is there. Hiding all your location information from online sources won’t help combat this problem and the only way this database file could be used against you was if someone had direct access to your phone or PC, the former which indicates your phone has been stolen (got a pin code on that buddy?) and the latter that they’re already in your house (got a password on your PC?).
Of course in doing my research for this post today I came across a few other posts detailing my exact predictions of what the problem might be. People familiar with the matter investigated the Android platform to see if something similar was being done on their end and sure enough there was. The difference between the Apple and Android was that Android had a hard limit set on the number of records whereas the iPhone had no such limit. More than likely Apple will set an upper limit on the number of location records that are kept in the log files in the next iOS update so that people don’t get all butthurt about it again, even though there was nothing wrong in the first place.
Apple products seem to have the uncanny ability of drumming up a PR storm no matter what minor thing happens with them. Whilst this particular ability is primarily positive for Apple it seems even the Apple opposition falls prey to going hyperbolic on any little flaw in the iOS platform, creating fiascos out of what are merely features of the platform. This is why I steer clear of many Apple related articles, there’s simply too much group think on either side of the fence for there to be any proper discussion. So hopefully my little blog here has helped clarify that big brother isn’t watching you and we can all go back to our normal lives and not have to worry about Big Brother Apple watching us in our sleep.
You can still wear the tinfoil hat though, it’s sexy.