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10,000 Steps? New Trackers Go Beyond the Data Dump

LAS VEGAS — You earned 3,000 Fuel points! You walked 8,755 steps. Your heartbeat was 65. Your sleep efficiency was 60 percent.
/ Source: LiveScience

LAS VEGAS — You earned 3,000 Fuel points! You walked 8,755 steps. Your heartbeat was 65. Your sleep efficiency was 60 percent.

As fitness trackers and other wearable devices have flooded the market, a vast amount of data has been produced on everything from how often people tossed and turned at night to how many steps they walked to the water cooler.

But what does it all mean?

"Lots of data from our wearables and beyond is just data," said Dr. Daniel Kraft, a pediatrician and the founding executive director of Exponential Medicine, at a talk here at the 2015 CES. "The trick is to make this data actionable."

Now, a few companies are trying to go beyond the data dump to pull out useful information and larger trends. [ Best Fitness Tracker Brands ]

Personalized preferences

The early versions of fitness trackers would estimate how many calories a user burned based on weight and height. They also gave somewhat generic fitness advice, and set goals based on vague and subjective settings such as "moderately active."

But a few new devices are now more personalized. For example, a wearable device called StoneCrysus, which will be available in February 2015, says it can calculate people's metabolic rate based on measures like their heart and respiration rates. It also lets users enter goals for themselves, such as maintaining their body weight, building muscle or controlling chronic health conditions.

StoneCrysus allows users to track the food they're eating with a user-friendly picture of their meal— they can place portions of common foods on an image of a plate, said Dr. David Landers, a cardiologist and co-founder of the Edgewater, N.J., company that makes the device.

Over time, the device learns people's habits and their body's trends. Had a bad night of sleep? The StoneCrysus would tell you if that was because of too many margaritas the night before. It will also tell people whether they have burned enough calories during the day to maintain or lose weight, helping people answer questions like "I don’t eat as much as my friend does, so why am I gaining weight ?" Landers told Live Science.

Deeper variables

Scientists know a lot about how the body's basic systems are interconnected, but past activity monitors haven't really taken advantage of that knowledge. But a new app called LifeQ takes data from wearables, such as movement and heart rate, and then plugs them into a computer model that uses hundreds of mathematical equations that relates those variables to many others, such as the oxygen saturation of a person's blood, the metabolic rate, the ratio of fats and carbs being burned and even blood sugar.

The company has its own devices, but its main focus is partnering with other device makers, aiming to essentially do the number crunching and analysis behind the scenes of any wearable device that collects the data.

The idea is to get a comprehensive model of human physiology from just a few measurements, said Franco du Preez, a systems biologist and a founder of LifeQ.

Over time, the system can identify qualitative trends — such as the difference between someone having a jump in heart rate after a meal versus while typing at a computer.

A small study suggests their system works: In a trial with 10 people exercising to 40 percent of their maximum effort, their model was able to accurately predict heart rate and respiration.