Are Earbuds the Future of Activity Tracking?

A recent patent from apple reveals a new way to track activity

We’ve got chest straps that connect to watches, tiny bands that wrap around our wrists, and pedometers that can be stored in our shoes; in the world of health and fitness, activity tracking is all the rage right now.

Hopefully, unlike many fitness fads from the past, these new technologies will prove to be more effective at, you know, actually helping people improve their exercise habits and overall health.

When it comes to establishing healthier habits, many users of products like the FitBit or NIKE+ Fuelband find the tracking features to be helpful and motivating. Perhaps that’s why more and more companies are investing big bucks to develop the latest and greatest monitoring gear.

Like Apple, who has yet to enter the field of fitness monitoring devices, but was recently revealed as having been granted a patent for a monitoring device specifically designed for placement on a pair of headphones or earbuds.

According to the patent which was originally filed in 2007, the device will be able to sense the user’s body temperature, perspiration rate, and heart rate, as well as track movement such as exercise and sporting activities.

The main idea, it seems, is to provide an activity tracking tool as part of a device that an exerciser or athlete would normally already carry with them. The patent summary reads:

"Advantageously, the invention can provide monitoring capabilities within a hearing device. Assuming the user is otherwise using the hearing device, such as to provide audio output by a portable media player, the user gains monitoring capabilities without requiring the user to wear or carry any additional article."

Integrating the activity tracking device into gear that athletes are most likely already using would be a big step forward for exercisers who find heart rate monitor chest straps uncomfortable or fitness enthusiasts who are tired of feeling bound by wrist bands that are meant to be worn 24-7.

However, the most innovative part of Apple’s patent is the inclusion of motion detecting technology that would allow users to engage the monitor using nothing but the movement of their head.

In other words, the device could be hands-free and exercisers would command it with head gestures instead of having to access the mobile device it’s connected to or the actual monitor itself.

Of course, the integrative earbud idea isn’t entirely new. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in January LG unveiled heart rate tracking headphones that can be paired with the brand's Lifeband Touch fitness tracker wrist band. However, it seems Apple is taking the time to take the technology a few steps further, which will hopefully result in a product that can help make activity tracking and overall health monitoring more effective for the average user.

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