Thursday, July 28, 2016

4 Software patches that could make Fitbit blaze smarter

Got the fitbit blaze two months ago. I'm not a watch person but I really like it. However, there are few improvements that can be achieved by software only and make the watch smarter.

1. Exercise Termination

So when I start an exercise, for example biking, I go to Exercise -> Biking and then wait a for a moment for to establish a Bluetooth connection between the Blaze and the phone to pick up my GPS coordinate and other information from the smart phone. I then tap "Start" and bike. When I reach my destination, I manually tap "Finish" so it syncs my path, speed and all the data to the smart phone app.

I don't have a problem with manually stopping the exercise, but the problem is sometimes I start the biking exercise, and reach my destination and forget to tap "Finish", and if I don't do that the watch keeps running and gives false indication that I'm exercising when I'm actually not. One day it kept running for 8 hours (really 8 hours of continuous biking while I'm in the same location). And as I said I'm not a watch person so I'm not used to look at the watch often.

So there are many ways for fixing this. Fitbit could install a software patch for the watch that simply vibrate after a period of time (10 minutes or so) while in exercise mode. That will force me to look at the watch and manually stopping the exercise. There are more smart ways to solve this like checking the GPS coordinate, if I'm stationary for a while that means I'm not really biking and the exercise could terminate by it self. Although this might shorten the battery life as the watch will be forced to perform spatial calculation.

2. Offload Processing to Phone

Using the Blaze processor is expensive and can drain battery, so that should be minimized as much as  possible. While biking I noticed that the watch gets warmer and battery is quickly drained. The reason is the Blaze require the GPS coordinate to calculate the distance traveled, speed and other information. The GPS coordinate is acquired from the phone via the established Bluetooth connection. The Blaze then does all the processing on its processor, calculating the distance traveled, current speed. This could be optimized by offloading those extra processor cycles to the phone and periodically send the result to the blaze so it displays it.

Another option that could potentially optimize battery life is disable all those calculations while running the exercise. All the processing will be done on the phone and once the user terminate the exercise the result is sent to the watch and displayed. How may miles I biked (or walked), what was my average speed, maximum speed etc. This will optimize this even further for those (like me) who don't actually check their watch while biking and only check it once they reach their destination.

3. Power Saving Mode

There is a green beam light that detects whether the watch is on and I believe it also monitors the heart-beat as well. When I remove the watch, it still seem active and counts phantom steps and floors which wastes battery life. The blaze should switch to Power Saving mode or whatever you want to call it, which at that stage it shouldn't attempt to sync, count steps or floors. Charging this thing is the worst.

4. Alarm Sync

Although I don't wear it to bed, but it seems natural that I would like to sync my smart phone (IPhone or Andriod) to the Blaze. Having different set of alarms seem redundant.