The technology business loves a good moniker and the Quantified Self is one that we’re likely to hear more often over the next couple of years. This new movement is gathering pace as more of us become interested in the finer detail and data of our lives that technology can now give us. The digital footprints we leave as we breath, eat and exercise can now be recorded and analysed in a way that can help us understand ourselves a little better and perhaps even change our habits to give us a healthier life.
One of the companies at the forefront of the tech that makes this sort of analysis possible is French firm Withings. Their body scale looks like a conventional bathroom weighing scales, but it’s far more, allowing you to measure and monitor your full body composition. It’s around a foot square and it’s as slim as a conventional scales. In the box, there’s the scales with batteries and some handy carpet feet that can be attached if you’re using the scales on a carpeted floor rather than a tiled hall or bathroom.
The scales can be set-up using Bluetooth or Wifi. After downloading the Withings Health Mate app I created an account and entered some basic gender and body information. The scales identified the network my mobile phone was using and used those Wifi details for set-up and this networking process allows the scales to sync weigh-ins seamlessly to the Health Mate app. As part of the set up process I selected the unit of measurements I wanted to use, which include kilos, pounds, stone and temperature units as well as my location for weather forecasts.
After set-up, I set the most basic of weight goals in the app and entered how quickly I wanted to lose that irksome kilo. Then, it was a matter of using the scale for a couple of weeks or so to get an idea of what the Withings Body can tell me. Every day, I weighed in twice and found the process habit forming, as well as informative.
When weighing in, the scales would first display my weight, before moving on to the more detailed data. Next it displayed my fat mass measurement. After a short pause it then displayed the percentage of water in my body as well as muscle mass and bone mass. Finally, the Body’s screen displayed the forecast of average morning and afternoon temperatures for the day ahead, complete with little cloud or sun icons.
While the display on the scales isn’t that large, the digits are bright and I was easily able to read them, without my glasses. However, all the data that’s measured at each weigh-in is synced with the Health Mate app so you review that data on your smart-phone or PC. A useful feature is the ability to disable some screens, or change the order they’re displayed in.
After the weigh-in the scales can also display your weight trend, which displays a chart of your last eight weigh-ins and you can also include a screen to display your steps tracked if you’ve opted to collect that data on a phone or fitness tracker.
The new version of the free Withings Health Mate app is user-friendly and comprehensive. It’s easy to browse your weight, BMI and other detailed statistics on it and the app is the best place to set goals and track them rather than on the Withings website. It’s also possible to have other family members create their own accounts on Health Mate and when they use the scales it will usually identify the user based on previous weigh-ins and the scales will record the weigh-in data privately, to their own Health Mate account.
The scales can pick up a little dust from barefooted use in a busy house and while it does clean with a damp cloth, it requires a little elbow grease to shine it. Life of the easy to change four AAA batteries is good at around eight months and the scales will update itself over Wifi when new software is released. The list of partner apps and tech companies is growing and I was able to share data instantly between the scales and Apple Health as well as RunKeeper.