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You are being watched

It's not exactly practical, but the UP24 delivers on its promise as an activity and sleep tracker

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‘It sees you when you’re sleeping. It knows when you’re awake.” 

UP24, a wearable bracelet-like gadget from Jawbone, is trying to be Santa Claus by watching your movements 24/7.

UP24 tracks your activity and sleep, then sends the data to a smartphone. The “24” is in hopes that you’ll wear it all day long except when you’re diving, swimming or recharging it.

Your friends might ask why you’re wearing a house arrest bracelet. That is what happened to me after using it for two weeks.

Inside this 6,290 baht band — an accelerometer, a vibrating motor, a low-energy Bluetooth radio and a battery. It has no display, instead a few LEDs act as simple visual indicators.

Communicating with the device requires either pushing a physical button or syncing it with its companion app, UP by Jawbone. The button is used for toggling between Sleep mode, Power Nap and other functions.

Commands like pressing the button once shows whether you’re in active or Sleep mode (press and hold to toggle between the two). Pressing the button twice then holding until the indicator flashes (in Sleep mode) triggers Power Nap. It is too much for any user to remember. Eventually I resorted to making commands through the app, which essentially gathers data from the UP24 and translates it into a nice visual graphic.

The UP24 tracks three things — your movement, sleep and meals.

It knows your every move once you strap it to your body — scary but true. While it may sound ridiculous, the app tells users that they should walk at least 10,000 steps per day in order to burn calories.

However, since my job desk-bound, all I can do is walk around the office or stand up every 15 minutes when the UP24 vibrates based on a period of inactivity — its way of saying, “Get up, you’re lazy.” I must say, however, I found myself trying to get in as many steps as I could per day.

The UP24 has the ability to track “light” and “deep” sleep patterns, measured by the level of your inactivity (no movement means deep sleep, for example). It sounds really cool, but sadly the data collected has no practical use that will help me improve my sleep patterns. The UP24 says the more “deep” sleep, the better I perform the next day. But after I learn how many “deep” hours I’ve slept, what’s next? Do I need to drink some chamomile tea to have more “deep” sleep?

There’s also a sleep recovery tool that allows you to manually enter your estimated hours should you forget to enter Sleep mode before dozing off. I once input 24 hours sleep and it believed me!

Within this Sleep mode, there’s a useful feature called Smart Sleep Alarms, which functions as an alarm clock. Still, I am not sure what really wakes me up — the loud noise in my neighbourhood or the device. The Power Nap mode, for when you are taking a nap, uses wakes you with the vibrating alarm after you’ve slept for about 30 minutes, allowing you to gain more energy for the rest of the day.

Tracking meals is a manual process that requires you to input whatever you eat, whenever you eat it. The app has a decent database of food items with nutritional data that you can choose from to make this easier. You must enter accurate data if you hope to get any use out of this feature. The database, as you might have guessed, contains mostly Western food items, but  also includes pad Thai, Thai sticky rice, pork fried rice and a few other local foods.

Without the display, a 90-minute recharge will give you seven days of battery life. The app will let you know the remaining battery and has a notification alert for immediate charge. Charging once a week is about average, but as months pass by more frequent charges are required.

It is quite difficult using UP24, as you often aren’t sure whether it’s functioning or what mode is it currently in. And since you have to wear it 24/7 to collect data, but can’t even use it to tell the time, wearing UP24 in addition to a watch isn’t practical.

Some of the UP24’s features can be found in flagship smartphones such as the Samsung S5 or iPhone 5s — in which they are also better integrated.

The UP24 delivers its promise of “know yourself, live better”, but the coming wearable gadget era needs to give give us something that can do more than just one task — making phone calls or taking photos, perhaps. The UP24 feels more like a prequel to the now-popular smartwatch.

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