The Untapped Potential of the Basis Health Tracker
by Dan Walsh
Basis needs notation, profiles, and GPS.
I received a Basis Health Tracker for Christmas from Angelica. I’ve been using it for slightly over a month now. Overall the device is awesome. The combination of heart rate, accelerometer, temperature, and moisture sensors create a robust mesh of personal data that can lead to some really interesting insights. Compared to other sensors on the market which are all glorified pedometers with whizz-bang software, the Basis dominates on the hardware front. It’s no slouch on the software side either. The web interface does a great job of pulling together the different data types into something understandable, but there’s a lot of untapped potential remaining. A notation tool, user profiles, and gps tracking would all drastically improve the experience. Luckily, all of these improvements are software changes that could be applied to current hardware.
Aside from the lackluster industrial design – it looks like a cheap Casio watch – the Basis is the best self-tracking hardware currently on the market. It records robust personal data and syncs it to a mobile app and web-based dashboard. The web interface is where the data presentation really shines. Discovering patterns and correlations is easy when it’s clearly presented. Kudos to Basis for getting this part right.
But despite the already cohesive reporting, there are a few interface improvements that could be improved to make Basis even more powerful.
Notation for Behaviour Change
The amount of personal data collected by Basis should lead to insight and personal experimentation, but I find myself having to reinterpret spikes and dips every time I review data. A notation tool would be a great way to tag data and behaviour. For instance, that first blue perspiration spike in the above image is actually my morning shower – not sweat. The last blue spike is me doing dishes. Persistent notes would help me filter out potential false positives and find more behavioural patterns.
If these notes persisted as tags, I could also begin to build a data set around certain activities. For instance, tagging multiple instances as “swimming laps” would begin to build a profile about my swim workouts. I could then specifically compare trends regarding only this data and maybe realize that I’ve been taking it a little too easy. Or, I could realize that I do dishes twice a day and should really just buy a dishwasher already!
The amount of data the Basis collects should also lead to personal experimentation. But without a way to specifically note purposeful changes to my diet, exercise, supplement routine, or sleep schedule, it’s hard to correlate these changes to the resulting data and thereby gauge impact.
User Profiles For Weight Loss Loop
A simple profile with age, sex, height, and current weight would create another layer of information. This would begin to create a feedback loop between activity and weight, which doesn’t currently exist in any capacity in the Basis ecosystem. This would be an easy win and help Basis compete with other health trackers who have more market traction.
In the current market, weight loss is the killer app for health trackers. Most of these claims are fluff (what’s a Fuel Point anyway?) but they get customers to buy into the magic of the device. To the best of my knowledge, the only device that creates a real feedback loop around weight loss is the FitBit + Withings Scale combo. But this setup requires two devices! Basis could wedge their way into extra market share and make their overall product better just by adding an extra page on their app and website.
Adding a GPS layer on top of the biometrics collected by Basis would be a boon to behaviour assessment and change. For instance, if Basis knew when I was at work or at home, I could compare my resting heart rate between the two locations and (potentially) realize that I’m more stressed at work. Or maybe more stressed at home! Hopefully not, but who knows.
GPS functionality could also give actionable recommendations to facilitate the movement goals that are already baked into the app. Let’s say I have a movement goal of 10,000 steps per day. If 4pm rolls around and it looks like I’m 5,000 steps short, I could look up the step counts of routes near me and go on a purposeful walk to hit my goal. I suppose I could also just walk in one direction for 2,500 steps and then turn around, but prescriptive advice is always more actionable.
The Basis doesn’t have GPS in the band itself, but this could be supplemented by the onboard GPS in the user’s smartphone, similarly to apps like Moves.
The Basis has a lot of untapped potential because of the robust set of sensors contained within the device. They recently rolled out an enhanced sleep dashboard, so the company has an eye on improving their software. Hopefully they pick some of this low hanging fruit before their competition does.