Activity monitors have morphed into different forms since the days of old-school pedometers. Fitbit came out with a wearable device that clips onto people's clothes to count their steps. Jawbone went with a wristband packed with sensors to monitor the wearer's activity and sleep quality. Now SmartMove hopes to produce a smart shoe insole that can measure physical activity more accurately than the wearable products that already exist on the market.
But wait—a shoe insole? SmartMove has its origins in research that analyzed the gait of stroke patients undertaken at University of Colorado Denver, Colorado State University, and Clarkson University. Funded by research grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Colorado's Office of Economic Development, Fort Collins, Colo.-based SmartMove was founded to conduct further research and build prototypes of a next-gen wearable tracker.
The result is a smart insole laden with sensors that can distinguish between different types of physical activity—such as standing, walking, running, cycling, and climbing stairs—and calculate the number of calories burned during these exercises. However, because its grants were designated toward research and prototyping—not commercial production—the company has turned to Kickstarter to raise $100,000 to bring SmartMove to market.
"What's unique and different about an insole-based activity tracker is it is extremely accurate in recognizing activities," CEO Harry Baeverstad told Fast Company. "The benefits of having very good recognition capability is we can actually give you feedback on what you did and when you did it."
SmartMove features sensors at the arch and beneath the heel and ball of the foot. Designed like off-the-shelf shoe inserts, the smart insole, which can be trimmed down to size at the toe, will come in three to four different sizes for men and women.
Its companion app collects data from the insole's sensors to understand users' strengths and weaknesses. "Throughout the day, it monitors what you do and provides real-time tips and feedback to help you achieve those goals," said Baeverstad. "If you're struggling to achieve your goals, it will alert you in about a week or so and say, 'We notice you're struggling. Should we set a more realistic goal?'"
Though he said a shoe insert appeals to customers because of its subtlety, there are challenges with its form. People who want to use SmartMove with different shoes will have to either buy multiple pairs or remind themselves to remove and reinsert the insoles before heading out the door.
[Image: Flickr user Bird Eye]