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The Clever Feature Behind The World’s Tiniest Fitness Tracker

The size of a shirt button, the Goccia syncs effortlessly to your iPhone with the clever use of light.

Fitness trackers can be a fun motivation to get up and move around, but many lack some basic functions, like syncing data to your phone. The Goccia, currently on Kickstarter, has an idea to solve that problem with something we’ve never seen before: light.

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Fitness trackers, thanks to their tiny screens and small batteries, tend to rely on smartphones quite a bit. This one especially. It’s described as the world’s smallest fitness tracker (and given that it’s the size of a dime, we don’t doubt it). If you want to track your calories burned over time, a tracker’s teeny monochrome screen (or worse, a few LED dots) is not going to help show much information. So you sync your tracker with your phone, and your phone has a nice elaborate app that shows you all that data in a pretty way on your shiny big(ger) screen. But syncing usually relies on Bluetooth, which is sort of an annoying protocol: it requires you to go into your phone’s settings, make sure your Bluetooth is turned on, make sure it’s in pairing mode (so that your phone knows it’s supposed to sync with a device), make sure your tracker is also in pairing mode, then connect the two, then wait as the tracker slowly sends its data to your phone.

Goccia (it means “drop,” as in a drop of water, in Italian) is a tracker fairly similar to the market leaders, like Fitbit or Jawbone Up or Nike Fuelband, in most ways. It’s the smallest of all of them–at least, we couldn’t find any smaller ones–about the size of a large button, and perhaps more attractive than most, as a simple silver circle. It’s waterproof, and meant to be worn all the time in some capacity, whether that’s clipped onto a shirt or worn as a necklace or wristwatch. The Goccia team says its sensors can currently track steps walked and calories burned, but that “the algorithm can adapt to many different activities, such as hiking, biking, swimming, and more!” Of course, fitness trackers often say things like that, and it turns out to be tougher to add those features than it sounds, but we’ll reserve judgment.

Our favorite part is how it syncs. The Goccia actually syncs with your phone via light: you place it face down on your iPhone’s front-facing camera and the Goccia emits a beam of light that has all your data encoded. (You can think of light as a sort of USB cable here: it can include information as well as just illumination.) That means you don’t need any cable and you don’t need to mess with any phone settings. Very cool.

There’s a specific iPhone app (only iPhone, for the moment) that allows you to do that light-syncing thing, but it’ll also give you graphs of your stats over time, just like a Fitbit app. We’ve only seen a small screenshot, but it looks pretty clean and easy to read.

Goccia already has working prototypes, and the designers are asking for $50,000 to produce the device on a larger scale. It’ll retail for $95 once it’s available (not sure when that’ll be), but early backers can snag one for $60. Check out the Kickstarter here.

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About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law

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