Mars needs wearables

9 November 2014 by Steve Blum
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How’s your heart rate?

Thinking in terms of long space voyages can be a useful product development exercise. The work Salutron did on physiological tracking technology for NASA’s Mars program has turned into a useful, inexpensive and adaptable range of wrist monitors.

If you’re sealing yourself into a tin can the size of a VW bus for a couple of years and leaving Earth, whatever you take with you has to be durable, simple and fit for purpose. Medical monitors also need to be fail safe: able to work on a standalone basis as well as networked to analytical systems.

Which is a winning combination for consumer grade wearable health monitors, too. LifeTrak brand monitors look and work like wrist watches. You can track heart rate, sleep patterns, light exposure and activity, and review the data – up to a point – without having to download to a smartphone. But you can connect it to your smartphone or tablet – iOS now and Android next month – and get notifications, take advantage of other functions and crunch the data, all via Bluetooth.

It uses a standard watch battery, which is said to last six months with all features lit up, maybe a year or more if you don’t use the smartphone notification functions.

One thing that isn’t up to NASA spec is the price. The flagship Brite 450 retails for $130, with the price dropping to $60 for a basic model. Pricing it like a sports watch is a killer advantage. It’s cheap enough to just give it a try, without worrying so much about whether it’ll be obsolete in a year. And any money you save can go towards paying for your ticket to Mars.