This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.
If you’re in the market for smart health gear, you can wait another half year or so for the Apple Watch to go on sale – or you can get a “smart hat” from Israel’s LifeBEAM. Specializing in devices that let users measure heartbeat, number of calories burned, distance covered while running or cycling, and other key metrics runners and cyclists care about, the new LifeBEAM baseball cap takes the place of chest heart monitors, wristbands, pedometers, and other devices.
And at $99, it’s priced at the very bottom of new health devices, while providing much more information – a value proposition the company is confident will help it sell a lot of hats. There’s also a visor geared towards women, who seem to prefer them over baseball caps, the company says.
The LifeBEAM hat works if you’re interested in a device to keep an eye on your workouts, whether in the gym or on the jogging track. But a baseball cap is not the kind of thing you’d wear around the office – unlike the Apple Watch, which, as company CEO Tim Cook said when he introduced the device last month, will come in several editions, including a “classic” one, featuring a Rolex or Breitling “look of luxury” to it. And, of course, the Apple Watch will have a slew of non-fitness related features.
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For monitoring workouts and connecting to apps that can analyze fitness data, though, the LifeBEAM hat has everything athletes need. To get the hat working, users just put it on, and the hat begins measuring heart rate, calorie consumption, steps taken, and cadence (walking rate and gait data). The information can be uploaded to smartphone apps on devices with Bluetooth compatibility (iPhones, Android and Windows devices), or to hundreds of other devices such as treadmills/elliptical machines, GPS trackers, and bike computers that use the ANT+ wireless connectivity system.
For most users, the best tech aspect of the hat is likely to be its heart monitor. LifeBEAM placed the sensors – including an optical sensor that monitors pulse — in the back of the hat, measuring the flow of blood via an LED that determines heart rate from the speed at which blood flows through the veins, using a technique called photoplethysmography (PPG), replacing the bulky and clumsy chest-strap monitors most athletes use.
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