Pebble Health wants you to ditch your fitness tracker

Native activity and sleep tracking comes to Pebble Time smartwatches from today
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Pebble Health, its own activity and sleep tracking platform, is now available to download for all Pebble Time smartwatches. Pebble Time, Time Steel and Time Round owners can download version 3.8 of Pebble's software to get the new features which show daily and weekly progress and integrates with your customised Timeline.

Pebble Health displays daily steps, distance, estimated calories burned and active minutes in the activity screens. And it also shows your average steps for the time of day as a yellow line to cross, letting you compete with previous averages.

There is auto sleep detection and the app will show you when you went to sleep and when you woke up as a clock-like graphic, plus display what periods of deep sleep you had throughout the night.

Integrating fitness tracking into your day

Pebble Health wants you to ditch your fitness tracker

The platform, developed in collaboration with Stanford's Wearable Health Lab, uses pins on users' Timelines including an activity summary in the evening and a sleep summary in the evening. Further Insights, as Pebble is calling them, are planned in the coming months.

"That's going to be the very unique thing that Pebble is able to do with health and activity - integrating it into your day,"Jacob Surber, Pebble's senior product manager, told us. "Timeline does a great job of adding context to your day and all the different activities. Rather than being just an arbitrary number that you dig into an app and find, we put it into the context of your day.

Read this: The best fitness tracker you can buy

"We can look at your aggregate behaviour and send you little insights," he said, "saying you're behind in your activity for the last couple of days, try to be more active. As we integrate Timeline more deeply, we will look at your calendar, know that you are behind in your steps and you don't have a meeting at 3 o'clock this afternoon. So we will put a pin on your Timeline to encourage you to take a walk then. It is going to be a lot more conversational and encourage those small bits of behavioural change."

Trend graphs are also helpfully split into weekday and weekend graphs as your habits will, no doubt, be completely different. It's designed to be used on the watch, not your phone, though it is compatible with both Apple Health and Google Fit. Pebble has also created a sample step count watch face to show indie Pebble devs what they can do with the data.

Stanford x Pebble

Pebble Health wants you to ditch your fitness tracker

Surber says Pebble Health is "shockingly accurate" at both step counting and sleep tracking compared to rivals, in part due to Pebble having access to Stanford's fitness tracking algorithms and health and wellbeing studies.

"Now we are connecting with a lot of the other different groups at Stanford, sleep studies, back pain studies, we are going to be able to take these learnings and how they can relate to our users," he said.

"There was an interesting angle that came up last week, talking to the people doing a back pain study. If you do x number of steps per hour, it actually reduces your chance of getting back pain or reduces your back pain if you have it, by a certain percentage. We can take these and our insights are going to get smarter and smarter."

Pebble and Stanford are actually working together to create an open wearable standard for medical research, which opens up how the data is generated by wearables like the Pebble Time watches.

Essential reading: Best Pebble apps to try

"Transparency at the algorithmic level is an essential missing piece in the progress toward making wearables valid for use in health applications," said Dr. Christy Lane at the Stanford Wearable Health Lab in the release.

"By making the right data available, Pebble Health allows us to perform proper validation studies on activity tracking for the first time. This eliminates questions about the validity of data collected using these devices, and removes barriers for researchers and clinicians."

If you have an original Pebble or Pebble Steel, you are stuck with the Misfit app or Jawbone watch face, though with Pebble's new Health APIs, these apps will be able to run on Pebble without draining so much battery. Plus you have the new Timeline UI to get to grips with - this comes out of beta today.

We'll be downloading the new Health app onto our Pebble Time stat, let us know how you get on.

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Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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