This episode is about experimenters in the field of biohacking, the people actually in the trenches doing stuff. We’re focusing on wearable devices such as watches, shirts, bracelets, necklaces and on and on.
We’re focusing on wearable devices such as watches, shirts, bracelets, necklaces and on an on. Basically, anything that you can put on your body that can give you data on your performance.
Wearables are here to stay and there are more coming out to track different aspects of our biology, of our health and our fitness, and so on. Which of these devices give us the most accurate data? How can we make good use of the data and improve our lives instead of just letting all those numbers cause confusion and distraction?
– Troy Angrignon
Troy Angrignon is an emerging technologies consultant with expertise in marketing strategies and segmentation for wearables. Troy spends a lot of his time testing several of the latest wearables while doing a range of relatively extreme athletics and feats, including military style training like that done by SealFit. He reviews and compares the products then maps them all out into big ‘x and y’ diagrams simplify data and make test easier to understand.
The show notes, biomarkers, and links to the apps, devices and labs and everything else mentioned are below. Enjoy the show and let me know what you think in the comments!
- Troy’s interest in wearables started with early generation sports watches that could tell the user how much recovery time they would need after a particular workout. (4:05).
- Improvements in utility of wearable devices over the past 10 years from sport watches to fitness trackers, to activity trackers to smart watches. (6:25).
- Value of wearable tech depends on the user’s activity level and goals – Troy Angrigon’s 5-tier approach ranging from the semi-active user who needs little more than a watch with a timer to measure how long or how fast they ran to the pro athlete looking for clinical data. (7:33).
- Devices currently available that cater to the tracking needs of elite-level endurance athletes: Garmin 920Xt and Fenix. (11:10).
- Discussion of accuracy of wearable devices – Damien notes that tests have shown the degrees of error to be roughly the same between manufacturers. (13:10).
- Devices currently available that are accurate enough for optimizing performance at a high level (17:10).
- Problems with current software that misinterprets sedentary activity such as watching t.v. and reports it as sleeping. (20:32).
- Fitbit Surge design advantages – combines GPS with optical heart rate monitoring (21:42).
- Design areas where Troy Angrignon thinks manufacturers are excelling: Fitbit has good tracking for lower level users, Jawbone offers good customer service and good apps, and areas that still need work: understanding the customer, how they live and what they are going to use the tool for. (22:45).
- Devices for lower activity level users: Fitbit, Jawbone and Body Media (23:47).
- Devices for mid-level users: Fitbit Surge HR, Garmin Vivoactive, Garmin FR620 (27:14).
- Devices for high-level users: Garmin 920XT, Fenix and Epix models (29:10).
- Platform compatibility issues between manufacturers – users with several devices from different manufacturers can’t pool or cross correlate their data easily(29: 58).
- Application issues with EEG devices: Muse, Emotive; collect data but few apps have been developed for converting the data into usable or actionable information. (30:40).
- Meditation as a tool for improving mental and physical performance. Damien mentions using meditation in conjunction with the Muse (32:05).
- Discussion of sleep tracking devices for different user/quantification levels: level 2 analysis reports how many hours in bed and of that how many hours spent sleeping vs. tossing and turning; level 3 reports deep vs. light sleep phases, records snoring, level 4 provides clinically verified data, level 5 provides raw sensitive data. (35:04).
- Troy and Damien describe techniques they’ve each used to improve their sleep quality: cover bedroom window with blanket to darken the room, turn off all screens, programmable lights; devices to use: Basis, Jawbone, Fitbit Sealfit Unbeatable Mind, Lumen Trails. (39:48).
- Price ranges of wearable devices (50:00).
- Risks associated with EMF exposure from wearable devices. Damien mentions that most people aren’t aware of potential detrimental health effects of EMF’s. Topic is discussed in the book 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris. (52:55).
- Sleep coaching tool: Sleepio.com. Troy mentions this tool, which educates the user on the complexities of sleep and identifies the user’s particular sleep issues. (56:30).
- Troy Angrignon’s prediction for the direction wearable device technology is going in the next 5-10 years: we are currently at an immature stage in being able to collect and analyze data. He hopes we can compress the maturation period of this technology and not have to wait 30 years until we can turn data into actionable intelligence (57:55).
- The biomarkers Troy Angrignon tracks on a routine basis to monitor and improve his health, longevity and performance include sleep via Sleepio.com, heart rate variability with the Garmin Forerunner 920xt and recovery levels through RestWise.com.
- Troy Angrignon’s one biggest recommendation on using body data to improve your health, longevity and performance is to decide on the one thing that would make the biggest difference to you and track it.
- Website for Troy Angrignon: Where he shares his thoughts on business and technology.
- Troy on Twitter (@TroyAngrignon).
- Market Maps and product comparisons from Troy’s website:
- Map of Apple Watch fitness apps and data
- Wearable tech decision tree
- Wearable customer segmentation: Using maturity level for nuanced customer analysis
- Comparing FitBit SurgeHR and Garmin 920XT
- The best smartwatch or fitness band in Q1 2015
- Comparing Sleep Trackers: Jawbone Up24, Basis Peak, S+ by ResMed, Sleeprate, Garmin 920XT, Fitbit
- Sleep-Related Biomarkers: Measure sleep in total time (hours and minutes) and percentage of time spent in different sleep phases:
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep : Characterized by random eye movements and is physiologically distinct from non-REM phases of sleep. Troy mentions that the Basis watch measures the amount of REM sleep.
- Deep Sleep: Characterized by slow, synchronized brain activity and is the most restful phase of sleep. Mentioned by Damien in relation to inability of the Basis watch to track properly.
- Light Sleep: Also known as stage 1 sleep, a non-REM sleep stage that forms the transition from wakefulness into deeper stages of sleep. Mentioned by Troy in context of the Basis sleep tracking watch.
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV): Mentioned by Troy as an indicator for over-training. HRV is a physiological phenomenon whereby the heart rate changes to accommodate physiological, mental or emotional stressors.
- VO2 Max: Mentioned by Damien as a test available through fitness labs. Measures an athlete’s maximum oxygen consumption rate and is used to gauge aerobic fitness levels.
Lab Tests, Devices and Apps
- Colored LED Lights: Damien mentions using these to help with sleep.
- Apple Watch: Smart watch with fitness tracking capability.
- Basis Watch: Smart watch with sleep tracking. Mentioned by Damien for its inability to distinguish sleep from sedentary activity.
- Beddit: Sleep tracking device. Troy mentions that version 1 was offered in consumer or pro models, with the consumer model being cumbersome to operate.
- Beddit Misfit: Under mattress sleep tracker.
- Body Media Fit : Mentioned by Troy as having a loyal customer base. Strap-on style device worn on arm.
- EEG (electroencephalogram) Devices : Measure brain wave activity, used to determine sleep cycles. Mentioned by Damien in relation to tracking sleep.
- Fitbit Products
- Fitbit Surge: Fitness watch that offers GPS tracking, heart rate monitor, all-day tracking, sleep tracking, and wireless syncing. Troy mentioned it in relation to its optical heart rate detector.
- Fitbit Charge HR: Fitness watch with automatic monitoring.
- Garmin Products
- Garmin Fenix: Mentioned by Troy as a durable device, good for competitive and endurance athletes.
- Garmin Forerunner 920xt: Mentioned by Troy as a durable device, good for competitive and endurance athletes.
- Garmin Vivoactive: Good for running, cycling and swimming but not able to track transitions in triathlons
- Garmin Epix: Similar to the 920XT and Fenix plus a larger screen with high-reolution color and apps.
- Jawbone Up : A line of activity trackers. Mentioned by Troy as being problematic for its clip-on style and not being waterproof.
- Lumen Trails: Tracker app Troy uses to simplify tracking for many things.
- Sleep Tracking Devices
- ResMed S-Plus: Sleep tracker with connections to Phillips Corp.
- SleepRate: Sleep tracker mentioned by Troy as having a different scoring algorithm than Jawbone.
- Sleepio: Sleep tracker mentioned by Troy in relation to its scoring algorithm.
- Restwise: App Troy uses to track post-workout recovery.
- Suunto: A Finnish manufacturer of measuring instruments that carries a range of sport watches. Troy mentioned their products as having excellent hardware but cumbersome software.
Other People, Books & Resources
- Dr. Greg Welk: A Kinesiology Professor at Iowa State University where he oversees the Physical Activity and Health Promotion lab. Listen to Damien’s interview with Dr. Welk on the accuracy of fitness trackers in episode 18.
- Dave Asprey: author of The Bulletproof Diet Mentioned by Troy in regards to brain training for increasing focus and blood flow to the pre-frontal cortex.
- Ben Greenfield: Mentioned by Troy in relation to sleep improvement tips. Maintains a fitness website and blog.
- Ray at DCRainmaker.com: Triathlete who maintains a website and blog. Mentioned by Troy for his extensive product reviews.
- Dr. Kirk Parsley: Sleep clinician for Navy SEALs. Associated with performance program called Sealfit Unbeatable Mind.
- Viva Metrics: Software company based in Canada that tests the accuracy of wearables.
- Morgan Stanley: Multinational investment bank that analyzes markets for investors. The company recently published a Blue Paper with estimates and projections for the wearables market.
- The 4-Hour Body: The book by Tim Ferriss mentioned by Damien in relation to health effects of EMF’s.
Full Interview Transcript
[Troy Angrignon]: Hey Damien. Thanks, great to be here.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So, you have the absolute, most comprehensive review of wearable technologies, wearable devices I’ve ever seen. It looks like something from my consulting background years where I was paid big money to create those kinds of things.
So when I saw it I was like, yeah I definitely have to get this guy on the show. He’s put so much time and effort to looking at it from a user; what people actually need and the functionality out there. How did you get into this? Where did your interest in wearable devices start from?
[Troy Angrignon]: I’ve always been interested in them. I’ve always looked in the very early days at running watches, all the sport watches in the early days. The Suunto’s and the Garmins’s and things like that and even in the early incarnations, you could see some kind of cool things that were happening.
They would have interesting features in them. It would say, ‘you have to recover four hours after this workout’ and then say, ‘oh wow, that’s really cool. How are they figuring that out?’ So I got interested in some of the early sport watch stuff and really followed it through that. I’m a nerd and kind of a geek in general.
Anyway I like data. I’ve been involved in data based industries and loved doing sports. It really came from probably the sport watch side of things in the early days.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great. So how long have you been doing this because the sport watch has been around for quite a while now?
[Troy Angrignon]: They have, right. Probably ten plus years and I really got into; I’d say what we know as this current generation of wearables or near-ables. You want to use that phrase.
Really about four years ago when I started looking at sleep issues; I was having sleep issues from working on a start-up and getting no sleep, and all those things. So I started looking at better sleep practices, a lot of stuff that you and I both went through in the bio-hacking space.
And looking at sleep practices as well as tools, so I started looking at a lot of tools and from there that was kind of the beginning. I think you were probably very aware of it at the same time. The sleep tools were happening and the activity trackers were starting to come out and things like that. That was probably 2011, 2010?
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right. Absolutely. What it is though, is sleeping activity is a big area? It’s interesting. Have you got a lot of data from over ten years reflected from all of these watches and things?
[Troy Angrignon]: No. Especially in the early days a lot of it, it’s hard to get the data off or it just comes off into space and you could look at it on some desktop application or something. So no, I think my largest, continuous data set is probably three years. I was just looking at it actually, all my workouts, probably for the last three years.
It’s spotty. There were sections where things didn’t track or I lost data or whatever else. Probably the last three years has been pretty rigorous.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I think you’re probably got pretty much on top of what’s been actionable and what’s been most useful for you over that time. How have you seen the curve of utility go up for you personally, because obviously you’ve been testing different devices and it’s been ten plus years?
In the beginning, was it useful or was it like trying to get some value out of this and getting a little bit but not so much? Like how to use scales on like one to ten, how has it changed over the last then plus years?
[Troy Angrignon]: Well I think two things have changed. There’s how have I changed. I own an approach to thinking about the data and I’ve kind of gone through my own levels of maturity in thinking about it. And then the technology, of course, is changing.
You and I have talked about this before where I kind of do think in that ‘x and y’ and I think that the market has evolved. We’ve gone from just sport watches to now, we’ve got fitness trackers, activity trackers and I can get into definitions of those things. Smart watches.
Some of the fashion companies; they’re with traditional fashion watches are now getting into smart watches. And so you’re getting this kind of bigger fragmentation and more features being developed. At the same time as what I want data has definitely changed and matured and mutated over time. So it has been definitely a change in both ways.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great. Thanks. And who do you see is getting real value from the wearables tech on the market today? I mean you can take yourself as an example. What are you getting real value out of today and who else do you see getting real value out of these wearable tech today?
[Troy Angrignon]: That’s a tough question. I think a lot of different people of different skill sets can get value and it really comes down to what they are trying to do. So I think, maybe it will help set the stage probably for the rest of the call and give us a framework. Why don’t we talk through what we discussed the other day?
But I tend to think of user types as kind of a zero to five in a very gross, coarse way. So a zero would say, ‘I don’t care about data. I’m not going to use any of these tools. I’m just going to go run. I want to just feel the wind in my hair and get outside.’ Where a one would start to ask for some data, like I just want a watch that shows me the time. Like how long did I run? How far did I run? Maybe something basic.
A two would say, ‘well I want that but I want a little bit more data. Give me a few more fields.’ And a three really starts to say, ‘I want to know my time, my splits, my cadence, my running dynamics, my vertical oscillation. They start to get pretty technical in terms of what they’re looking for.
And the fours, they’re really looking for that. They want it to be trusted. They want to know that the data that they’re getting in those devices or applications truly is actually legitimate data. Where the threes are ok, just give me the number and I’ll kind of look at the numbers Is it going up or going down. I don’t really care if it’s super accurate.
And then the fives, you’re really talking Olympic athletes to that point. You’re talking people getting clinical, grave data. And so if you think about kind of the levels and you can apply those levels to the level of athlete too; zero probably doing nothing, one just starting, a two sort of semi-active, a three quite active, four pro-amateur level and five being a lead athlete.
And so if you think about those levels and then you think about what they do. Is this a wellness client who’s saying, ‘I just want to feel better, eat a little better, lose a little more’ or are they kind of a fitness type person that’s saying, ‘well I jog a bit, I run a bit, I cycle. I do a couple of things, I dance, I do yoga whenever. Or they’re really starting to get into the endurance in space.
So, I do run. I do marathons. I do long distance cycling. And then all the way up to what I call to the right on my charts where you’re beginning to know super competitive endurance and ultra-distance stuff. And ultimately you’re getting into like the outdoor, backcountry stuff where they’re like, ‘I’m going to go, put my watch on and go ten days into the back country.’
That’s a different animal. It’s a different kind of an athlete. So I tend to think of it kind of an ‘x by y’. And that’s a long back story to answer your question. But I think that people from, kind of the ones to the fives, on the y axis. And then everything from the sitting on the couch and just trying to get a little more active, all the way to the outdoor backcountry folks.
There are pockets of people in there who are getting a lot of value but I think it’s less about them and less about their specific technology and more about the process. So, are they clear on what they’re trying to figure out? Have they chosen the right tool? Does the tool give them the data and can they look at the data and have a feedback loop and say, ‘ok, I got what I needed. I’m going to improve my running speed or I’m going to back off and train less hard because I’m over-trained or whatever else.’
So, that’s a really fuzzy way of saying some people are getting useful stuff out of it and a lot of people are just looking at stuff and they don’t know why.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right. And what we were talking about is a critical need the other day. You were talking about competitive athletes who want to shave off a few seconds off of their times or whatever.
This is critical needs and I guess these are the guys that would be using the fours and the fives that exist today. What kind of devices out there are there that provide that level of detail today, if there are any?
[Troy Angrignon]: Yeah, up in the competitive endurance space. I would look at, these are folks who are doing pretty aggressive, marathons, triathlons, cycling races, multi-sport, even obstacle course racing, which as you know is pretty popular these days, Spartan racing, those kinds of things.
And it’s less about those sports and more the level at which they compete in them. So we’re talking upper 50 percentile, upper 25 percentile folks. Now we are either looking at their times, very aggressive about their times. So once you get into those environments, your use case is pretty tough for a device manufacture.
You can throw a FitBit on these people. And then a lot of my friends bought Jawbones or Fitbits or whatever. What I would can an activity tracker, meaning something with an accelerometer in it and they last about a day because you get them wet, you cover them in mud, you get them in the ocean. Whatever happens, they short out.
So those kinds of users that are really competitive and endurance athletes, they’re hard on their toys. And they really need devices and apps, in fact they don’t even carry their phone with them cause they just trash them. So, you’re really looking at things like Garmin 920xt’s are a great example in the triathlon space or the Fenix, which is the new Garmin in the Fenix Backcountry watch.
Suunto has some excellent hardware, although their data is really hard to move around so I’m not a big fan of them for that reason. So yes, there are definitely tools that work in that space.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great. And in the general where do you see most people using today? Is it in the level one? We were talking with Greg Welk who’s done ongoing studies on the accuracy of these devices and we got into this discussion of how they’re not accurate, most of them to varying degrees. They’re biased.
However, they’re roughly the same wrong every time. So you can check, the relative is difference to what you did yesterday. Consistently one direction wrong or the other so you will talk about the usefulness of at least I know had more activity or I was faster than yesterday at the very least. Is that how you look at that whole area right now? I mean it’s more of a relative difference you can use it for.
[Troy Angrignon]: Absolutely. And again, think of the ones to fives. Kind of drawing a picture in your head of kind of the ones to fives on the left side and then really the bottom of the chart, consumer wellness on the left and all the way through fitness, recreational endurance, competitive endurance and outdoor tactical on the right.
And so I think your question really gets to who uses these, let’s say activity trackers, like Jawbones, Fitbits, these little things that you can clip on. I don’t like clip on ones cause you just throw them in the wash and lose them and break them.
But let’s say the bands you can put on. And you nailed it; they’re not that accurate but if you’re a one you don’t really care. All you’re looking for is step data. And so, did I move a little bit more than I did yesterday? Is it consistently capturing the step data? Is it good enough?
And I have met so many people who say, ‘oh I’ve got my first one and I love it because I used to do 2000 steps and now I do 3000 steps.’ And does it matter that it was 3500 or 2500? No, it’s irrelevant. What they know is they a feedback loop which gives them some objective measure and it’s better than what they had before, which was nothing.
So I think that there’s still a lot of value there. There’s a really interesting company I was actually looking at it yesterday after you and I talked. Diva Metrics I think is the name and I think they’re in Montreal. I may have the city wrong, or Calgary.
And they’ve gone through a really rigorous analysis on how inaccurate all these tools are and making data correction tools. So they’ll say, ‘well this thing is 92% accurate so we’ll just take the data and just up it by the requisite 8% to reality.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s interesting.
[Troy Angrignon]: So, it’s pretty cool.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: They can be selling that to the companies who design the devices.
[Troy Angrignon]: So I think there’s still a lot of value in just having some kind of indicator. Calories, I could go on a rant about calories for days. The shorter version is that I think calories in and calories out is a dead model. But a basic summary, whether it’s steps or calories, is it a number that’s higher or lower than it was yesterday.
That’s a great indicator for people that just didn’t have awareness of that before.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It’s definitely kind of how serious you are about doing what you’re doing. So if you take an example of sleep. That’s what we were talking about this last time and we’re both fans of sleep, obviously.
I was really interested in the Basis Watch when they were bringing the sleep tracking out because I wanted to understand my deep sleep versus other areas of sleep. And I really just wanted to know I was hitting my eight hours that I wanted and trying to push it up to nine for a while.
I was pretty disappointed because it was saying I was asleep a lot of the time and I wasn’t able to trust that data because if I was sitting around watching TV, or even working on my computer sometimes, it would be like yeah you were asleep in the middle of the day.
So I couldn’t actually use that for just an estimate of how long I was asleep and because I didn’t trust that, I didn’t trust how much it was saying I had in deep sleep either. I didn’t feel like I could do any of the experiments, like to increase your deep sleep because that’s one of the things that I was interested in doing.
I gave up on those experiments and trying to optimize that. By having these biases, it really limits the kinds of experiments and what you can do. If we’re just trying to get a little bit better, like say with the activity trackers. Its fine, we just want to make sure we’re moving. The Basis Watch I’m sure, loads of others, you can point out would be ok for that.
But if we want to actually go to the next stage and optimize it to another level, to a higher level, a more competitive level and get more out of that performance, whatever that angle is. If it’s sleep or running, it’s not quite there yet.
Or are there devices which you feel are there in certain areas, whether it’s sleep or running or areas where you can really optimize pretty well and move to the next level?
[Troy Angrignon]: There are and it’s interesting and I’ve really been wrestling with this a lot. I’ve looked at and broken everything out there or bought and given it away. I’ve tested pretty much everything I’ve ever written about.
You can definitely get more data. You just gave a great example with the Basis and it’s a bit my favorite whipping horse because it’s got some weirdness in the way they develop product. But essentially they try to give these really advance, what I would call QS level, quantified self-level for type of graphs.
A graph is pretty complex and you would expect a person in a pretty deep understanding of visualization and data analytics in order for them to use it. But yet a whole watch was really aimed at couch to 5k, people who are walking and maybe cycling.
In fact, that’s all it will even track, actually. It will self-identify activities. And then in the sleep arena, as you said it had things like deep sleep, REM sleep, light sleep and activity but everybody I know who has one said, ‘yes, they always tell me I’m sleeping when I’m sitting at the opera,’ which is probably true but that’s not relevant.
I don’t really want it showing that I’m sleeping at the opera. Or I’m watching TV or I’m sitting down to dinner. It was trying to do automatic sleep categorization. We’re running into really tough to build hardware and software that does auto-sensing and auto-identification of activity, whether that’s sleep or running or cycling or anything else.
You tease apart all of these issues, what it really comes down to is, as a vendor these guys have to get together and say, ‘well who really is our user and what level are they at? What use case are they using it for? Are they a triathlete and if they’re a triathlete, are they a one, two, three, four, or five?’
In my view, I know triathletes who don’t use watches. They literally just have a Timex. They don’t care about anything else. They don’t use complex sport watches. I would call them almost a QS-1, a quantified self-level one, but serious competitive triathlete.
You really have to get this intersection of who is the user. How much data do they want? Are we giving them enough data and is it accurate data? There’s this really complex landscape out there, which you and I talked about. This is why people are so confused right now.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Your charts are amazing. It’s amazing how many devices are there, already. And there is obviously a lot of money going into this space. What I guess is interesting is if you take the Basis as an example, again and I guess the Apple iWatch which is coming out.
Applications like that are trying to give people at home a very generic tracker, which is going to have a broad spectrum of things it’s tracking. But it sounds like you’re saying that just because the hardware isn’t there yet in terms of actually getting data from us, that the software can’t handle figuring out what we’re up to.
If you’re trying to track everything like are you asleep, are you moving, what are you up to, all of these kinds of things, yet the hardware isn’t accurate enough to be able to take that data and use some software to interpret it.
But if, like you said, we focus on a narrow use case, where the conditions we understand a lot more closely because it’s just one area of use rather than trying to track someone’s whole life. And that’s working and you can see that it’s possible that we can get there this time even though the hardware is not quite there yet. Is that kind of your viewpoint?
[Troy Angrignon]: Yes. I think it’s a reasonable summary, especially when we started with things like 3D accelerometers. They really don’t do much. They just give you rotation and space and G-Force, and that sort of stuff.
It’s pretty hard to extract really clean signal out of that and figure out what the heck is really going on. Is this person running or jogging or doing cycling. That was a big issue. There just wasn’t enough data or the sensors were even terrible and there weren’t enough of them.
Then we started to do things like, a great example I think that I was quite impressed by, is Fitbit Surge, their new heart rate based one. It has GPS for location, it has optical heart rate on the back, so it’s shining right into the skin, in the tissue just above the wrist and reading your heart rate which is pretty challenging to do.
They have the 3D accelerometer and they can use all of that combined so the GPS will be shut down. It will say, you’re not moving or it will actually just be shut off. It will say heart beat is low and there is no motion in the body and it’s late at night.
So it’s starting to get easier and easier for them to identify that you’re going to sleep and to pick that pattern out, or to just show that you’re active. I can see you’re active. Your arm is moving, your body is pumped up and I’ve got a lot of very heavy heart rate, sustain heavy heart rate. You’re probably doing something.
Now they don’t try to self-identify, which I think was the right move. You can mark it and tell it that you’re doing yoga or doing a workout. I think it’s all trending in the right direction.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So if you were would like to point out on the landscape right now what manufacturers are doing right and what needs work, in specific areas, where is your pet peeves and where are the areas where it’s doing a really good job?
[Troy Angrignon]: I think my biggest pet peeve across the board is just not understanding your customer. It goes back to what I said a few minutes ago. Know who your customer is. Know how they live and what the use cases are that they are going to put the tool through.
That really helps the vendor narrow down to what features does it have to have, how rugged does it have to be, how much battery life does it have to have. I have not been traditionally a fan of Fitbit. I know they are the 800 lb. gorilla here in North America. I think they had 67% of the market share in 2013 and I’m not sure that’s a ’14 number, but they have a broad spectrum of product.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So which devices do you see as being the most effective, the best buys right now, doing a really great job for users?
[Troy Angrignon]: Again, it depends on who you are, but I think there are some ones that are standing out. Moving left to right again and from ones to fives, lower left to upper right if you keep that chart pictured in your head that we talked about earlier.
The folks that want to just get a little more active than they were or they’re lucky to move a little more, track a little more and ones and twos in terms of tracking and they’re not really hard on their toys. Any of the new Fitbits (they’ve launched a whole new line) I think are doing a pretty good job.
They’re number one for a reason. I think what’s going to be interesting in that space is Jawbone. Jawbone I lost and or broke and destroyed a bunch of them and they were very good in Customer Service and kept sending me new ones.
I like their apps. They’ve got a good partner network. They’ve got a new one coming out; the Up 3 and they’re actually integrating some of the technology they bought from Body Media and I know that people who have Body Media’s, you can’t pry them off of their cold dead bodies.
It’s pretty interesting. They are rabidly loyal fans. That was the big one you strap on your arm basically. A lot of people are really attached to that and so they’ve taken some of that technology, like the bio impedance sensors and things and put it into the new Jawbone Up 3. I haven’t tested it but I have a pretty strong belief that they’re going to do a pretty good job at that low end of the activity tracker section. It will be interesting to see and that should be out March or April.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: With those two devices, what kind of things do you think people could reasonably do? What kind of functionality are people thinking they just want to know they are doing more? How far do you think they can push those devices and get useful decision making out of them, using them to maximize something?
[Troy Angrignon]: You really can’t do a ton. They do basic activity tracking. They basically show you how active are you; you’re active parts of your day. They’ll give you calorie data and it’s totally inaccurate, so I wouldn’t use that. I would use the steps as just an indicator like you and I talked about. Am I doing more or am I doing less? That’s really what you want to look for, just for trend data day to day.
The Fitbit has sleep tracking. The low end of their stuff you still have to push a button or mark it. I think that’s a non-starter. That’s not sustainable because people forget. As you move up into their new ones like their Charge HR, which stands for heart rate and a Surge HR which has a screen and also does heart rate, you’re getting into more into the fitness tracker space.
Now you can track your day to day activities, see trending patterns. You can actually auto-sense your sleep or it will auto-sense your sleep. It’ doesn’t give you very deep sleep data. It just shows you are you restless or are you awake or are you asleep. It’s really three states essentially
If you’re really a nerd like you or I and you want to see deep sleep and light sleep and all that, it really doesn’t do that. Jawbone actually has always done that, although they’ve only done it through the 3D accelerometers. I’ve never really trusted that data.
With the inclusion of the new stuff, the new technology they bought from Body Media, I suspect they’re going to start to be able to pick up because they can sample the heart rate through the night and do things like figure out your morning resting heart rate which is a nice thing to know.
So I think that’s going to be an interesting entry in the higher end of that low end, if that makes sense, the activity trackers. And then as you get into the middle range, I’d say fitness folks who are doing a couple of sports, maybe they dance or running or the odd bit of cycling, but nothing ongoing, then the Fitbit Surge HR.
I sound like a Fitbit rep which is funny because I’ve never been a big fan. But I think they’re doing a good job and you can mark different sports. It’s pretty good actually. The accuracy is even surprisingly high when I cross reference it to some of the higher end tools I use.
Really to me, it’s kind of one of the only successful ones in that middle of the road fitness tracker space; Garmin is releasing something called a Vivoactive which will be squarely in that spot. It’s for running and cycling and swimming but this is a key point- not for triathlon because that’s a whole other use case where you need to connect those sports together in a block, like a swim and a transition and a bike and a transition and a run.
That’s a multi-sport thing which really you find at the high end. So I would say in the fitness tracker stuff in the middle, you’re looking at the Fitbit Surge HR, maybe the Garmin Vivoactive. I have not tested it. I’ve seen it and I’ve used it and I find the touch screen a bit finicky.
Maybe the Garmin FR620, which is their running watch, is pretty nice in that space; clear, bright screen, auto-upload on WI-FI and Bluetooth. So literally you do your run and then that’s it. It just synchronizes and it sends the data up which I think for these things to be sustainable, all of this stuff has to happen automatically.
You and I talked a lot about that. It’s like how much overhead can we take away. We shouldn’t be saying to the user, ‘you need to mark sleep, you need to do this, you need to do that.’ We’ve got enough on our plates. They don’t want to adopt a baby. It’s not a Tamagotchi watch.
I think that the watch can do, the better. And then at the high end, definitely these days I would really lean to the Garmin lineup. They release three new ones at CES, the Consumer Electronic Show, which I was quite impressed with because I think they’ve done a very good job of understanding the use case.
They’ve got a 920XT for the triathletes and multi-sport folks, a Phoenix which is that plus the backcountry stuff and then their Epix, which is all of that plus a great big screen with high-resolution color and apps on it.
I think the Fenix and the 920 are the winners out there because they’ve got the same thing; auto-upload on WI-FI and Bluetooth. And to me the big deal is data. Is it automatic, is it easy to use, is it automatic, does the data go somewhere and can you get the data to other places. Does that make sense?
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yes, absolutely. There are different platforms, like the Basis is a closed one, or not?
[Troy Angrignon]: It’s an island and so is Suunto. They’re off in space, Timex is the same thing. And anybody who’s an island, it doesn’t make any sense anymore because people have something like, I’m making this number up, but crazy numbers of 20 or 30 fitness apps on their phone and they want all that stuff to connect.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And it’s also a trust factor I think. Because with the Basis you can’t extract the information so where do these numbers come from. So I think there’s also that angle when you’re talking about people who are getting more involved in it.
They can’t take the data off of it. They’re wondering what the data is inside of it and how it’s calculated and things like that. I know that’s been a big frustration with Basis users. Another interesting model is the Muse, like the Muse Calm, they had that EEG device where basically you have an open API and they’re bringing this hardware to market and anyone can connect to it, develop aps on it, although no one seems to be doing that yet, so I’m wondering how that’s going to go.
[Troy Angrignon]: I talked to Muse and have not used the Muse. The Emotive is another one. And any of these EEG things essentially they are saying it’s something you put on your head. It’s this thing that looks like it’s from the future. It has all these touch points on your skull and it picks up your brain waves or brain wave patterns.
I think the big question I always have is, to do what. What’s the application and so I understand you have the hardware and I understand you have some kind of open API application programming interface, some way for me to get the data out, but ultimately what am I doing with it.
I tested another one. I picked up one from Dave Asprey’s Bullet Proof site which was a brain trainer, focus trainer which is ostensibly teaches you to move more blood flow in the pre-frontal cortex. I have it and I could actually do it. It’s actually pretty cool because you can put this little film on and you can fly over the mountains and you can actually control it with your brain, which is really cool for about ten minutes.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: But it was, I was at this bullet proof live conference so I did it there and it’s a lot of fun but it’s a nice fast game. It’s not integrating with your life I guess. It’s something like meditation that you have to take time out for.
[Troy Angrignon]: which I’m a huge fan of. I think meditation, I do it every if not every day, every second day. I know a lot of people, especially athletes who are really, really find that critical piece of their training. But I don’t think that these tools are necessarily getting you there.
I think they’re kind of early attempts to say, ‘look at the pattern in your brain’ and you’re like, ‘great, what do I do with it’. I don’t know what to do with that information.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: My personal experience from the Muse so far, I’m meditating every day and I’m using that. I’m playing around with different things and different types of meditation, for instance.
Dan [unclear 0:32:45:5] and so on, and I have managed to shift it. Basically you have an index . You don’t exactly know what that is so that’s a bit worrying to me because it’s their index that they’ve given you.
[Troy Angrignon]: Again, it’s another made up number
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Rather than some standard that you can rely on more easily. So I think that’s another concern I have about a lot of these devices. Some of the manufacturers come up with an index which is 1 to 100.
It’s not based on any standard and you’re left wondering, I hope it’s doing what I want to because otherwise I’m spending of time meditating and hoping that I’m getting better but I might actually be getting worse.
I definitely want to dig more into what that data means and how it’s calculated. Now I’ve spent enough time on ‘I have to get around to looking at this’. So I think people have that concern at this stage too. And it’s kind of this transparency thing again. If you can just pull the data off and you can see exactly what it is then it would give you that comfort factor.
[Troy Angrignon]: Well, let’s step through that though, back to the beginning of the conversation. A level one person, in this case a quantified self, level one person, they only want that number because they don’t really know and don’t want to know the complexity underneath the numbers.
So I understand why the manufacturers do that, to look at the slave tools. They’ll give you a score. Your sleep score was 85%. Now Jawbone’s sleep score is not the same as Sleep Rates sleep score, or Sleepio’s sleep score. Those are all different sleep scores. And they have different algorithms underneath.
Some are transparent, some are not. But ultimately the user just wants to know, ‘hey it was 85 yesterday, its 90 today’. I’m trending up and that’s a good thing. And they’re good, that’s fine as long as that’s all they want then they’re already ok.
But I think you and I, we’re not ones. You’re definitely not a one. You’re a five.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Hey, you’re a five too.
[Troy Angrignon]: I’m a five, you’re a five.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Don’t stop for any fives around.
[Troy Angrignon]: So, we’re not that user and I think we need to be cognizant that a one doesn’t want the level of data that you and I want. And that’s ok because they’re just in a different place. And it doesn’t mean also that we’re a badass athlete and they’re not.
You can find world class athletes who are ones. Who are like just give me my Timex watch, I don’t want to know anything else. So I think that those are two separate dimensions. So to get to your point, yes, a lot of people are doing these roll up scores.
In my mind that’s a thing you deliver to the users who are ones and then if you’re delivering product to be also available to the twos, the quantified self, level twos, then you say, ‘hey, here’s your sleep score. It’s 85%.’ Underneath that means is, you were in bed eight hours but only six and a half of that you were sleeping and an hour and a half of that you were tossing and turning.
That’s kind of a level two analysis. And a level three analysis would be; well actually you had deep sleep, light sleep, here are the different phases. Here’s how many times you were interrupted and maybe here’s a recording of you snoring. Sleep rate does that, which is a little bit creepy.
And a level four would be that plus all of that is trusted, absolutely, clinically verified. And then a five would be the raw sensitive data. Put me in a lab and hook me up to 50 machines, which I’m sure you do.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I’m tempted. I haven’t done it as much as I’ve wanted to yet. I bet you’ve been doing it for a long time.
[Troy Angrignon]: No, I do actually show up to something with three or four devices on me. I was at a heart zone training session in this last week and I showed up with all of these devices on my arms and everyone was like, ‘why do you have so many watches’.
[Damien]: Because I don’t trust anyone of these.
[Troy Angrignon]: I’m cross referencing them all.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Which one do I trust today. Just out of interest, you were talking about labs, you’ve done VO2 Max or any of these kinds of measures. I know you can go to fitness labs and do those kinds of things.
[Troy Angrignon]: No surprise. I love to do more of that lab type testing. In fact, I’m actually doing one this week with a start-up that’s in stealth mode around heart zone training and threshold analysis. I would love to do more of that.
Most of mine has been with these consumer grade tools. Really just looking to see which one is the most accurate of the bunch because I am not at the level with my own training and with my own coaches where I need to be within, for heart rate threshold analysis, I don’t need to be within one beat. It’s not material useful for my training.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: For most of my stuff I’m there. I’d say like the most critical thing I have is sleep. And I’d really love to know exactly how many hours I’m sleeping. And it’s more, for me its accountability. It’s just like if I get a little alarm and it’s like you only slept five hours the last few days, then I’m going to act on it. That’s the big thing and that will change my life, just that little thing there.
[Troy Angrignon]: I think it would change everybody’s life. I fell into this rabbit hole. You and I both came to this from having health issues. I was having sleep issues. That was my big thing at the time. I’m sure a lot of your listeners know your back story.
So I came into it from the sleep angle of going, ‘man, I’m not sleeping,’ and I’d like to prove that. I learned a lot from the bio hacking community and the bullet proof executive and Ben Greenfield and all of these guys.
And I was like, ‘ok, I need to make the room black and I need to go to bed early and turn off my screens at night’. All the stuff that we now know is good sleep discipline. There is another word.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Sleep discipline is a good word because all of things take a little bit of effort to do them, that’s all. Once you’ve got a routine and you’re doing them, then it’s great.
[Troy Angrignon]: Right, and so coming into it I think that everybody kind of vectors in on these things like what is your one thing that you’re working on. Actually, that’s a good thing to talk about here which is, what is your one thing? What’s the one thing you want to change the most?
Do you want to increase your time or do a race and just finish or do a race and be top ten? Or just sleep better? And that helps you pick the universe of possibilities of things you might use as a tracker, maybe you just pick the one thing that will help you get to that step and don’t try and boil the ocean.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So you’re saying don’t just try to attempt to track everything? When I got the Basis I wanted to have it all. I’m not picking on Basis here, it’s just that when I happened to jump on to it a couple of years back so I had the most experience of it. And it didn’t do that and the Jawbone or the Fitbit didn’t do it at the time. So what you’re saying is decide that one thing and that’s going to decide what device you get and you’re going to get that value out of it, if that’s the most important thing to you, whatever you want to change.
[Troy Angrignon]: Right. And I think that that’s a really good object lesson for all of us. I’ve been through all of these things so I ultimately I always come back and think about it. Now that I’ve tested it and I can talk to other people about it, that’s fine. But for me, what am I working on next and therefore what is the right tool for me, today or this week?
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Well cool, let’s talk about some quick case scenarios then and the market and where it is today. What would you do? Let’s start with sleeping. If we’re just trying to improve our sleep or get some accountability behind it, which device would you choose right now, and you think it would do the job? Would you think it would do the job?
[Troy Angrignon]: Yes. So I wouldn’t even get a device. Actually I would just listen to Ben Greenfield’s podcast that he did, a long presentation, a bunch of Q&A that he did at Sealfit Unbeatable Mind, I think you and I talked about Sealfit. He was down there for a conference. He’s published the podcast and it’s an excellent podcast. I highly recommend it.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Cool, is this on sleep or is it Q&A?
[Troy Angrignon]: Well inside there he has this whole how to bio hack your whole life. He goes through 4000 things you can do and so many at the end rightfully said. ‘Look dude, my brain exploded. Where do I start?’ And he came to the same thing. He was like, ‘pick one thing. Pick one area that you would like to improve, one metric in that area and look for the right tool.’
To go back to your question, the right first device to fix your sleep is not a device. It’s reading up on the basics of sleep, understanding what good sleep discipline is, doing things like blacking out your room. Maybe the first device is a big hairy blanket you hang from your window. That’s probably the best device. The cheapest thing that you can buy that’s going to have the biggest impact.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You’re laughing about that but that’s exactly how I started. I just got a big furry blanket and I’m guessing you did too. I had come to visit my parents and I all of a sudden read this stuff. This is years ago and I grabbed a blanket and put it up and they were like, ‘what the hell are you doing?’ And they really didn’t like it because it’s just not done, I guess.
[Troy Angrignon]: Somewhere I read was like, ‘tinfoil doesn’t pass any light through’, so I completely tin foiled my window and the very next day the building manager came up and said, ‘you need to take that down, you look like a crazy person.’
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Some of these things, if you go this route, is a pain to take down. Otherwise you just leave it up. You’re like, ‘well I’m not in that room during the day anyway.’ But other people aren’t so [unclear 0:41:56:3]
[Troy Angrignon]: Exactly. I think there’s a lot of work and we don’t need to go down that. This is more about devices. There are a lot of things you can do. I would say black out the room, put things like ‘F LUX F. LUX’ on your computer at night. It dims the screen. There’s a lot of stuff about not having blue light at night. This is all well documented at Ben Greenfield or Dave Aspreys Bulletproof podcast.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Well the one thing I have done, because I didn’t trust the Basis data, was I have this little tiny app which tracks all manor of things. It’s just like a little tracker app. It’s called Lumen Trails. There are probably plenty of others like that, but for some reason three years ago when I started tracking a lot of stuff, that was the one out there.
And it just allows you to put data in and it just allows me to press a button which says I’m going to sleep and then when I wake up, press it again and now I’m awake and then I know how long I slept. That’s really the most reliable measure I had and I’ve got huge chunks of data like months where I was doing that.
And I found that useful although it’s not automatic, it’s a pain. But at least it gave me some kind of register. Because I found out I really don’t know sometimes what time I, especially if was tired if I went to sleep, I won’t really remember at what time I went to sleep and what time I’m waking up unless I’ve actually gotten it written down somewhere.
[Troy Angrignon]: And I think you just nailed it. You’re a very quantified guy and it was still a pain and we need to get away from that stuff. This whole thing of you have to click a button, it doesn’t matter how small that motion is, we have too much going on to make the users do that.
I’m coming back to being a PR dude for Fitbit here, but I think the Charge HR does this as well but I know that the Fitbit Surge HR does this. It just automatically figures it out and unlike Basis, which would say I slept five blocks of 30 minutes, which is just insane.
The Fitbit Surge actually does a really good job of saying, you went to bed now and you got up then and it was eight hours and you were actually asleep for six and a half. It doesn’t give you any depth below that, so it’s kind of a quantified self, level two answer.
Eight hours with six and a half with real sleep inside there and there are no phases or anything else, but it’s automatic. I don’t have to think about it. I’m quite willing to make that trade off because I could get more data but then I would have to think about it and I don’t want to think about it. I have enough tools in my life.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And for 99% of people, that data is going to be actionable. That’s going to tell them what they need to know.
[Troy Angrignon]: Absolutely. Because you can look at it and see, ‘oh well, gee, I got four hours, four hours, four hours, four hours. And it actually displays your actual sleep time. So it’s been showing me things like three and a half hours. I’ll be in bed for five or six and it will say three and a half. What do you mean three and a half?!
It’s showing the actual time that I’m not moving and I’m really dead to the world. I have to laugh about that. I think finding a basic device like that is good, but something that’s automatic I think is also helpful.
If you have real sleep issues, sleep is a really critical issue and we are all as a population lacking in good quality sleep, I think this is worth investing time and energy and focus on, because it improves everything. There’s hormonal issues and weight loss and moods, just a million things. In my book it’s foundational so I think it’s the place everybody should start.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Sleep and meditation I think, are the two things that I want to get done every day. We are always thinking about these huge lists of task, but I’ve really tried to start putting these two things at the top. So if I don’t do anything else at least I’ve slept and I did my meditation.
[Troy Angrignon]: Yes, if more people would prioritize that. Down at Sealfit Unbeatable Mind there’s a really great fellow there, Dr. Kirk Parsley. He is a Sleep Clinician for Navy Seals and he said, ‘my biggest challenge is, a) they don’t sleep that much because they’re training all the time and b) I have a hard time in getting their heads around the fact that sleep is fundamental and foundational to everything they do. And that lesson is not just for them. That’s for all of us.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So you fixed your sleep. What did you find that the main things were that you’re doing and that worked for you just since that’s something that you worked on a lot?
[Troy Angrignon]: The big things were I had to make changes at work. I had a very great team that I was working with at the time and I said, ‘look these are all the things going on and we need to shift some stuff.’ There were work changes, darkening the room, putting timers on my phone that would alert me to say it’s 9 o’clock and start winding down.
One of the big things that I did, which has made a huge material difference, is as soon the Phillips Hue light
ing came out where you could change all the bulbs and control them from your phone. I put timers on them. Back to the whole ‘don’t have blue light at night thing’, I put timers on them and I basically set the entire house and the whole thing dims from normal lightening and deep submarine red lightening.
It feels like I’m in the Hunt for Red October movie. Feels like I’m in a submarine. But the whole house dims to basically 10% deep red by 9 o’clock. So really it’s fantastic and it sends this signal.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I bought some Amazon lights and I was doing that myself at one point but depending on my location it hasn’t been convenient. But have it set up at your homeand automatic, that’s really amazing. If it’s done automatically it’s going to happen.
[Troy Angrignon]: For a while I was doing it manually. I would turn certain lights off or I would do various things. Again, back to the overhead, I don’t want to think about this. I have enough going on in my life. We all do.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Well right because you say you were re-organizing your work. I would just be interested to know, you’re basically talking about stress loads here. For me I’ve been subscribing to the fact that if you have too many things in your head, we’re talking about adding things in terms of I’ve got to track this, I’ve got to track that.
That’s not going to be an easy way forward for us because it’s just too much. We already have too many items based in our heads. I don’t know if you did this for your work, but for my work I’ve been hiring a lot more people and systematizing a lot of stuff and basically knocking things off my table.
So just, even if I’m still working the 40, 50, 60 hours, at least I’m only working on four things. And I find that helps tremendously with sleep and just general stress levels. I don’t know if you’ve seen something similar.
[Troy Angrignon]: It does. I think you’ve nailed it and I think that this is all very self-reinforcing and everything is connected to everything. So your sleep supports your work and your work impacts your sleep. And this we could talk for days on this subject. So I think there are basic things that I did.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So it’s hard to actually see the quantitative impact in your sleep I guess. I don’t know if you were able to see that. Well you just feel better. You were able to see more hours slept or were there anything that you were able to see that and changed?
[Troy Angrignon]: No, absolutely. I went from two hours to near panic attack sleep to eight, nine hours of solid sleep and it took probably a year to make that change.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s something I didn’t have as serious as you. I was waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning and I there was nothing I could do about it. I would go to bed at 12 and I would wake up at 4 every day. I’d start working in the dark.
Luckily, I lived in Mexico at the time so I was looking out at the light, the sunrise on the beach and it was amazing. But my girlfriend wasn’t a huge fan of me waking her up at 4 o’clock in the morning when I left. So for me gradually the hours increased.
I think this is kind of funny; I was tracking it for a long time then I stopped tracking and I knew it was fixed because I wasn’t concerned about it anymore because now I’m sleeping seven or eight or nine hours consistently and it doesn’t feel like a problem for me anymore and so I haven’t tracked it for maybe six months.
[Troy Angrignon]: And that’s a really good point. You had an issue amongst all the other issues that you were working on and then when you got to a point where this isn’t really a problem anymore. I don’t need the extra overhead and headache of waking up, finding my phone, clicking this button, doing these things, tracking these numbers. You don’t care at that point. You’re not working on it anymore.
And that’s why it’s kind of like peeling the onion. Pick the one biggest thing, the one biggest boulder and pick one thing that you can do about it and start there.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And it’s not necessarily going to be the same thing that you’re going to be doing for the next year. Maybe you’ll work on it for three months, you’ll fix it and then you will say, what’s next. Hopefully you don’t have to buy a new device, depending on your budget.
Let’s talk quickly about budget, actually. I’m guessing the Garmin’s are some of the more expensive ones. I haven’t looked at the prices myself, but what do you think of the pricing at the moment? For the things I’m buying it’s relatively accessible, I think. They’re around $100 or $150, tops.
[Troy Angrignon]: There’s such a huge range. Before we jump to there, I’ll come right back. But before we leave the sleep subject, just so we can wrap up on the devices. There are a lot of devices ultimately after you get through figuring out what you want to do and fix, there are a bunch of devices as you know that will help you track sleep.
It could be as simple as a sleep cycle on your phone. I’m not a fan of that unless you put your phone on the Airplane Mode because you’ve got this EMF blasting a hundred meters of Wi-Fi right beside you.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Did you trust the data on that, because I used it for a little bit.
[Troy Angrignon]: No I didn’t really think the data was any good because it’s too hard to pick it up from the accelerometer on the phone and it’s sitting there beside you. It seems like a bit of a dorky way to do it. But again, if it’s better than it was yesterday, it’s consistently probably inaccurate, back to our beginning conversation.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I think that app is a couple of dollars, or is it free?
[Troy Angrignon]: Exactly, it’s a cheap way to get your toes in the water. And then going up a step from there, you could look at some of these low end, Fitbit or equivalent things that kind of clip on. Withings had one which was really dorky.
You’d have to find the sleeve and stick this thing in the sleeve and put the sleeve on and the sleeve would fall off. It was ridiculous. It was unsustainable. So I think anything that’s just really easy that you can put on and hopefully have to push one button and hopefully you don’t even have to push that button in the morning.
That’s a better case. The best case is you’re always wearing it and it just automatically knows you’ve gone to bed and it automatically knows you’ve gotten up. So, if and when you go to check the data, the data is already there and you didn’t think about it.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So after you looked at the Beddit and there’s a Phillips one as well. Or they’ve basically have got things placed on the mattress?
[Troy Angrignon]: The Beddit comes in multiple versions. The Beddit V1 came in two versions- consumer and pro, it was Bluetooth legacy, so it was a huge headache. So the process, very briefly was, go find your phone, turn on the phone, open it up, open the app, connect to the sensor, sit there and wait for it to connect to the sensor. Eventually it would connect and you would select the sensor.
Then you would open the app and you would go through these questions. I wanted to throw my phone out the window I was so stressed trying to go to bed every night. And I hated it and everybody I know who used it, stopped using it.
And Dave Asprey was always saying, ‘oh, I love my Beddit.’ And I couldn’t figure out why so I went and talked to Lasse Holstrum who is the founder and he said, ‘oh he’s got the pro version.’ Apparently they went to Bluetooth, BLE, Bluetooth Low Energy and cleaned that all up so it automatically connects to the sensor. So literally all you do is open the app, it auto-connects and you just say, ‘hey, I’m going to bed.’
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So just to clarify, is that Bluetooth running all night?
[Troy Angrignon]: It is and that’s Bluetooth Low Energy and the transmitters are hanging off the edge of your bed, but there’s a great podcast that Ben Greenfield did about this one as well recently too. These things are not labeled or marked and for folks that really EMF wary, which I’m becoming more so these days, I’m not a huge fan of that frankly.
I haven’t used the Version 2, which is the one they did in partnership with Misfit. What I heard from the founder they were doing the right things for V2. Ultimately I tossed it in the box and got rid of it. I’ve tried the S-Plus by ResMed, which bought some of the IP from CO and it’s actually downstream from Phillips. I think it’s tied into Phillips Corp.
It’s this contact list that sits there at the edge of your bed and bounces these 10 G HZ signals off of your body and it uses echo location to try and figure out your chest respirations from your chest. I didn’t trust that data at all. They say the gut research data that says it’ as good as a 3D accelerometer, which is not saying much.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: But what you said about it bouncing waves, so it’s bouncing waves of you all night?
[Troy Angrignon]: Yes. It’s basically just sitting there blasting EMF at you all night long, which seems like a bad idea.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That seems like a really bad [idea] especially for sleep. If you want to have good sleep, I’m not sure that’s the best idea.
[Troy Angrignon]: In my building I have 20 visible Wi-Fi access blasting out full-bore 100 meter, 2.4 G so I’m swamped in here anyway. So I wasn’t keen on it, sent that one back and then Withings go so slammed by people who hated their product that their CEO actually apologized for how terrible the product was so I don’t think there’s much there.
Then InFIT is one I saw at CES and it looks interesting. It’s a very heavy strip which sits underneath, not on top of top mattress but in between the top and the second mattress. It scans you through the bed. Again it’s doing some kind of signal through the bed.
This is a problem. Everything swarm you in EMF and pulls this data and broadcast from you and I think we’re going to be paying the price on that one at some point, but I’m not sure.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: There don’t seem to be many manufacturers who are concerned about that though.
[Troy Angrignon]: They’re too busy in the hay day of wearables.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I guess we’re ahead of the curve thinking about EMF. Most people aren’t concerned about EMF. Most people you talk to don’t even realize there’s a problem. Although there’s some books which I appreciate like 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.
He talks about the phone waves and keeping them away from your balls. But it’s little things like that. Ever since I read that, that’s a rule I’ve had. I’ve had my phones switched off for most of the time. We don’t know where it’s going.
That’s why there are all these devices out there and a lot of them have these and it’s the one thing that makes me resistant to play with all of the devices.
[Troy Angrignon]: Yes, because it’s an overload.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yes. Maybe in ten years this is going to be something that I wish I hadn’t pursued so intensely.
[Troy Angrignon]: When you’re growing a third arm out of your forehead and you say how did that happen? I think to wrap this thing up on devices; there are a few different things that I would say, easy, lightweight, relatively inexpensive.
I would look at the Fitbits. It’s not deep data but its ok. I would look at the Jawbone Up24 or the Jawbone Up3, which is the new one coming out in month or two. And I think that those are reasonably good. I think the Jawbone actually does now and will have better sleep tracking with more data in it, if you’re more nerdy. That could be an interesting one.
That’s for now. Then actually I think the coolest thing I’ve seen in the sleep space and I’m actually using their program right now is a little thing called Sleepio., which is a sleep coaching tool. Sleepio.com and they’re in the UK.
And I can’t believe how well-done it is. Essentially you’ll get this little animated, British professor who walks you through the complexities of sleep and what your specific issues are. They’ve got incredibly deep, rich branching logic in behind this thing.
If you say my biggest goal is this and my biggest fear is that and my biggest issue is whatever, then that builds the curriculum from there and every week it pulls in your Fitbit or your Jawbone data and then it reviews it with you and says here’s what we learned. Here’s what we were working on. Here’s what you’re going to work on next week.
It walks you through it and ask you, ‘I will make a commitment to you that I will only give you advice based on these 30 years of scientific research and you need to commit that you will do your best to stick to this program because change is hard and changing sleep habits is hard.’ I thought that was a really interesting addition so it’s not a wearable device but it works with wearable devices.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s more intelligence side and definitely we need to see more of that. What do you think is going to happen over the next five or ten years because that seems like one of the endpoints where you have near artificial intelligence walking you through step by step and fixing your problems for you?
[Troy Angrignon]: I think that’s an early indicator of the direction that we’re going. The stuff that you and I have had to go through just to figure out a) figure out what we were asking and b) how to collect the data c) how to make sense of it or rationalize it or normalize it.
That was really hard for us because we started so early and d) what does it mean? When you look at it on charts and graphs, ‘well am I learning anything or not.’ How many thousands of hours have you spent looking at graphs thinking ‘I have no idea what that is.’
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I have. You can Google a presentation of me showing people. It’s ridiculous.
[Troy Angrignon]: I actually had people call me on that. ‘That’s a pretty graph, what does it mean?’ It’s been a lot of work for us to figure that out and yet ultimately I have gotten to a point where I’ve been able to say, ‘I know what data means. I know what this is telling me. I know what these trends and patterns are. I can compare this to my goals and I can see I’m either moving towards or away from my goals.
That was a lot of work. That’s why I was so impressed with Sleepio, that they would come right out up front and say, ‘You’re not alone. A lot of people have these sleep problems. It’s also hard so get ready to dig in and do the work and we’re going to walk you through it.
It’s not artificial intelligence but it’s really well-done branching logic.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It’s pretty amazing it’s done that. As you said a lot of their hacks, hacks to fix sleep, hacks to improve different things. They’re just kind of still appearing and we’re just getting to the grips of the science and a lot of things.
This is why we have this show. We can focus on data or the data behind things so that we are acting and making decisions that are good versus we don’t know. It’s just opinion. We see a lot of opinion out there when it comes to fitness, health and all of these areas.
I think that’s part of the challenge with that. Before we can get there we need to accumulate a lot of data and people really need to know for sure that when you do this it equals this. But it sounds like they’ve got a really good job. Do you know where they got the actions, basically the things that they’re recommending from?
[Troy Angrignon]: No. I was going to dig into it and I thought actually that I would try a week or two and just walk through their process to see how that’s handled and I’m so impressed that now at this point I have to go back and dig into what their evidence is. What’s their ‘peer reviewing’ research.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Excellent. While I’m in London I might reach out to them Thanks for bringing it up.
[Troy Angrignon]: Actually I would definitely do it. They would be worth having on the show I think. And I think to answer your question, ‘where do we go?’ I had this really interesting conversation with a friend of mine, a colleague from my old industry which is Business Intelligence as well as some military intelligence analyst.
I said it seems like we’ve already seen this movie. We already know how to get from data to actionable intelligence, to smart guidance. To say given you’re trying to do ‘x’ the data says you should do ‘y’. And we already know what that data supply chain looks like.
Like how you get the data, clean the data, analyze the data, run it through some kind of mental model or framework and then that outputs this answer which says you should do ‘x’. Then you do ‘x’ and you run through the whole process again. And you say did that work or not. Where we are, we are just really immature.
We’re way back at step one where we’re collecting a huge pile of data and we’re providing some pretty charts and graphs. They’re not that useful and we’re providing a chart or graph, or five charts or graphs for one sensor.
What you really want is this nice, blended, normalized view of all of your data on one time base where you can just look at it and see, almost like those old biorhythm charts, if you remember those things. It’s like your mood is doing this and your sleep is doing that and you’re food intake is doing something else and your workload from your training is doing something else.
You can see the patterns and do eyeball correlation, like when I sleep really short my productivity really sucks the next day or my mood sucks the next day. We’re early in that process I think so we’re going to go through maturation.
I’m giving a talk on this IOT World, I think here in San Francisco soon. What I’m hoping is we can take those lessons from the other industries and instead of taking 30 years to get to the point where we can take data and turn it into actionable intelligence, maybe we can compress that to ten. I don’t know.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You’re absolutely right. It’s already being done so well. When I think about my corporate training, it was all analytics was being the big thing for a while. When I was in management consulting and strategy consulting, a big thing with that when you’re trying to roll it out was the KPI, the Key Performance Indicator.
It is one number which you’re trying to bundle a whole bunch of stuff into and then you had to balance the scorecards. You might have heard of those. Those are another nice way to look at data and make it more useful. So you’re right. It’s just about playing with all of these models that we already have. So much work and literally a decade has been spent on those things.
[Troy Angrignon]: I think we know that stuff. We just need to bring it across and import it from those other industries and hopefully we can do that and not take the same 30 years.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: At some point. Where should someone look to learn more because you’ve got all of these great charts on your blog? So if someone wants to see the map of the whole wearables devices in 2015, those charts are awesome. Where do they go to get those?
[Troy Angrignon]: I don’t have a short URL for that. I’ll just give you the website and I’ll spell it out for everybody since it is a French complicated name. But its www.troyangrignon.com, that’s my full name, Troy Angrignon. There’s a Wearable section, Health and Fitness section, Market Map section and they are just different views into all of the different blog posts. I would say that’s probably the best place to go. Everything I write and all of my speaking that I do is always posted there as well.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: We’ll put direct links to all of the charts and stuff and show notes as well as well so the people can find it.
[Troy Angrignon]: Oh yeah, that’s fine too, very good. That’s a great idea. Perfect.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I thought it was a French name.
[Troy Angrignon]: I can only swear in French.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Do you speak any French? So, besides yourself, are there other people you look to and you learn from in this whole wearable tech area, which are on top of it?
[Troy Angrignon]: Ray at DC Rainmaker. Anybody who has ever done any sports and used any sport device owes Ray a huge debt of gratitude. He has a site called dcrainmaker.com. You looked at my charts and we were laughing.
I said I felt like Russell Crow from Beautiful Minds sitting there in my garage connecting things with strings because everyone looks at this and asks is that in your brain? He’s even more extreme. He will do these reviews that are longer and better than any other review on the planet, but he will preface it by saying, ‘This is just a brief look. I will do my full review later.’
It just makes me laugh. And his real reviews are 30 pages deep of every screen and unboxing and it’s just insanely deep. So I have learned a ton from Ray. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for getting me up to speed over the last couple of years. I would say he is the leader.
He knows so much about the industry. He gives great presentations at the ANT+ forum each year. You can often Google those and find those presentations. I get a kick out of them because he always starts with his first slide, ‘Why should you listen to me?’
And it says my site is now responsible for $900 million of purchasing decisions and he is not making it up. This isn’t even his day job. This is his side thing he does for fun. I would definitely point at him. The bio hacking stuff, you and I are already pretty big fans of folks like Ben Greenfield or Dave Asprey, lots of folks in there and their camp. Those are probably the biggest ones that I can think of.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great. Thanks very much. Now for you; what are you focused on in terms of data metrics for your own life along routine basis? Maybe you’re doing a lot of projects at the moment but are there other things that you track on a routine basis and pay attention to?
[Troy Angrignon]: Aside from wearing four devices all of the time and cross referencing them, so the data I’m looking for is how good is the data. That’s a different thing. Personally, the things I track day to day are my sleep so I can go visit my little British Sleep Prof over at Sleepio and he can berate me for how little sleep I’m getting and my daily workouts. I throw a heart rate strap on and I put my Garmin 920xt on, which I love. I go do my workouts. I come back in and save it and it uploads and all of that stuff goes into Garmin.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Which actual markers do you look at? Do you scan them all or are there ones you pay attention to more? Do you look at HRV for instance?
[Troy Angrignon]: Yes. HRV, Heart rate variability, which we’re not going to go into here obviously, but it’s an indicator of how over-trained you are. I think my biggest ones are really sleep, activity level through my workouts and recovery level. The HRV and I use something called Rest Wise at Restwise.com.
I use Rest Wise, HRV, morning heart rate, muscle soreness and just my own intuition to assess how I am feeling. Am I over training? Do I need to back off or not? To me this has been a really big issue, which is ‘we can see the trees, we can’t see the forest’. Ultimately at the end of the day, I want to train as hard as I can; going up the curve towards some events I have planned.
But I also don’t want to over train and then incur risk of injury. I think we talked a lot about that in our one to one call. I think for me its sleep, recovery, nutrition, training load and stress load, which is an ambient awareness of it.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I guess with the sleep is what we were talking about. You just keep an eye on it and the number of hours you’ve slept.
[Troy Angrignon]: That’s a really interesting thing. I used to be very focused on deep and life and one of the pieces of education I got from Sleepio, is they’ve said, ‘we done this 30 years. We’ve realized that the phases inside don’t matter, which was a bit of a surprise to me, frankly.
What really matters is of the ‘x’ hours you spend in bed, what percentage of that time were you asleep. The phases inside that really aren’t material.’ Now I think that that’s a different case if you’re self-medicating yourself to sleep and you’re not getting the phases.
I’m just using Fitbit and Sleepio. It’s giving me a record and it’s giving me an efficiency score and that efficiency score is pretty low. It’s 65%. So I am spending 30-35% of my sleep rolling around.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I don’t remember my numbers. With the Basis mine were lower but I don’t know about these devices. That might be average for that device, right?
[Troy Angrignon]: It’s definitely nice having both the accelerometer and the heart rate in there to cross reference that data to get the slightly more accurate sleep analysis.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Thank you so much for your time today, Troy. Final Question; what would be your number one recommendation to someone who is trying to use some form of data to make their lives better, basically decisions on their body’s health performance and longevity?
[Troy Angrignon]: I think the number one is really just to know what you’re trying to do first. We talked about it in this call. What is the one thing that would make a real difference to you and what is the one goal you have set there? Is it your sleep or it doesn’t matter? Pick one.
Pick that one thing and do one thing in that arena and track one thing that’s material. That makes a difference. For sleep you want to just track number of hours and percent of time you’re in bed actually asleep. That’s huge. Have a goal and then track something that’s material that makes sense in relation to that goal.
I’ve seen too many people tracking way too much data that’s not material and that’s not useful and doesn’t lead to change. I had a conversation with somebody who literally tracked every meal for three years but didn’t lose a pound.
And they changed their diet and suddenly started shedding the weight because they got more information. For three weeks of not making a change, it should’ve been what I am doing isn’t working. I guess maybe that’s the second fall on point to make. Use the number and test the metric. If it’s not showing up try something new.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Absolutely. Keep it simple.
[Troy Angrignon]: And if the change you’re looking for is not happening, you’re probably not changing.
[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You have to give it a little bit of time, a week, two weeks, depending on what that is. And adjust for sure. Well Troy, thank you so much for your time. This has been a great discussion. We’ve pretty much looked at the whole landscape today. Thank you so much for your time.
[Troy Angrignon]: Damien, it’s been great.