My Fitbit Experiment, Day 1

As part of my trip to the Freescale Technology Forum, I was introduced to the Fitbit Ultra, a wireless activity and sleep tracker. One of the themes of FTF this year was “connected intelligence.” We are a community that is becoming obsessed with tracking data, especially personal data.

So, I'll bite. Let's do this thing. Over the next month, I'll go through the process and document it here for your entertainment (or mockery — I'm pretty sure I walk maybe ten steps within a day).

Fitbit Ultra

Fitbit Ultra

The first thing I noticed upon opening the box, other than the wonderful smell of hotel soap, was directions to go to to set up the device. It doesn't seem to work unless you set up a profile. Fair enough. Everything these days wants us to log in to something or another.

The first step on the Website is to install some software (Windows and Mac versions available). Setup is easy. The installation asks for some basic health information like height, weight, and gender. Next up, plug in the USB drive and the Fitbit Tracker base station to the computer. The hardest part so far is getting the little Fitbit out of the plastic display. Help! I feel like I need directions just to open the packaging.

Alright, the charging icon lights up, asks me to enter a greeting (my name), and we're all done. Took about five minutes. Not bad.

After logging into my new account, it directs me to my dashboard, where all my stats are zero. A popup screen gives advice on how to wear it and provides a little tutorial. Throughout the day, you can press the button on the tracker to see the following:

  1. The number of steps taken
  2. The distance traveled
  3. How many calories burned
  4. A flower image that indicates by its size how active I've been
  5. The number of floors I've climbed

In addition to tracking daily activity levels, the Fitbit will also track my sleep patterns. Included with the package is a wristband. Connect the Fitbit to the wristband, hold down the button until it says start, and go to sleep. Seems simple enough.

Within the Fitbit is a wireless sync, so you don't have to take it off unless the battery is dead. Walk within 15 feet of the base station, and it will send your data to your progress dashboard.

The Fitbit dashboard

The Fitbit dashboard

As you can see, a few moments after plugging the Fitbit in, I've already burned 780 calories. Not sure how that happened. Could be an error or an assumption on the standard calories burned from 12:00 a.m. to 2:42 p.m., when I synced up the device. It's not entirely clear yet.

Suddenly, I have the urge to go walk 10,000 steps.

17 comments on “My Fitbit Experiment, Day 1

    July 12, 2012

    I look forward to your updates on how you get on.  Keep on walking.

  2. bolaji ojo
    July 12, 2012

    Imagine what running might do!

  3. SunitaT
    July 12, 2012

    @Michell, I find this product pretty similar to Nike FuelBand. What is the price of FitBit Ultra?

  4. Michell Prunty
    July 12, 2012



    The Fitbit Ultra is 99$ – In a later article I'll discuss the specs, pricing, and competition.

  5. SunitaT
    July 13, 2012

    @Michell, thanks for the reply. Why can't we add the same features in the smartphone so that the end users dont have to carry multiple devices ?

  6. Cryptoman
    July 13, 2012

    Hi tirlapur,

    With this comment, you probably gave another idea to add to RIM's Heins box of “great ideas” for the new BlackBerry. I think his roadmap includes the concept that by increasing the connectivity capability of the BlackBerry, users will have one device to do everything. Bolaji wrote about this not so long ago which you can read here.

  7. Cryptoman
    July 13, 2012

    I wonder if the unexplained 780 calories at startup is the default number of calories it takes to install the software, create a web profile and to get Fitbit up and running. This has probably been measured by the development team and is simply hardcoded into the software! 🙂 🙂


  8. bolaji ojo
    July 13, 2012

    @Tirlapur, The merging of functionalities in devices has benefitted some companies and hurt others. Remember the Palm Pilot organizer or pagers? Even the standalone GPS is getting to the end of the line as companies merge these functionalities into mobile devices. Camera sales too aren't as strong anymore because many of the potential buyers simply use their smartphones.

    The Fitbit may end up being just another application on a phone.

  9. bolaji ojo
    July 13, 2012

    @Cryptoman, I don't have a Fitbit but I believe the (fun) efforts of reading Michell's blog, the anticipation building up in expectation of “Day 2” and the time I've spent thinking and writing responses to her blog have made me lose 400 calories! I think.

  10. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 13, 2012

    I hate to rain on Fitbit's parade, but burning 400 calories takes a LOT of work. I don't know about Fitbit but I do know a lot about dieting. A half-hour of vigorous exercise burns only 70 calories or so. A typical adult can maintain weight at 2,000 calories per day. Burning 400 puts you on a track to weight loss.

    I wish reading blogs or opening boxes burned that many calories! I'd be helping myself to pizza and ice cream instead of salads. 😉

  11. Clairvoyant
    July 13, 2012

    Looking forward to reading more about your experience with this product. I think these products are a good idea in this day and age to get people interested in being healthy. It's kind of like a game, always trying to beat your previous score.

  12. Michell Prunty
    July 13, 2012

    @Debbie Downer 🙂

    I've discovered that Fitbit assumes calories burned throughout the day.  So at midnight just breathing and living burns a few calories and it builds up throughout the day.  Because I started the Fitbit later in the afternoon, Fitbit assumed a standard number of calories burned.  There are ways to make this more accurate for those who are focused on weight loss. 

    Personally, I'm just looking at it as a range – the higher the better, but probably best to focus on the other aspects of the dashboard.


  13. Michell Prunty
    July 13, 2012

    @ tirlapur

    We already are adding some of the same features into the smartphone – smartphones can track if you're going up the stairs, elevator, and moving in general (for gps & location-based services).  But, we don't always have a smart phone on us.  These types of devices are being called “appcessories.”  They can be out in the market in just a few months (compared to the 18 months or so for phones), are super small (the fitbit is about the size of my thumb), and can be made to work seamlessly with the phone (in the future anyway). 

  14. t.alex
    July 14, 2012

    I used to try out this fitbit before. It's actually a great product. By tracking the steps and the calories, I feel quite motivated to do more walking and even jogging. Wireless sync is a plus and it is using proprietary protocol hence does not consume a lot of battery like wifi.

  15. SunitaT
    July 14, 2012

    They can be out in the market in just a few months (compared to the 18 months or so for phones), are super small (the fitbit is about the size of my thumb)

    @Michell, I think size is one of the major advantages of Fitbit. Its hard to carry a smartphone while doing exercise, but these tiny devices can be easily carried while doing exercise. I think it would be even more convenient if can embed these devices in shoes.

  16. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 16, 2012

    I definitely think the concept is great, and similar tools are offered with many weight-loss programs. There is still debate about whether a calorie consumed after 10 pm is worse than a calorie consumed at 10 am. (I think a calorie is a calorie no matter what time it is. If I can sleep off calories, all the better.) When you follow up, I'd be curious as to what the average burn is in 24 hours. I know I have to go well under 2,000 in order to lose weight–or step up the exercise. Clearly, the latter option is better!

  17. Michell Prunty
    July 16, 2012


    It seems that they're assuming about 500 – 600 calories burned every 12 hours by just living / breathing.  I imagine that number varies depending on what you put in for your weight / height / sex.

    I have recently started the “diet plan” the site offers – basically I put in how much weight I want to lose over a particular time frame, and it then tells me how many calories I'm allowed to eat throughout the day.  It starts off low (in the morning I'm only allowed to eat about 1000 calories for the day), but increases the number depending on how many calories I burn.  So if I burn 3k calories, I'm allowed to eat maybe 2.5k if I want to lose the weight.

    Like you, it seems Fitbit assumes a calorie is a calorie is a calorie

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