A tale of two sleep trackers with a surprising conclusion

I’m a terrible sleeper. Or rather, I’m a great sleeper but I am a terrible riser. About five years ago, a more-or-less affordable sleep tracker called SleepTracker was available with a “gentle alarm” feature. I tried it and abandoned it rather quickly (reasons below.) A few weeks ago I started wearing a Misfit Flash, which will soon be able to do more than the SleepTracker at a fraction of the cost. A quick comparison shows the distance wearables have come in the last few years.

Ye olde tracker:

The Misfit Flash & the SleepTracker Pro

The Misfit Flash & the SleepTracker Pro

  • Physically: unwieldy and uncomfortable, it had to be tightly wrapped around the wrist.
  • Display: inspired by digital watches from the 80s… backlit time, date and alarm information.
  • Sync: synchronized with computer via a proprietary, flakey-connection cable which took a while to jiggle into place.
  • Memory: the tracker held one night’s data and which was written over the following night.
  • Data types: Very detailed sleep data, but only tracked sleep.
  • Data storage: Data was stored locally, on my PC only. All analysis tools were in the desktop app.
  • Alarm: designed to wake me up during lighter periods of sleep, but the noise would wake my partner.
  • Cost: $150.

I used it for about a month before I gave up. It was annoying to wear and didn’t do what I really needed it to do, which was to wake me up in a gentler fashion than a normal, unfeeling alarm clock.

The Misfit Flash is not a dedicated sleep tracker. It dedicates half its life to tracking my steps and other physical activity.

The new tracker:

  • Physically: loose on the wrist, easy to sleep with.
  • Display: blank black face unless pressed, then provides the time and distance to the goal.
  • Sync: easy, via the mobile app and bluetooth. No wires required.
  • Memory: not specified in the specs but I have synced a few days at once without losing any data.
  • Data types: tracks deep sleep, light sleep and awake, but it quite accurately detected when I went to sleep and when I slept deeply.
  • Data storage: in the cloud. In fact, most processing of data seems to take place in the cloud and not on my phone.
  • Alarm: none.
  • Cost: $50.

So, while the Misfit Flash is much cheaper it doesn’t currently do what I really need it to do, which is to wake me up during periods of light sleep. Yet by being so easy to wear and by automatically tracking sleep, it has already provided me with some insight.

So why the optimism? Because the future is bright with potential smart home connections. First up, the Misfit Bolt, a smart light bulb, was announced last week and might be the solution to my problem. The Bolt, when available, will wake me up with a bright simulated sunrise, said to be the best alarm of all (hint to Misfit: can I be a beta tester?)  In the future I am sure that coffee makers will be smarter as well and will be programmable to sync with the Misfit app as well. With a bright light and the smell of fresh coffee, I’m sure to wake up happier.

One final note: all this happiness will come at a price. While writing this post I was reminded that as recently as 5 years ago, cloud storage and data mining was not an automatic default and wearables did not come with a long EULA and privacy statement. I wish wearable makers and smart home devices would give users an option to keep their data local.

 

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