Currently on the market, there are a plethora of watches and chest straps that can be used to monitor your heart rate during exercise. If you are a fitness aficionado, you are well aware that it isn’t about how much you exercise as it is about the intensity of your workout. What this means is that there is a sweet spot of beats per min that your heart should be pumping for your workout to have maximum effectiveness.
Unfortunately both the heart rate monitor watch and chest strap have fundamental usability and wearability issues. Most watches require you to touch the finger sensors on the watch itself for measurement interrupting your workout and can’t provide continuous measurement. While chest straps do provide continuos heart rate measurement, they are cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear.
Thanks to the startup LifeBEAM, cyclists now have a third option: a smart helmet capable of continuous heart rate monitoring using electro-optical technology. The optical sensor is placed on the front of the helmet, touching your forehead and transmits a raw signal to the processing unit located in the back of the helmet. The processing unit filters the signal from motion artifacts and wirelessly transmits your clean data to your mobile device via ANT+ or Bluetooth.
The product is currently in R&D and is taking pre-orders on Indiegogo.
The upside: the SMART helmet nicely integrates the technology into an existing product that a cyclist would already use. That’s a win. But I do wonder that by solving one problem if it doesn’t create two others: one of safety and two of adding additional weight to the helmet. Beginning with the latter, most cycling helmets are painstakingly designed to be lightweight and it seems a little counterintuitive to add the additional weight of the hardware and battery to the helmet. More importantly, I’m curious about the safety of helmets with circuitry embedded in the helmet itself.
Personally, I would much prefer a more versatile wearable such as the LuLuLemon heart rate monitor sports bra that I could wear during various types of physical activities. But then again, I’m not SMART’s target audience.
Left: Adidas by Stella Mccartney Right: LuLuLemon All Sport Bra *Heart Rate Monitor