The Microsoft Band is already a fantastic fitness device. I was a skeptic and considered waiting until a version 2 of the devices was available. But, once I saw new features rolling in through updates, I decided not to wait. And, I'm glad I took the leap of faith. I've delivered a bunch of content on the Microsoft Band already and am invested in continuing as a sort of Microsoft Band field guide for folks who want use the band for actual exercise. You can catch the continuing coverage here: Microsoft Band on Supersite, and grab the RSS feed to know when new content is posted. Obviously, the Microsoft Band offers much, much more than just fitness tracking and I cover that, too, including apps and unique uses.
I'm an avid exerciser anyway, so the Microsoft Band hasn't been a transformative factor in my health and fitness, but it has provided new insights into ways I can improve my runs, heart rate, and sleep efficiency. But, after a couple months of using it, there's just so many ways you can parse through the data. I have to be honest, I've sort of become bored staring at my data. So, it's great to hear today that Microsoft is announcing delivery of new features and more integration to make the collected data even more actionable and useful.
First off, when Microsoft released the new Bike tracking capability in February, integration with existing community apps was non-existent. Though bikers could use GPS to track distance, speed, calories, etc., the collected data was solely for the Microsoft Health dashboard. Starting tomorrow, Microsoft will unveil new integration with popular biking apps, MapMyRide and Strava. This will give bikers the chance to share details about their bike rides with the existing communities and take advantage of the apps' richer features.
New Data Collection, Updated Dashboard
Like I said earlier, though the Microsoft Band provides excellent monitoring capabilities, I had become a bit bored with the collected data. I'm still sifting through the actual meanings of the Sleep tracking functionality (working on a sleep research article to publish here on Supersite), but the rest is pretty much just black-and-white and becomes a blur after a while.
Starting on April 27, Microsoft will roll out a new Web Dashboard that will include new data insights. Those include:
Comparative Insights – used as a motivation tool, this new dataset will take steps, sleep, workout information and calorie burn and compare it to existing Microsoft Health users.
Sleep Recovery – I'm still missing a couple pieces for my own understanding of the Microsoft Band sleep monitoring, so it's good to see Microsoft continuing improvements in this area. Once the Web Dashboard is update a new "Sleep Recovery" selection to show sleep restoration factors.
Fitness Benefit – to build a better sense of how to improve your overall fitness, the new Fitness Benefit selection will allow you to compare your current fitness status to your historical data.
VO2 Max – As a runner, this is a huge enhancement to me and something I've never been able to track but desperately wanted to. I have a recipe for a concoction I drink while running to restore oxygen to my cells. The concoction allows a person of my particular age to take longer runs and not tire out quickly. The VO2 Max is important, and helps detail overall cardiovascular fitness, as well as oxygen capacity.
Run/Exercise Observations – This one will be interesting, as it takes historical data and shows how impactful your current workouts truly are. Are you progressing? Maintaining? Or are you falling behind? These new observations should help motivate you to do better.
In addition to the Microsoft Band-centric improvements coming, Microsoft is also taking steps to enhance the capabilities of its Microsoft Health app on Android phones, iPhones, and Windows Phones. Using the new Microsoft Health app (coming in a few weeks), you won't even need a Microsoft Band to take advantage of things like step tracking and calorie burn, you'll just need a platform device that has the hardware sensors to support it. Microsoft has laid out the compatible devices as:
iOS: iPhone 5s and later
Android: Android 4.4+ with support for Step Counter API
Windows Phone: Lumia devices with Sensor Core V1+ and Cyan FW
But, while you won't need a Microsoft Band to take advantage of these added features, I still highly recommend that you get one. You can get one from the Microsoft Store (online and in-person), Best Buy, or Target. But, if you're an Amazon Prime customer, you can get it delivered free in two days (sometimes sooner) for the exact same price ($199).