Basis Refreshes Its Fitness Tracker, Adds Improved Sleep Analytics

The quantified self movement has grown to the point where you could easily bedeck your limbs with thousands of dollars of tracking gadgets, and the race to measure your movement isn’t going to end any time soon. That’s why Basis — makers of an awfully accurate, wrist-worn health gadget — has rolled out a new version of the device just in time for the nerd hordes at CES to ogle it.

Well, perhaps calling it “new” is overstating things a bit. The updated, $199 Carbon Steel edition is a hair hardier than the original B1 and it’s better looking to boot, but the big draw is the addition of improved sleep analytics that can assign personal Sleep Scores and ultimately tell just how soundly a wearer is sleeping.

Let’s back up for a moment first: the original Basis had a leg up on competitors because of the sheer number of sensors packed into it. Rather than just installing an accelerometer to monitor motion, the Basis team tricked it out with sensors to measure a user’s heart rate and galvanic skin response, all in hopes of providing people with a clearer understanding of how hard they’re working. That array of sensors also means that users didn’t have to manually switch into a discrete sleeping mode, which has honestly always been a pet peeve of mine — I’d love to gain some deeper insight into what few hours of sleep I manage to get, but I tend to pass out before flipping the sleep switch.

Thankfully, owners of that first generation model won’t have to lose sleep over a feature disparity, as those sleep analytics will be available for the original B1 later this month.

Modified hardware and improved smarts are neat enough, I suppose, but they’re both indicative of a change in how fitness gadget creators have to approach the very process of designing their wares. As Basis CEO Jef Holove recently told PC World, expanding smartphone feature sets means that the feature bar for dedicated activity trackers has just been raised.

“When Apple released the iPhone 5 with the M7 processor, it became even more clear that many of basic functionalities of trackers would be assumed by users’ smartphones, creating a challenge for health trackers to do something more,” he said. He’s got a point: these days we demand that our smartphones do everything, and the companies that craft them are rising to that challenge. Right now we’re seeing plenty of iterative moves by these fitness-focused wearable tech companies — the mildly-refreshed Jawbone UP24 and Nike Fuelband SE spring to mind — but I suspect it won’t be long before the next generation of quantified self hardware begins to pull away from smartphones in earnest.