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Watch Out

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Watch Out!!

Brush up on what’s new in the market with the latest
technology that helps improve your overall fitness. The Apple
Watch is out and Dr AG Unnikrishnan, after
using it for a month, recounts the pros and cons of the world’s
latest smart-watch.

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Wait and Watch

The Apple Watch was worth the wait. Actually, the watch has not
yet been released in India, but I managed to find a pre-ordered
version to lay my hands on or to be precise, to wrap around my
wrist.

Like all Apple products, the watch interface is beautiful to
look at. To set it up is easy and quite intuitive. The Apple
Watch works as an extension screen to the iPhone. One can make
or receive calls as well as text messages. The battery charge
lasts from morning to night. Listening to music or receiving
emails is easy – but I’m hardly an expert on these matters and
it’s the fitness use that I shall focus on.

Watch your fitness

It is clear that Apple wants to be your fitness partner. A
clear focus of the watch is your health. Indeed the back of the
watch, which functions as a charge point when placed on a
coin-like flat charging button, has other functions too. An
infra-red beam (actually looks greenish to my eyes) monitors
the users pulse rate and it is pretty good at it. I found my
own heart rate shooting beyond 100 when I exercised with it.

There are two native Apps on the watch that are focused on
fitness- in my own words, one is the activity tracker and the
other is the exercise planner.

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The activity tracker app has a beautiful interface. A red-pink
line encircles itself to show you how many hours you have been
moving. A light, but bright green line worms around in a
circle, compiling your daily exercise time. And a beautiful
light-turquoise blue band tells you how long you have been
standing. Some of these interfaces/their representations on the
iPhone screen have been depicted in the pictures in this
article. Beautiful bar graphs illustrate your daily activity
chart telling you how long you have been moving and at what
time.

The exercise planner app is a delightful little “glance” on
your watch face, and enables you to plan exercise, set goals
based on distance, time or calories. If you just like to leave
it open that is, if you want to exercise without any target in
mind, there is an open option for that too. Different types of
exercise planning exist, e.g. indoor walk, outdoor walk, stair
stepper, among others. These are all surprisingly accurate. I
found that when I used the stair stepper option and climbed the
stairs, the calories expended were more than when I did the
outdoor walk, by choosing the outdoor walk option, despite the
same amount of time taken for both activities.

A pat-watch on the back

I have tried other fitness bands and smart watches. One
difference that I noted is the gentle, encouraging language
used by the Apple Watch. It gently goads you to stand up. It
tells you that you have achieved most of your day’s fitness
target that you had set for yourself and then implores you to
push yourself to complete the target. And how exactly does it
do that? Well it’s touching and quite literally so. It gives
you a gentle prod, somewhat vibration-like in nature: called a
haptic feedback or even as digital touch- so gentle that you
barely feel it. But the touch is not so gentle that you would
miss the prod- no you would have to perceive it as a friendly
pat telling or alerting you to, for instance, the fact that you
are on track to reach your fitness targets.

And when you have reached a personal milestone- the Apple Watch
surprises you by giving you an award! The awards are
beautifully designed structures that please one’s eye and
reflect on the iPhone screen. I received a golden shield as an
award (see photo)

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A double edged sword

Speaking of shields, the Apple Watch, like any piece of
technology, is a double edged sword. I have not used the
Samsung Galaxy Gear. I have, of course used the Pebble Watch
which I had reviewed in an earlier issue of Diabetes Health.
While the Apple Watch is superior, in many ways to earlier
smart watches it is still, I insist, a double edged sword.

Why? Simply because like any gadget it can be put to either
right or wrong use. For example, as discussed above, it is
simply great as a fitness tracker and exercise planner. On the
other hand, it is a great tool for couch potatoes who can make
calls, send messages and use it as a remote for controlling
room lights and temperatures. Instead of walking to work, one
may even be tempted to try out the Uber App on the watch which
would bring a taxi to your door within a few minutes!
Therefore, remember, if you buy it, use it wisely.

Things to come

A new term that is increasingly applied to personal technology,
is called “the Internet of things”. This term suggests that
Internet technology will soon be personal, more aware of you
like never before, knowing your likes, dislikes, location and
even, as in the case of the Apple Watch, your heartbeat.

In addition, while browsing the Internet, I found hushed,
whispering, write-ups that alluded to a hidden oxygen sensor at
the back of the Apple Watch – capable of measuring our blood
oxygen saturation. A detailed examination of the entire watch
interface by a techno-novice like me, of course, could discern
no evidence of this facility lurking beneath. However, in the
settings, I could read that the Apple Watch could link to
Bluetooth-based health devices. Does this suggest that the
Apple Watch could link to a pulse oximeter that measures oxygen
in blood, or a blood pressure machine or a glucometer? I
certainly think so. Interestingly, there are reports that one
of the world’s finest real time glucose level-sensing machine,
the Dexcom, could be linked to the Apple Watch, meaning that
this watch could well display changing blood glucose in real
time! Apple has already said that new features are coming in
its software update, called watchOS2, expected to roll out soon
in the coming months.

The night watch man

I dream of a future where we exist, not as discrete human
beings, but as flexible, collaborative beings connected to each
other and to our surroundings via the Internet using
technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Waking up from this artificial dream, I have suddenly realized
that night has fallen!

And therein lies a lesson for life. At the risk of sermonizing,
let me state something clearly. By being engrossed in
technology and the internet, let us not suddenly realize that
the day has passed and that we have slipped into the darkness.
There are things that a smart watch can do at present, and
things it cannot. For instance, it cannot smell a rose or enjoy
scenery. The digital touch of the watch cannot replace the hug
from your baby or the food prepared by your mother.

Let us keep a line for technology and keep human warmth and
relationship beyond that line.

As I said, night has fallen, and the night watchman in me is
now taking off the Apple Watch, and going to sleep. And I
intend to dream of a land of such magnificence that no
technology can conceive. Not even there Apple Watch.

Good Night! Till we meet again!

Dr AG Unnikrishnan is the CEO and Endocrinologist at
Chellaram Diabetes Institute and Hospital, Pune.

Disclaimer: The editorial team of Diabetes Health have no
conflicts of interests to disclose. They do not endorse,
support or recommend any particular product or device. Readers
are requested to check with their doctors before using any
application or device.

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