Thursday, September 22, 2011

Upgrading BodyMedia

Warning: geeky post for bodymedia users ahead. Skip if you don’t want to read through lengthy techno mambojambo.

I have been using the BodyMedia fit armband for almost 3 years now. These armbands are marketed under different names and brands, but it is basically the same technology (i.e. Gowear fit, Bodybugg mostly know from the Biggest Looser, Jenny Craig’s Metabolixmax, and they were available at 24h fitness for a while). It tracks your daily movements, and measures your activity level. It does not work very well for some activities (e.g. biking is undermeasured since the arm is relatively still and you can’t obviously use it in water. I’ve heard that people turn off the device for such activities and then add the activity manually later on in the application for the time period). I don’t need to be that accurate and just need ballpark.

Overall, besides the minor flaws it has been really helpful in having an more accurate estimation of my actual, personal, daily calorie burn. Little did I know that cleaning the house for several hours burns more calories than going for a 1/2h run. Or that sitting in front of the TV, engrossed, your body (or body meter) thinks you are actually taking a nap. Well, no big insights but matching actual daily calorie burn with calorie consumption has made weight-loss (or the lack thereof) much more transparent and took the mystery out of the process.

Lately, BodyMedia made an offer for current users to upgrade to a new armband with bluetooth technology to sync with a smartphone at a 50% discounted price. I currently don’t have a smartphone, but I have an IPad, and I was intrigued enough to try it out (note, the older version comes with an wristwatch-like device that displays the current caloric usage, but I found it unnecessary to have another gizmo and just uploaded the data once a day using a USB cable).

Long story short, the device arrived yesterday, and it’s been a bit of a journey to get things to work. I am writing this up just to leave a (public) note to myself but maybe it also helps someone else since I could not google much on this subject on the web.

Read about upgrading to the bodymedia fit bluetooth armband below .
Update (2/3/2013): I do not recommend the Bodymedia LINK device. I bought my device in September 2011. In spring 2012, it randomly did shut off and would not record data. I received a replacement in September 2012 (warranty). In February 2013, the replacement no longer 'went on body' or shut off after 1-2h consistently, despite reset and new firmware upgrade. I received no replacement for this device. My original CORE armband is still functional. 

Upgrading to BodyMedia fit BW armband with Bluetooth:
  1. Installing BodyMedia Application on Smartphone/IPad:
    1. DOWNLOAD: You can download the body media app from the AppStore, and it is free.
    2. Problem I encountered: the app would download but did not install. Error: “You have to login to the appstore first”. I was logged in so since made no sense.
    3. UPGRADE: Problem solution: Make sure to upgrade the IPad/Iphone operating system to at least iOS 4.3
      1. Upgrade IPad: connect Ipad to your Windows/Apple laptop; Itunes will start and show the IPad/Iphone. Use the upgrade option within ITunes.
      2. You might have to actually upgrade Itunes before being able to download the IPad upgrade. (“this download require a new version of Itunes’).
      3. Note: it can take a few hours….
    4. INSTALL: Once the IPad is upgraded the BodyMedia application should download and install without problems on the IPad/iphone.
    5. Log in to the body media application with your existing BodyMedia account, and you can see your data.
  2. Setting up the new BodyMedia armband:
    1. CHARGE: First, the armband has to be connected to a computer using the USB cable, and charged for about 3-4h.
    2. REGISTER: Next, the new armband has to be registered with your BodyMedia account; log on to the website, select activity manager, select settings and ‘register armband’. Update 2013: This now works automatically when the armband is plugged in via the USB cable. Just 'ok' that you want to register this device with your account. 
    3. PAIR: Connect the new device with the USB cable to the computer, and the web application with upload a new firmware to your device, basically registering it with your account and the device will now use a name to communicate in a bluetooth setting.
      1. Note: If you connect/pair the device with your smartphone/ipad using bluetooth without registering it first to your account, it will work, too, but the device will use “bodymedia armband'” as the device name to be discovered and connected. It does work but it does not connect to your BodyMedia smartphone app (!).
      2. Once you registered the device and have the firmware update, you have to remove/overwrite the old pairing. You will see the “Bodymedia device” as paired device, but not connected (although the device is right next to it, but it uses a new name now). Remove the old pairing by touching the ‘body media’ bluetooth device on your ipad/iphone and it will give you the option to “Forget this device?”. Once it is removed from the list, the bluetooth service will add the personlized, registered device as paired device with no problem. It will say FirstnameLastName as the device name on the list.
    4. USE: At this point, the device is ready to go and put into service. I.e. on your arm.
  3. Synching using Bluetooth/BodyMedia/Smartphone:
    1. The armband is on the arm, it is connected/linked to the smartphone/Ipad via bluetooth and according to the manual it should now sync. What’s wrong if it does not?
    2. PROBLEM:CONNECTED, NO UPLOAD: I had the Bodymedia app open, and it eventually updated its status to “Linked” but still the data was no uploaded and the app did not update. What was going on?
    3. The manual says “Once your Armband is paired with your Smartphone, press the button on the Armband to initiate the connection. The memory and battery status indicator lights will alternate in a green color while the Armband is looking for the Application to sync with on your Smartphone. Your Smartphone may automatically find the corresponding
      Application or you may need to search for the Application
    4. CLOSE APP: I closed the application on the IPAD first (TO DO SO: “close” application, press the Home button twice on the IPAD, you will see a panel with the active applications. Press your finger on the Bodymedia app for a few seconds, and it starts to jiggle and a red “-“ appears. Press it the red minus sign and the app will close.)
    5. RESTART APP, SYNC: So, app closed I pressed the status button on armband again, but it did not start the application automatically. I had to open it manually, and press the status button again to link the armband with the app.
    6. After about 30sec, it seemed to have uploaded data via bluetooth.
      1. The weird thing: the uploaded number was smaller that the number I had gotten when I had sync-ed using USB about 30min before (basically, I sync-ed later but now had fewer calories burnt).
      2. The cool thing: it now live synchs new numbers continuously about every 1-2 mins, depending when the calorie burn increments by a calorie. haha, love that stuff.
      3. Not quite sure: how does data uploads to the web-based activity manager via the Ipad?. Do I still need to synch with the USB cable?? The IPad app and the web-app seem not to sync. (??? can this be?)
    7. END SYNCHING: To close sync-ing, close Bodymedia app. This will disconnect the bluetooth link. (There is an application setting to continue syncing, maybe useful with an Iphone during a workout).
    8. LESSON LEARNT: I sync using the USB cable, I had a different number than on the IPad, but when I restarted the Ipad BodyMedia up it has sync-ed with the web-app. I assume the web app is still No. 1 for tracking data, and downloading reports. The ipad app is currently more for live tracking, but does not sync back to the webapp.
    9. UNCOOL: why does it compute different calorie numbers compared to synching via the web-app? 

    Update: Synching BodyMedia Fit bluetooth to a new IPod touch
    1. Charge the IPod touch using the USB cable and a computer or power charger.
    2. Connect the IPod touch via the USB cable to your computer (Windows or Mac); it automatically should open ITunes. If necessary update the IPod Touch operating system, and name the IPod touch.
    3. Once fully charged, disconnect IPod from computer and get ready to use it.
    4. Tap on Settings Icon --> General-->Bluetooth and turn on bluetooth. 
    5. The IPod touch will now try to discover bluetooth-enabled devices. 
    6. Before the BodyMedia Fit can connect to the IPod touch it needs to be (one time) paired with it. 
    7. To pair the devices, press the status button on the Body Media Fit armband CONTINUOUSLY FOR 5 SECs; Bodymedia fit will go into the pairing mode and the little lights will turn amber. In this state, it is ready to be paired with the Ipod touch.
    8. The IPod touch should now find the armband, and ask you "Pair?". Tap on the pairing field; it will ask you for the pin; enter "0000" (4 times zero). IPod touch and BodyMedia fit should now be paired (this only needs to happen once).
    9. Now, go to AppStore, and search for BodyMedia fit; download the application and install it. 
    10. Once installed, log on to the app. It should show the status as linked to the armband. If not, press the status button on the Body Media Fit armband once (it will beep as if turning on), and it will start the bluetooth communication again, and linked to the app. 
    11. Now, the armband should automatically upload the data (continuously). 
    12. To disconnect, close the body media app on the IPod touch.


  1. I was getting annoyed with this today, my first full day with the armband and I am wondering why the website isn't the same as my app. You'd think the app would be communicating with the website.

    They need to do one of two things:

    A) provide access to the same reports, graphs, etc. on the website and the app


    B) when syncing to iPhone app, also sync that data to the website

    Just my two cents

    1. Yes, currently the iphone/itouch only syncs with the latest web upload and with the device directly, but does not update to the website.

      Maybe, something they'll add in the future.

    2. Funny you should mention that. It's been my biggest gripe since I got the thing. It turns out that feature is not easy and they've been working on it for a while. It's part of a very large update that they are working on. They have actually shown off this tech at CES AND SXSW so we know it works and it's on the horizon. As to when it'll get's anyone's guess

  2. I tried to pair my new BodyMedia Fit to my ipod 5 as soon as it was fully charged. I already had everything else set up. My ipod recognized the device (with my initials) but I accidentally keyed in the wrong code (instead of 0000) and now my ipod will not find it anymore. I've tried multiple times, so frustrating!