Let a 1000 Gadgets (and some Apps) Bloom

Spring is on the way and many of you may be headed outside for some fresh air and to enjoy the longer days, so now would be a good time to take a look at some cool tech gadgets and apps with fitness and fun in mind. This year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) had a large number of fitness and everyday-use gadgets being showcased, many of which are hitting the market in time for spring and summer activities.

On the fitness side, new gadgets range from devices that work with your Smartphone or by themselves to record your activity levels to a fork that monitors how fast you eat.

Fitness watches are one type of fitness technology that has been around for a while, but have become more popular in the last few years as advances in nanotechnology have allowed manufactures to pack more features into each watch. The fitness watch market has become so populated that Cnet has created a dedicate review page for the category. The most basic fitness watch will track lap speeds or offer a count-down timer so you can keep on top of your workout time, in the style or a traditional sports watch like the Timex Ironman. More advanced watches offer pulse monitors, GPS tracking, or a USB hook-up and software to record and track a wide variety of training data. Many of these are made by companies that make GPS units, such as Tom Tom and Garmin. At CES13, the hottest item was the Pebble Watch, which is designed to sync with an iPhone or Android phone to display information from apps on the watch. For example, a user can tap into the phone’s location data to display speed and distance during a bike ride.

For those looking to track more details than you can get out of the watch offerings, there are dedicated activity devices to consider. In this category, Fitbit, Hapi and Nike+ are the main brands you will see in stores. The Nike + Sensor for use with an iPhone or iPod has been around for a while, but the Fuel Band was added late last year. The original sensor was designed to work as an advanced pedometer to track a run or fitness walk, but the band expands that concept and tracks all-day activity, so you know how many calories you burned shopping or walking around at work. Both devices connect to the Nike+ website to track progress and goals, while also allowing you to post workouts to social media sites. Fitbit has similar trackers, including Flex and The One, that also track sleep patterns and quality. In addition to the trackers, the company has a companion WiFi scale and apps that can be used to track eating habits and weight. Hapilabs puts a fun spin on the same types of gadgets by adding fun colors, quirky apps and inspirational tips. The company offers a tracker, a watch that measures stress levels and sleep and the Hapifork, which blinks and vibrates when it sense that you are eating too fast. Also look for Basis Band, which is new to the fitness gadget market and offers a similar sensor to the Fitbit Flex watch.

Aside from fitness tracking, there are some other gadgets out there for both active and passive outdoor living. If you like to take pictures and are active, the GoPro line of cameras is worth a look. The company makes helmet cameras as well as handhelds that can withstand a lot of shock, water and temperature extremes to capture both video and still shots. If birding is your thing, you might want to check out eBird and the related BirdLog app, which allow you to record your finds or get a bead on a sighting in your neighborhood. For the outdoor cook, the iGrill for iPhone and Android lets you keep an eye on your food by connecting your phone to the iGrill thermometer using a long-range Bluetooth connection, so you can feel free to toss that Frisbee without worrying about overdoing the steaks. If you prefer to grow instead of grill, check out the Smart Gardener website, where you can plan your garden from the cold of winter to fall harvest. In addition to letting you set-up a personalized plan, the site provides custom to do lists and lets you research plants that are appropriate to grow in your area. The site displays well on mobile devices, so you can reference it while you work.

- Laura N.


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