A Week With Polar Loop

Our life insurance provider started a pilot program in this region in which participants are given Polar Loop activity monitors and they had to accept that a service that their monitor is hooked up to will send some anonymous data regarding activity etc. to the provider. As you can imagine, a little data geek like me was willing to be a guinea pig.

I’ve now spent a bit over a week with the device and will offer some initial impressions of how well I feel it functions as an activity monitor for someone who is quite active. A typical week for me is 4-5 CrossFit workouts, an hour of badminton and walking the dogs every day.

First week of activity according to Polar Loop

That’s what my first week looked like after syncing the Loop with the Polar Flow web app. The only workout it recognised was when I used my Wahoo HR band while filming the workout below. The only days in which I managed to achieve my activity goal were days when I didn’t go walk the dogs (I was on call for the fire department) and did an hour or so of raking. Plus that ten minute workout…

Even adding all of my workouts manually into the Flow app didn’t improve my scores in any way (see below). Even after adding estimated calorie counts to the workouts (from other apps as Flow does not estimate calorie consumption) there was no change in the activity levels.

First week of activity according to Polar Loop with manually added workouts

Quite apparently without any HR input, the Loop is woefully inadequate in recognising any other activities other than walking and running. And because for some reason most of the time I’ve tested it, it doesn’t want to talk to my Wahoo HR it means that my workouts are completely misidentified. For example, in the activity chart below the circled time was spent doing 12 500m sprints on a Concept2 rower with 30s rest between sprints while maintaining a pace of 1:46/500m. Which is not exactly a slow pace. And Loop thinks I was standing (at least it’s better than sitting)… And apparently I take naps during my workday.

A days activity chart according to Loop

Based on my first week (and subsequent weeks since I lost the first three drafts of this post) as a standalone device the Polar Loop gives a fairly active CrossFitter no valuable data whatsoever. Or wait – it does give something. It tells me what I already know: I don’t sleep enough.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 16.19.14

Sure, as a part of the pilot program I agreed to wear the Polar Loop for six months and will continue to do so. Unless of course I get a better product that would provide more meaningful data but at the same time manage to sync my activity to the back-end systems used by our insurance provider. But as such most of the data it collects does not really give me any extra value. Of course when it happens to communicate with my Wahoo HR band, the HR data in Flow is quite good.

HR data from a workout

This doesn’t mean that I consider the Polar Loop a totally useless product. I’ve been following someone wearing for about a year now and the motivation it gives them to move a bit more to achieve 100% activity is clearly a good thing. In fact, for many people who live mostly sedentary lives the gamification in the UI and the little extra incentive it gives can quite probably make a significant impact on their lives and health. But for someone who is already fairly active and just doesn’t happen to run all that much, the data it collects without a HR band doesn’t really say anything.

Honestly though, the geek in me would love to test the new activity band with wrist based HR monitoring from Polar to see if it works any better. But I surely won’t be investing any of my own money to test it.

Dark and gloomy December

We haven’t seen the sun for weeks, so it has been quite gloomy and dark. Meaning that the black jobs have mainly been blobs of black in photographs.

P.S. This was timed to come out on Dec 1, but I managed to botch the timing so post-dated it now.

May Day / Vappu

Fire truck, ambulance and spectators

May Day (or Vappu in Finnish) is a bank holiday in Finland and traditionally a day spent at picnics, watching parades and listening to political speeches. For a long time there hasn’t been anything going on in our town with everyone going to the nearest city to experience the crowds. This year however the local businesses organized some activities in what passes for our town square (a piece of dirt in the center of town that is owned by too many different parties).

1978 chevrolet corvette detail

helmet and harley davidson detail

I was there showing the colors of the fire department. Luckily we managed to avoid hearing any political speeches, but we did have to endure some karaoke. Some historic cars and modern bikes came to be shown in addition to the vendors.

charlie chaplin impersonator

And one of our local characters, a Charlie Chaplin impersonator made an appearance. As he always does when a crowd gathers in town.

kontio sisu, an old truck, detail

Five days of every day life

Over on Facebook there has been a challenge going around (at least us Finns) to document five days of your every day life and post the photographs. So below is a glimpse of my every day life: work, dogs, fire and rescue, CrossFit…

Every day life 1/5

Every day life 2/5

Every day life 3/5

Every day life 4/5

Every day life 5/5

The future of (photo)journalism?

A fire truck from Chicago

Lately I’ve encountered two excellent pieces of journalism that make me feel like there is a future visible ahead for good, in-depth journalism.

First is the GQ long form article on the wildfire that took the lives of 16 hot-shots last summer in Arizona. Even if you are not a fire-fighter, it is very much worth a read. And after seeing the damage caused by wildfires in the US and following them to see if road closures will force us to re-plan our road trip route I can respect the work that American fire fighters face in those conditions even more.

Second, a Finnish effort DocImages which produced their iPad application and the first piece of paid content for it. Read more about the effort and the first article available on the iPad in English and in Finnish. I love that I am able to choose if I am interested in enough in the new content to buy it for the price of a latte.

I am and have always been a fan of well-produced content that I can easily choose to pay for. I would have readily paid for the GQ article as well – at least if paying for it would be easy and simple. Say what you will of in-app purchases on iOS, but they do make the decision to buy something interesting quite easy to make and thus hopefully help in at least some extent on getting people to pay for content.