From research papers, new companies and industry rumours, we always knew 2012 was going to be a big year for fitness gadgets and technology that gives us the power to take control of our own health in a way we've never quite experienced before. Here at Shiny Media we've even set up a dedicated sister site called Connected Health, focused on exploring ways we can monitor our well-being and live happier, healthier lives. What a lovely vision.
But the big question is, are any of these products really innovative or are they just jumping on the "improve your life" bandwagon?
Well, here's our pick of the ten best health and fitness gadgets of 2012 so far that we think are more than just faddy gizmos. We've seen a few at CES, we've only heard rumours about the others, but they could well shape the way we view our personal health and fitness over the next twelve months.
1. The Basis health and heart rate monitor
From the Jawbone UP bracelet to the Fitbit, we've come across all kinds of monitoring devices in recent months that promise to give users detailed stats about their health and fitness.
The Basis works on that same kind of principle, but its watch design would make it much more practical for most users and the simple interface you use to look through your data is the cleanest and most intuitive we've seen so far.
Check out our video demo of the Basis watch and its computer dashboard from CES 2012.
2. Striiv pedometer gadget
Striiv is a cute little device, which is being billed as a handy personal trainer for your pocket. It takes the features of a basic pedometer and builds on them to create a device that gives you all kinds of readings about how much you move during the day.
As you'd expect, it's a small gadget that you attach to your belt and has a colour screen, which not only allows you to track your steps, but lets you play games and encourages you to be more active along the way.
To find out more about the device, check out the post Striiv - a pedometer on steroids over on Connected Health.
3. Ideal Life's connected health system for the home
Ideal Life's booth at CES was less about a specific gadget and much more focused on how to integrate a connected health system into your home.
Primarily devised for those already living with a medical condition, Ideal Life's products and services allow you to use gadgets, like pedometers and blood monitoring devices in your home. These gadgets then send the readings that are taken throughout the day to a dedicated patient portal, where users can monitor them. This data is also accessible via a clinical area, where medical professionals can keep a close eye on their patients too.
Check out our video demo of Ideal Life's connected health home system from CES last week.
4. STMicroelectronics' smart suit prototype
STMicroelectronics has recently unveiled a new kind of smart suit technology with sewn in sensors that track movements and turn them into a digital model. It all sounds a bit sci-fi, but the technology used in the suit could help to improve outcomes in clinical and sports medicine applications. The technology is still in the early stages of development at the moment, but watch this space for Tron-style light suits over the next year.
5. Valencell's fitness monitoring in-ear device
We've seen a number of new gadgets that utilise in-ear technology to give users the best readings recently, and at CES we came across Valencell, a company which aims to give you a better workout by providing you with detailed health and fitness data from within your ear.
Valencell's technology currently exists in small earbuds that contain sensors to collect important data, which is then delivered back to a mobile device.
Check out our chat with one of the Valencell team about the in-ear technology and how it could evolve in the future.
6. The Fitbit ecosystem
At CES last week we had a demo of Fitbit's new Aria scales, which give you accurate information about your weight, body fat and BMI. Although the scales are pretty cool, it's the ecosystem Fitbit is building up around its products that we're particularly interested in. Now you can track everything you do with the Fitbit Ultra and then see your results with the Aria scales, as well as share everything among friends, set challenges and store all of your data. So the devices themselves are certainly interesting, but its the way everything connects together that we think will make Fitbit a big player in the health and fitness arena in 2012.
7. Qualcomm AliveCor iPhone ECG device
This ECG mobile device from AliveCor has been making the headlines recently because it was used to save someone's life on a flight. Despite the circumstances, that's a pretty brilliant testament to just how well it can detect heart problems.
We spoke to one of the AliveCor team at CES, who explained the basics behind the technology and how it was used to diagnose someone in the real world.
8. Iqua Beat fitness gadget
Like the Valencell earbuds, the Iqua Beat tracks your exercise and fitness through little buds in your ears. We particularly love the fact that the device comes with a way to answer calls and intuitively skip music tracks with a simple swipe. It's less of a ground-breaking device and more of a handy gadget for fitness fanatics ho want to know more about their workouts.
Check out our video demo of the Iqua Beat from CES last week over on Connected Health.
9. Wahoo Fitness Bluetooth heart rate strap
Although many devices measure your heart rate, this strap from Wahoo claims to be the world's first Bluetooth Smart heart rate strap made for the iPhone 4S (and also other Bluetooth Smart Ready devices). It's also pretty clever because it works with a range of different fitness apps too, like RunKeeper and MapMyRide.
10. BodyMedia's adhesive patch
BodyMedia already has a new personal health system and part of it consists of an adhesive patch, which when placed on the skin can be left for several days to record as many as 500 data points each minute including calories burned, steps taken, activity levels, and sleep pattern.
Although BodyMedia's system looks great as a whole, we're interested to see whether an adhesive patch is more or less convenient than the straps, watches, clothing devices and ear buds we've seen from other companies.