Black or white Basis B1 bands for the discriminating self-tracker

Photo courtesy Basis Science Inc.

The term biofeedback, which describes how people improve their health by using signals from their own bodies, usually conjures up images of patients hunkered down in geeked-out hospital rooms with sensors and gadgets strapped to their bodies. Think Dr. Emmett Brown from "Back to the Future," decked out in his elaborate brain-wave analyzer, and you'll get an idea of what many regard as state-of-the-art biofeedback.

Not so anymore. Two trends are driving a revolution in this poorly understood and often controversial field. The first is a movement from clinical care to self-care, which shifts the burden of monitoring health from the doctor to the patient. And the second is the same technology transformation that has led to gadgets such as the iPod Nano, which can pack 4,000 songs into a machine no bigger than a book of matches.

The Basis B1 band sits at the nexus of these developments -- one part watch, one part "Star Trek" mobile body-scanning device. OK, that's an exaggeration. The device can't peer through your skin and instantly assess every tissue, organ and system, but it uses five different sensors to measure a variety of biosignals and then translates all of that raw data into useful insights about your overall health. It's the one and only product of Basis Science Inc., a privately held company located in San Francisco that's backed by a couple of venture capital firms.

Basis founder Nadeem Kassam conceived of the initial concept, then gathered a team of software engineers, gamers and product development specialists to bring the vision to life. The result has generated a lot of buzz: In November 2011, the Consumer Electronics Association awarded the Basis B1 band a 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Best of Innovations Design and Engineering Award and then, in January 2012, named the gadget a finalist at the 2012 International CES Last Gadget Standing challenge, which looks for products "likely to change the face of technology."

What makes the Basis band so special? That's what we're going to answer on the following pages. We'll start with the basics -- of course.