How FitBit Works

Fitter, Bit by Bit

FitBit Ultra comes in two colors and is small enough to wear every day of the week
FitBit Ultra comes in two colors and is small enough to wear every day of the week
Courtesy FitBit

FitBit's healthy aims are a hit. FitBit's relatively affordable price and ease of use has won it a share of loyal users and some accolades. In 2009, FitBit was an Innovation honoree in the Health and Wellness category at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

But FitBit is only one product in a current trend of wearable fitness gadgets. It has plenty of competition. Jawbone's Up, for instance, is a wristband that tracks your movement and vibrates when you've been inactive for too long. It has a smartphone app and social networking features, too.

There are also more sophisticated (and more expensive) products for people who have both calories and cash to burn. The Basis Band is a watch-like device that comes loaded with sensors that track heart rate, movement and even galvanic skin response, which is a measurement of your stress levels.

The BodyMedia Fit is an armband equipped with four types of sensors that supposedly capture around 5,000 data points every minute. In addition to a motion sensor, it logs temperature, galvanic skin response and heat flux, which relates to the amount of heat that's dissipating from your body. Together, these sensors may provide a clearer picture of your overall activity and health.

And when it comes to monitoring sleep quality, it gets more complicated. Sleeping is highly variable and individualized behavior, and as such, there are many gadgets dedicated solely to tracking the quality of your rest. Those include the Lark sleep sensor, Zeo and others. If you really need sleep-related functions, you might be better off using something in this product category instead of a fitness gadget.

All of these products are tech-powered gadgets. In our Internet- and statistics-saturated age, devices like the FitBit really are a sign of the times. Will FitBit and its ilk help usher in a new era of health-consciousness? Or will they become obsolete and irrelevant in the face of our yearning to stuff ourselves with just one more sea-salt encrusted French fry?

Perhaps the social networking components of FitBit will propel it to greater success and help transform people into creatures who appreciate their physical fitness. Or maybe the gadgetry will just wind up on the car floor mats, wedged next to an empty fast food wrapper. Only time will tell, and when it does, you can bet that your fitness app will share it with the rest of your social network.