Outdoors + Tech newsletter – March 23, 2020

Outdoors + Tech news articles, blog posts and research papers for March 23, 2020



Exclusive: Here’s the new Fitbit Charge 4, it looks exactly like the Charge 3

9to5Google, Abner Li from

Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit has not yet completed, and the latter company is continuing its existing product roadmap in the meantime. Yesterday, an FCC filings and retail listing revealed that Fitbit’s next device is a Charge 4, and we now have our first look.

Thanks to a trusted source, we see that the Fitbit Charge 4 appears to be physically identical to the Charge 3 released in October 2018. The Fitbit logo appears underneath what still looks to be a grayscale OLED touchscreen. There’s a new watch face that manages to fit in large numerals, the date, and activity stat.


A Wristwatch-Based Wireless Sensor Platform for IoT Health Monitoring Applications

Sensors journal from

A wristwatch-based wireless sensor platform for IoT wearable health monitoring applications is presented. The paper describes the platform in detail, with a particular focus given to the design of a novel and compact wireless sub-system for 868 MHz wristwatch applications. An example application using the developed platform is discussed for arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2) and heart rate measurement using optical photoplethysmography (PPG). A comparison of the wireless performance in the 868 MHz and the 2.45 GHz bands is performed. Another contribution of this work is the development of a highly integrated 868 MHz antenna. The antenna structure is printed on the surface of a wristwatch enclosure using laser direct structuring (LDS) technology. At 868 MHz, a low specific absorption rate (SAR) of less than 0.1% of the maximum permissible limit in the simulation is demonstrated. The measured on-body prototype antenna exhibits a –10 dB impedance bandwidth of 36 MHz, a peak realized gain of −4.86 dBi and a radiation efficiency of 14.53% at 868 MHz. To evaluate the performance of the developed 868 MHz sensor platform, the wireless communication range measurements are performed in an indoor environment and compared with a commercial Bluetooth wristwatch device. [full text]


non-wrist wearable

New femtech company Bloomer develops an ECG for your bra

MobiHealthNews, Laura Lovett from

… The MIT-spinoff is putting electrocardiogram sensors and machine learning algorithms into the fabric of a bra. The tech is able to track a woman’s health data over time. In addition to the ECG, users can view pulse rates, respiratory rates and heart rhythms. Women using the device can view heart health trends from their phone, tablet or desktop computer. The bra will be washable and flexible.


Wearable biosensors may pave the way for personalized health and wellness

Penn State University, Penn State News from

Bulky, buzzing and beeping hospital rooms demonstrate that monitoring a patient’s health status is an invasive and uncomfortable process, at best, and a dangerous process, at worst. Penn State researchers want to change that and make biosensors that could make health monitoring less bulky, more accurate — and much safer.

The key would be making sensors that are so stretchable and flexible that they can easily integrate with the human body’s complex, changing contours, said Larry Cheng, the Dorothy Quiggle Professor in Engineering and an affiliate of the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences. His lab is making progress on designing sensors that can do just that.


AI-Powered Shoes Unlock the Secrets of Your Sole

Stevens Institute of Technology, Research & Innovation from

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have developed an AI-powered, smart insole that instantly turns any shoe into a portable gait-analysis laboratory.

The work, reported in IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, could benefit clinical researchers by providing a new way to precisely measure walking function in patients with movement disorders or musculoskeletal injuries, in their living environments. The technology could also lead to significant advances for athletes, by helping them improve their running technique.

“From a practical standpoint, that’s invaluable,” said Damiano Zanotto, lead author and director of Stevens Wearable Robotic Systems Lab. “We’re now able to accurately analyze a person’s gait in real time, in real-world environments.”


Smart ring startup Oura raises $28 million from Google’s Gradient Ventures, Square, and Forerunner Ventures

VentureBeat, Paul Sawers from

Oura, a Finnish startup that creates a smart activity- and sleep-tracking ring, has raised $28 million in a series B round of funding from Google’s Gradient Ventures, Jack Dorsey’s Square, and Forerunner Ventures.

Founded out of Oulu, Finland in 2013, Oura monitors the user’s pulse, movement, and temperature to deliver a “holistic picture” of their health. And unlike many other health trackers on the market, the device is not worn on a person’s wrist — instead sliding firmly onto their finger.


Automatic, wearable-based, in-field eating detection approaches for public health research: a scoping review

npj Digital Medicine, Brooke M. Bell et al. from

Dietary intake, eating behaviors, and context are important in chronic disease development, yet our ability to accurately assess these in research settings can be limited by biased traditional self-reporting tools. Objective measurement tools, specifically, wearable sensors, present the opportunity to minimize the major limitations of self-reported eating measures by generating supplementary sensor data that can improve the validity of self-report data in naturalistic settings. This scoping review summarizes the current use of wearable devices/sensors that automatically detect eating-related activity in naturalistic research settings. Five databases were searched in December 2019, and 618 records were retrieved from the literature search. This scoping review included N = 40 studies (from 33 articles) that reported on one or more wearable sensors used to automatically detect eating activity in the field. The majority of studies (N = 26, 65%) used multi-sensor systems (incorporating > 1 wearable sensors), and accelerometers were the most commonly utilized sensor (N = 25, 62.5%). All studies (N = 40, 100.0%) used either self-report or objective ground-truth methods to validate the inferred eating activity detected by the sensor(s). The most frequently reported evaluation metrics were Accuracy (N = 12) and F1-score (N = 10). This scoping review highlights the current state of wearable sensors’ ability to improve upon traditional eating assessment methods by passively detecting eating activity in naturalistic settings, over long periods of time, and with minimal user interaction. A key challenge in this field, wide variation in eating outcome measures and evaluation metrics, demonstrates the need for the development of a standardized form of comparability among sensors/multi-sensor systems and multidisciplinary collaboration.



Huawei’s smart water bottle has a display with real-time temperature

Gadgets & Wearables, Ivan Jovin from

… The Smart Insulation Cup is built from a three-layer stainless steel structure. This can keep water hot or cold for up to 24 hours. The bottle itself is IPx7 certified so can be washed normally along with your other dishes, and is said to be sturdy so resistant to falls. Battery life is about a month on a single charge.


Technology has complicated our relationship to winter (Chilling effects)

High Country News, Paige Blankenbuehler from

Recently, I rented a pair of backcountry skis and skins, a shovel, beacon and a probe. As a kid in suburban Denver, with parents who weren’t into skiing the way I wanted to be, I always felt like an outsider, pushing in. But now, from my home in Durango, Colorado, I’m regularly out “there,” thanks to increasingly affordable technological advances that are opening the backcountry to more people — making the West’s natural world more accessible. But as more of us push deeper into the backcountry, we disrupt these secluded spaces, both in small ways that we don’t see and in bigger ways we don’t yet fully understand. As tech infiltrates the backcountry, we have a responsibility to consider what that means.


Hoka launches TenNine shoe, aimed at making downhill running easier

Runner's World UK, Kerry McCarthy from

Hoka One One, the shoe brand known for its maximally cushioned shoes, has released a shoe that looks just a little different (translation: downright odd), and which it says will transform the race experience of ultra-distance trail runners.

It has an extension of cushioning that pushes back substantially beyond the rear of the rest of the shoe. A brand spokesman said:

‘This geometry is specifically designed to manage impact on the heel – which is often exaggerated on the downhill. The TenNine is designed to allow for a smoother transition to the midfoot, forefoot and toe-off.



A Backpacker’s Guide to Maps

Outside Online, Andrew Skurka from

When I first started hiking, I used whatever navigational resources were conveniently available and seemed sufficient. Before thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2002, I purchased the Appalachian Trail Data Book and downloaded the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association’s Thru-Hikers’ Companion. And to explore Colorado’s Front Range the following summer, I bought a few National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps that covered the area.

But when I started adventuring off the beaten path—beginning with the Sierra High Route, culminating with the Alaska-Yukon Expedition, and continuing with high routes of my own—I had to create some or all of my navigational materials from scratch. Through this process, I formulated what I believe is an optimal combination of maps and resources.


New Earth Surveillance Tech Is About to Change Everything, Including Us

VICE, Motherboard, Becky Ferreira from

New high-resolution satellites, AIs, and data tools are going to let us study Earth, and ourselves, in greater detail than ever before. That’s going to come with “unthinkable” problems.


Niall Ferguson’s Networld

YouTube, PBS from

“In this groundbreaking new series hosted by Niall Ferguson and inspired by his bestselling book The Square and the Tower, Ferguson visits network theorists, social scientists and data analysts to explore the history of social networks. From the Reformation and 17th century witch-hunting, through the American Revolution and to the nightmare visions of Orwell’s 1984, Ferguson explores the intersection of social media, technology and the spread of cultural movements. Reviewing classic experiments and cutting-edge research, Ferguson demonstrates how human behavior, disruptive technology and profit can energize ideas and communication, ultimately changing the world.”



Physiological mechanisms determining eccrine sweat composition. – PubMed – NCBI

European Journal of Applied Physiology from


The purpose of this paper is to review the physiological mechanisms determining eccrine sweat composition to assess the utility of sweat as a proxy for blood or as a potential biomarker of human health or nutritional/physiological status.

This narrative review includes the major sweat electrolytes (sodium, chloride, and potassium), other micronutrients (e.g., calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, vitamins), metabolites (e.g., glucose, lactate, ammonia, urea, bicarbonate, amino acids, ethanol), and other compounds (e.g., cytokines and cortisol).

Ion membrane transport mechanisms for sodium and chloride are well established, but the mechanisms of secretion and/or reabsorption for most other sweat solutes are still equivocal. Correlations between sweat and blood have not been established for most constituents, with perhaps the exception of ethanol. With respect to sweat diagnostics, it is well accepted that elevated sweat sodium and chloride is a useful screening tool for cystic fibrosis. However, sweat electrolyte concentrations are not predictive of hydration status or sweating rate. Sweat metabolite concentrations are not a reliable biomarker for exercise intensity or other physiological stressors. To date, glucose, cytokine, and cortisol research is too limited to suggest that sweat is a useful surrogate for blood.

Final sweat composition is not only influenced by extracellular solute concentrations, but also mechanisms of secretion and/or reabsorption, sweat flow rate, byproducts of sweat gland metabolism, skin surface contamination, and sebum secretions, among other factors related to methodology. Future research that accounts for these confounding factors is needed to address the existing gaps in the literature.


Will we ever know rec’s true impact on wildlife? (Out of bounds)

High Country News, Page Buono from

Nearly 20 years ago, Elizabeth Roberts woke early after a big snowstorm. She packed a thermos of green tea and caught the first chair at Vail Resort, a world-renowned ski area high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The lift ascended to Blue Sky Basin at the southern end of the ski area. But rather than pursue powder runs, Roberts trekked beyond the resort’s boundary on backcountry skis, weaving in and out of the spruce and fir, in search of wildlife tracks.

For roughly a decade, Roberts’ study of wildlife near the resort continued. As technology for backcountry travel advanced and the number of recreationists increased, so too did the ratio of humans to wildlife — so much so that by 2010, Roberts couldn’t find any wildlife tracks. Instead, she found heavily compacted snow and the traces of skiers and snowboarders who had ventured beyond the ski area’s bounds.

On a national scale, the number of people who ski outside the resort is projected to increase by as much as 106% by 2060. Those projections, paired with what they were seeing on the ground, concerned wildlife managers. As the first winter-sports wildlife biologist on the White River National Forest, Roberts sought to understand the impacts of recreation on the threatened Canada lynx — wild cats best known for their bobbed tails and wispy, antennae-like ear hairs. And she was largely starting from scratch: A decade ago, there was no relevant research available to guide management decisions.


public lands

The plan to turn half the world into a reserve for nature

BBC Future, Future Planet, Jim Robbins from

Scientists and conservationists are proposing that up to half of Earth’s land and oceans be protected for nature. Is it a necessary step or a pipe dream?


Is it safe to hike, run and bike outside now?

Los Angeles Times, Christopher Reynolds and Mary Forgione from

Californians can still walk, hike and bike outdoors without violating Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “safer at home” order, but many activities have been banned, including golf and team sports on public courts, parking at many beaches and hiking on some Santa Monica mountain trails.

Through the weekend and into Monday morning, local and state officials stressed that those outdoors need to take greater care in maintaining a social distance of at least six feet from others.


Climbers, Please Control Yourselves

Slate, Jane C. Hu from

Last weekend, Monica Cowan and a few friends drove east to Joshua Tree National Park, where they spent the day climbing. Natural Sisters Cafe, a popular café just north of the park entrance, was hopping, and there was a long line to drive into the park. “It was just as crowded as I’d expect on a beautiful weekend day,” she said. “The normalcy felt abnormal.” Nonetheless, Cowan says her crew was glad to be getting out, especially after a wet week in L.A. “[We were] happy to be climbing outside after the rain, and happy to have a day of not thinking about coronavirus,” she says. But after they returned, Cowan started reading posts from folks in small towns talking about the load on resources weekend warriors create. “I’ve since texted with the friends I went with, and we all agree that if we were planning on going this weekend, we’d cancel the trip.”



Stretchable Supercapacitors to Power Tomorrow’s Wearable Devices

Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering from

Researchers at Duke University and Michigan State University have engineered a novel type of supercapacitor that remains fully functional even when stretched to eight times its original size. It does not exhibit any wear and tear from being stretched repeatedly and loses only a few percentage points of energy performance after 10,000 cycles of charging and discharging.

The researchers envision the supercapacitor being part of a power-independent, stretchable, flexible electronic system for applications such as wearable electronics or biomedical devices.


Battery Researchers Look to Artificial Intelligence to Slash Recharging Times

Greentech Media, Jason Deign from

Today’s EV fast-charging technology remains slow by gas-station standards. Faster testing processes for new charging techniques would help.


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