Most fitness wearables cling to the arm, with bands that wrap around your wrist and track your activity levels and sleep patterns 'round the clock. LifeBeam, an Israeli company that specializes in aerospace wearables, has moved from the arm to the head, introducing a smart hat with sensors that track your heart rate, cadence, gait, steps and calorie consumption.
LifeBeam acknowledges that you won't wear its product 24/7 like many owners of wrist-worn wearables do, and that's kind of the point. The LifeBeam hat is geared toward avid cyclists and runners who want in-depth information about their workouts so they can push their bodies harder and improve their race times. It's also good for those who, for whatever reason, don't like the feel of wrist-worn wearables.
The hat comes in both traditional baseball cap and visor styles, and each costs $99 (about £63, AU$115). The LifeBeam hat connects with Android, iOS and Windows devices via Bluetooth, and you can connect to Bluetooth-enabled treadmills, stationary bikes, GPS trackers and some bike computers.
"The LifeBeam hat and visor are motion-resistant, waterproof, washable and tested by the world's most demanding users for any movements, intensity levels and weather conditions you can find," LifeBeam CEO Omri Yoffe told The Times of Israel. "We want athletes to use these everywhere and send their measurements to any device or app. This is about providing choice and knowledge, so people can get the most out of training."
LifeBeam had to use a different kind of technology than wrist- and chest-worn wearables use to put heart rate tracking functionality into the hat form factor. Rather than the EKG technology found in many bands, the LifeBeam hat relies on sensors that measure blood flow via an LED that measures how quickly blood flows through the veins using a process called photoplethysmography (PPG).
PPG is generally considered to be less accurate than EKG monitors, but LifeBeam has played that down, according to The Times of Israel. LifeBeam is a veteran of the aerospace industry, and has built similar products that use PPG for pilots, astronauts and members of the special forces, and its products reportedly are considered by these groups to accurately track heart rate. Similarly, LifeBeam's first consumer-focused wearable, a smart biking helmet funded on Indiegogo, has gotten generally positive reviews for its heart rate accuracy, among other things.
The LifeBeam hat is in production now, and can be ordered at the LifeBeam store. It will begin shipping soon (shipping is free in Israel and to the United States). The hat's available in black and white.
If you wear one, of course, you'll have to explain why your hat has a power button, and given that putting a glowing object on your head is much more conspicuous than wearing one on your wrist, you'll probably get asked about it a lot.