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Prying Eyes: Fitness tracker that drives chip demand

07 Dec 2015  | Brian Dipert

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Microsoft launched its first "smart band" in October 2014, although the device could just as well have been called a "smart watch" (and even exceeds the built-in capabilities of many of these). In addition to common features such as Bluetooth connectivity, an optical heart rate monitor, and a built-in gyrometer and three-axis accelerometer, Microsoft included an ambient light sensor, a microphone (for voice-input control), and a 320x106 pixel (245 PPI) 1.4" capacitive touchscreen-enhanced LCD. And the Microsoft Band even offers up a skin temperature sensor, a set of galvanic skin response sensors (to ensure that you've got the Band properly positioned on your wrist), an UV light sensor (to tell you when you need to apply sunscreen or otherwise cover up), and built-in-GPS (versus relying on the GPS facilities of a nearby tethered smartphone or tablet).

Back in late September, I bought a Band on sale for $100 as a just-in-case backup for the Garmin Forerunner 225 that I got my wife for her birthday. She loved the Forerunner 225, but EDN asked me to hold onto the Band for teardown purposes, versus returning it to Best Buy. My ever-present engineering curiosity was more than happy to oblige. Let's see what's inside.

The Band's external packaging is colorful, clean, and otherwise eye-catching:

And, dare I say it, rather Apple-reminiscent when I initially open it:

Here's a close-up of the Band in the box. Note the UV light sensor (which I believe does double-duty as the ambient light sensor) in the bottom left corner of the LCD, with the microphone "hole" just above it:

The box's sole remaining contents are a charging cable and a slim quick-start guide:

Here's the Band out of the box:

You can now clearly see the optical heart rate monitor at the back of the band, surrounded by one of the two galvanic skin response sensors included with the device. Regarding the former, also found in devices like the Apple Watch and the Moto 360, here's what a recent article published at EDN has to say:

Optical heart rate monitors use a process called photoplethysmography (PPG), which involves shining light into the skin and measuring perfusion of blood in the dermis and subcutaneous tissue by capturing the different amounts light refracted by varying levels of blood flow.

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