The wearable fitness gizmo that recharges itself as you unwind

 (Baracoda)
(Baracoda)

For smartwatch owners, one of the most frustrating aspects is remembering to charge the device every few days.

French start-up Baracoda thinks it has solved this problem by launching the BHeart, a fitness tracker that is powered by motion, body heat, and light. For those who want to keep an eye on their body’s key metrics without the faff of regular recharges, this gadget could provide a big step forward.

The no-charge wearable incorporates a heart sensor and accelerometer to provide insights into a user’s overall energy, activity levels, sleep quality, and mental resilience. The data is displayed in an accompanying app (iOS or Android), which encourages the user to keep active. Unveiled at the CES 2023 tech expos in Las Vegas, it was selected as an Honoree in this year’s Innovation awards in the Sustainability category.

“People of all ages and fitness levels need easier ways to track their health, so we must design products that fit into everyone’s lifestyles, including people who don’t find today’s technology accessible or easy to maintain,” said Thomas Serval, CEO of Baracoda.

One of the most revealing health metrics is HRV (Heart Rate Variability) – which is also provided by market-leading wearable brands, such as the Oura Ring and Whoop – and BHeart takes continuous HRV measurements in the morning and evening, as a minimum.

“If there is enough energy available in the battery, it will take measurements more frequently,” said Arthur Eberhardt, lead of hardware innovation at Baracoda. “For HRV, it uses a PPG (photoplethysmogram) sensor, a non-invasive technology that uses a light source and a photodetector on the surface of the skin to measure volumetric changes in blood flow.”

 (Baracoda)
(Baracoda)

To create a meaningful ‘sleep score’, it takes sleep duration, skin temperature, and sleep stages into account.

Covid-19 changed people’s attitudes to health and fitness, with more people than ever buying home fitness equipment, getting outside and walking, cycling, and running to improve their mental and physical health. Even the Government body Sport England recently said that the leisure sector should focus more on active wellbeing.

Moving regularly and being outside – two factors essential to our mental and physical health – are critical to power the BHeart. This is made possible through its patent-pending BMotion algorithm, which drives the energy-harvesting technology, the idea being that the more you move and recharge, the more you charge your watch and the more metrics you gain.

“It will decide when to do measurements based on the energy available in the battery and the solar and body-heat energies currently being harvested,” said Eberhardt. “In other words, it adapts the power consumption based on the user’s habits (time spent outdoors or exercising).

Eberhardt says that spending one hour per day outside is enough to take measurements. “If the user harvested more energy, BHeart takes more measurements to encourage people to move more and be more active,” he explained. “If the user is below this activity threshold, we will reduce the number of measurements and user features.”

Perhaps the BMotion technology could be adapted in the future to power a standard fitness tracker? The team says this is possible, but that it’s not in line with their vision, which is focused around motivating people to move outside and pursue a holistic approach to their health.

“We could think of BHeart charging a smartwatch,” said Eberhardt, “but it won’t give the hints we talked about earlier, so it would just be a watch band that charges smartwatches, and no longer a health tracker.”