Those who are serious about their fitness know that an in-depth understanding of one’s personal health data is key for efficient exercise. Samsung’s cord-free Gear IconX earbuds were designed to work with the S Health app to deliver comprehensive fitness data, arming users with the proper knowledge to optimize their workouts. Principal Engineer Jiyoung Kong and Senior Engineer Kidong Hong of Samsung’s Service R&D Team explain.
Q. How did you come to add a fitness tracker to these Bluetooth earbuds?
Jiyoung Kong: We wanted to make the Gear IconX the most convenient choice for users to accurately measure their activity. A new, cord-free standalone device.
Because music playback is a must to keep boredom at bay during workouts, it was only natural for us to develop the Gear IconX as a combination of a music player and fitness tracker.
As a developer of S Health, I’m delighted that we now have another line of fitness trackers to add to our wristbands and smartphones. Though smartphones excel in computational functions, we usually find them bothersome while at the gym. I am glad to see more diversity in wearable devices because it will surely help us meet our users’ increasingly diversifying needs.
Q. What was the main focus when incorporating S Health support into the Gear IconX?
Kidong Hong: Although the earbuds may look simple, it took a lot of collaboration with other teams to incorporate support for fitness tracking features—such as exercise recording and heart rate measurement—while ensuring that the Gear IconX still delivered a top-rate Bluetooth listening experience.
Since we have numerous fitness tracking options available in other Samsung wearable devices and smartphones, S Health now has more sources to help users collect and optimize exercise data. So we also focused on ensuring optimal usability when the Gear IconX is connected to the app. For instance, we had many discussions regarding how the earbuds would send information to S Health and how that data would be displayed.
Q. How exactly does the Gear IconX’s fitness tracking technology work?
Kidong Hong: The Gear IconX comes with a built-in acceleration sensor and a CPU. When the sensor detects your movement, the CPU calculates speed and distance based on that information.
The device tracks walking and running by detecting how your feet leave the ground. While wristband-type fitness trackers usually measure how much your arms swing, the Gear IconX, being earbuds, does its job by noting how much your head shakes.
We set our measurement standards based on verification with a dedicated sports lab and also consulted our own database, which features relevant data we’ve gathered since launching the Gear series.
Q. What kind of information does the Gear IconX’s voice guide relay during workouts?
Kidong Hong: The voice guide tells you the duration, distance and speed of your exercise, as well as your heart rate and the number of calories you’ve burned. You can check all of this information on the S Health app.
You can choose the items you’d like to have announced, and set a time or distance interval for updates. The voice guide also notices when you’ve reached the high-intensity workout zone corresponding with your heart rate. All of these features provide users with more significant information and reinforce the Gear IconX’s extensive capabilities as a standalone fitness device.
Q. What’s the difference between using the Gear IconX on its own and with a smartphone?
Jiyoung Kong: While the Gear IconX certainly supports independent use, we have also carefully considered how it works with a smartphone. To this end, we are working on a situation-based framework to work out how to best alternate functions between the two devices, determining in which circumstances one will operate as the main fitness tracker and the other will support.
For example, when you press the Gear IconX’s button and start running, the framework prevents your smartphone from recording your activity, deeming that you clearly expressed your intention to rely on the earbuds instead. On the other hand, when you choose not to activate the Gear IconX and start walking or running, it automatically turns the fitness tracker on your smartphone on. In this case, the earbuds function as accessories to measure your heart rate.
Heart rate is certainly one of the most useful bits of information for people who enjoy working out; it serves as a sort of stamina indicator. By incorporating valuable, advanced functions into S Health, including the Program feature, which helps you get accustomed to regular exercise more easily, and Pace Goals, which offers runners guided training through different intensity zones, we tried to help people use their smartphone and wearable together to work out smarter.