16 August 2013

The Misfit Shine: Points and Steps

Summary: As far as I can tell, 10 steps = 1 point.

UPDATE: As I didn't (but perhaps should have) known, the Shine App can also just tell you how many steps (it thinks) you have taken. If you tap in the big orange circle for the day:

Shine Steps Detail

it expands to show the number of steps it recorded and (based on the height an weight estimates you gave it) an estimate of the number of calories your exertions burned and the distance travelled.

Shine Day Summary

As you can see, it isn't exactly 10 steps = 1 points, but it's close (in this case 1686 points for 16422 steps). So I guess it's adjusting for something else. I'll do another post with a summary table

As discussed in my last piece, I got the beautiful Misfit Shine Activity Tracker and have been happily using it.

When you set it up, you need to choose a daily target number of points. You get points for movement, but it doesn’t really tell you anything about the scale. It suggests three levels, which (from memory) were 600, 1000 and 1600, and it described these with fuzzy terms that were something like “kinda active”, “active” and “super active”. I chose 1,000 points.

The obvious question is: how many steps is that, and how does it relate to the widely used recommendation that people do 10,000 steps a day (e.g. the UK National Health Service; according the Horizon episode Monitor Me, this is recognized standard).

Misfit Wearables don’t really tell you, so I thought I’d measure it. I did a short walks around the block three times, taking 1630 steps the first time and 1640 steps the second and third times. (I didn’t have a pedometer handy, and didn’t really want to compare one measurement error against another anyway, so I used a counter app, Tally Counter on the iPhone and counted every 10th step. I walked a few extra steps to make it a multiple of ten each time.) It doesn’t make any difference, but I know my typical stride length is just over a yard so this walk was around a mile (1680 yards). For the first circuit I wore the Shine using the sports band on my right wrist (I was also holding the phone in my right hand and tallying). The second time I used the magnetic clip on my shirt near the neck. The third time I clipped it onto the ticket pocket on my jeans. I synchonized the Shine immediately before going out and immediately upon return.

These are the results:

Circuit Start Points End Points Points Delta Steps
First (right wrist) 162 325 163 1630
Second (neck) 325 480 155 1640
Third (jeans ticket pocket) 504 643 139 1640

The first result seems very strongly to support my guess that they are simply using 1 point for every ten steps and seems to suggest that the Shine is very accurate at detecting steps both on the wrist and on the neck. The second and third ones are slightly off, but still close to that at 10.6 steps and 11.8 steps per point respectively. Obviously I don’t know whether I got lucky the first couple of times, or whether the wrist is a better location, but I still think this data suggests quite strongly that the Shine uses 10 steps = 1 point.

One thing the Shine doesn’t seem to have is a way to export the data (either in processed or raw form) from the phone. As a data analyst, I would definitely interested in getting some kind of data export so that I could look at other things myself. It would be great if Misfit were to add this at some point.

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07 August 2013

The Misfit Shine: A Review

A long time ago I backed a crowd-funded project on Indiegogo for the Misfit Shine “the world’s most elegant physical activity monitor”. It blasted through its funding goal and suffered delays, but about a month ago they asked for a shipping address, though I don’t recall receiving a shipping notice. Nevertheless, two days ago my doorbell rang and a man from FedEx handed me a packet containing a Shine.


And I love it.

The Shine is elegant, beautiful even. It is understated but playful. It looks like a small, grey pebble, until you tap it twice. Then one or more of its twelve, twinkling, pure-white LEDs will shine, telling you how much you have moved today, relative to your goal. After that, in a delightful, ingenious way, the lights tell the time, to five-minute accuracy, a small antidote to the second-precision punctuality that modern life and gadgets so often seem to demand.

For me, so far, everything about the Shine is perfect. To sync it to an iPhone, you download and launch the app and then place the Shine on the phone’s screen. Activity data uploads, while the Shine puts on a light show and ripples spread out on the iPhone’s screen. It’s simple, but satisfying. One synchronized, the app shows graphs of your movements, highlights notable achievements and summarizes how you’re doing, this week, relative to a points target that you can set.

Unlike many activity trackers, the Shine uses a replaceable battery that lasts 4–6 months, so no recharging is required and you can wear it at night if you want to track sleep. It is waterproof and rugged, so you can swim with it. It comes with a simple magnetic clasp that makes it very easy to attach to clothing, and there are various watch-strap and necklace attachments too. In a touch reminiscent of the special tool Apple provides for iPhone users to open their SIM slots, the Shine comes with an elegant dedicated, tool for opening the battery compartment. (You could use a screwdriver, but it all adds to the feeling that they’re not skimping, that everything should be perfect.)


Oh: and as far as I can tell, it works. I don’t know how accurate it is, but the activity graphs look to match what I have been doing well, and the granularity of information is just right. Both days, so far, it’s encouraged me to move more, and it doesn't seem as if it's going to become a burdon.

I think Misfit Wearables has got just about everything right. I hope Shine becomes a massive hit.

So what’s this got to do with Scientific Marketing?

I didn’t post this with a view to its relevance to the usual themes of this blog; I just wanted to spread the word about my lovely new toy. But in fact, it’s not so far off topic.

The main focus of this blog is how marketing is used—well and badly, for good and for ill—to attempt to change people’s behaviour. Effective marketing campaigns cause people to do things (purchase, renew, stay, click, visit) that they would otherwise not have done. Proper campaign design, with appropriate use of control groups, allows measurement of the effectiveness of marketing in changing behaviour, while uplift modelling allows us to identify the people for whom a given campaign, action, or activity is likely to be most effective.

In a marketing context, one entity (the marketing organization) is trying to change the behaviour of another (typically a customer or a prospective customer). In the case of activity monitors, the two entities are the same: I wear a Shine with the goal of influencing my own behaviour. Like many others, I know that I am less active than I should be, and would like to get a little fitter. The raison d'être for activity monitors is to encourage us to move more, by providing feedback on how we’re doing and incentives to do more.

Two days in, with only myself as a test subject, there is clearly a limit to how much I can really say about the true effectiveness of the Shine. But I think it gets a lot right.

By being small and beautiful, and pleasing to interact with, it immediately encourages us to use it, to wear it and to interact with it.

By providing only coarse information (it can show only 12 different activity levels) it discourages obsession and constant checking every few minutes (which could easily be negative), but encourages periodic checking, which is helpful.

By including a rather elegant, minimal watch function, it gives another reason to interact with the Shine, giving activity feedback along the way. Additionally, my sense is that the implicit message of the 5-minute accuracy meshes perfectly with the big-picture message of Shine itself: don’t obsess about exactly what Shine’s points measure, just try to make sure you move enough to accumulate plenty each day.

By having a non-rechargable battery that lasts for months, and being sturdy and waterproof, it encourages wearing all the time, even at night, reducing the likelihood of finding yourself without it or breaking the habit of using it.

By making the iPhone app simple and minimalist, and making the sync process artificially pleasing, it encourages frequent interaction with the app, reinforcing progress (or lack thereof).

I think the people behind the Shine have pulled off something pretty amazing, and my prediction for myself is that I won’t abandon it any time soon, and it will prove a useful tool for changing my own behaviour.


My only connection with Misfit Wearables is that I backed their Indiegogo campaign and am the proud owner of a Shine. I would love them to succeed because I think they’ve made something excellent.

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