Dan (pergamon) wrote,
Dan
pergamon

Weighing myself in THE FUTURE

Why am I posting about a bathroom scale? Because this thing is probably the slickest, most polished gadget I've ever used.

Yes, I bought the Withings Wi-Fi Scale. If you're connected to me via any social networks or meet me in person, you've probably heard me drone on and on about my recent weight loss. But keeping track of that with pen and paper, or even an iPhone app as I had been for a while is so early-to-mid-2009. Now, I have a bathroom scale that connects to my wireless network at home and updates a private Web site and iPhone application. It measures not only weight, but also fat percentage by measuring impedance in one's feet (though I wonder how accurate that is).

What makes it so slick? Withings seems to have gotten everything right from the start. I've been using their iPhone app to manually track weight for a while, and after setting up the scale, bam - the scale displayed my name (taken from the website/iPhone app) on its screen, uploaded the data, and seconds later I had a push notification (badge) to my iPhone indicating there were new measurements to view. The new measurements uploaded from the scale appear just like the ones I was putting in manually, only now with additional information.

Of course, it should be easy to be easy when you're talking about a bathroom scale, but the setup is what could have been really complicated. While the scale does have a screen, it doesn't make sense to integrate a whole input device into the scale so you can configure the wireless networking, which they could have done but would have been really bad. Even worse would have been to do something where pressing on the scale would scroll through letters or something obtuse like that.

What Withings did, which is brilliant, is to let you configure it with an iPhone. To do that, all you do is load up the iPhone app in configuration mode and turn the scale over. There's a little iPhone shaped indentation on the bottom, with a single button below it. When you press the button on the bottom of the scale, it emits a tone and the iPhone and scale communicate audibly like a modem. Then you just configure the scale using a full interface on the iPhone. There's also a USB cable included that connects to an equally slick Mac or Windows application to configure it. Both processes work as easily as I could possibly imagine. I think that in addition to my name that it also pulls some other info from the website, but I need to play with it a bit more to make sure.

When I said "polished" up above, I meant cosmetically as well as functionally. It is an awfully good looking scale. The display is bright and easy to read. By looking at the photos on their website you can tell they spent some time on design, and it looks even better in person.

The iPhone app and Web interface to view the data is still a little clunky to me, but I'm pretty picky about software and besides, that can always be upgraded later. They got the hardware and integration parts down flawlessly and that's what counts. I'm hoping they come up with a real API to access the data, but for now, you can get a CSV export of all the data recorded through the website.

So, bravo Withings. My only complaint about the hardware is that it doesn't work well on the stupid carpet in my bathroom, even when using the special carpet feet included.

Disclaimer: I've only used the thing for a day, so if you want to buy one you might want to wait and make sure I don't rant about it breaking in a week or something.
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