Data time: Tracking sleep, tracking my car

EarlySense monitors sleep, HumX by Verizon monitors driving habits

EarlySense Live sleep sensor
EarlySense
At a Glance
  • Live by EarlySense

Seagate and IDC recently issued a white paper that predicted an explosion of the amount of data that we’ll be dealing with by 2025. As more device makers create Internet of Things devices, these devices will create tons of data for people to analyze.

Two devices I recently had a chance to test produce a bunch of data, but in different environments. The HumX system by Verizon tracks and analyzes data from your car, while the Live Sense sleep sensor tracks and monitors your body during sleep.

HumX by Verizon system driving tracker Verizon

The HumX by Verizon system includes an OBD reader, Bluetooth speaker (that clips onto a driver's visor) and smartphone app.

Hitting the road with HumX

The HumX system by Verizon ($99 with 2-year agreement, otherwise $150; comes with 1GB of data, or you can tie into existing Verizon data plan) consists of an on-board diagnostic (OBD) reader, a speaker that clips on to the driver’s visor, and charging cables. The system delivers a bunch of cool features, including:

  • A Wi-Fi hot spot for passengers in the car, up to 10 devices (via 4G Verizon service)
  • GPS tracking and driving navigation
  • Bluetooth speaker phone for hands-free communication
  • Vehicle diagnostics on your car (battery life, alternator status,
  • Driving history – data includes gas usage, speed, distance driven.
  • Speed and boundary alerting – If the car goes above a certain speed or beyond a certain area, you can be alerted via text message (aimed at parents and their teen-aged drivers).
  • Safety score – how well do you corner, brake and accelerate?
  • Roadside assistance – you can connect with a customer service rep or make an emergency call with the tap of an icon on the Hum Speaker

Setting up the device involves downloading the Hum App (iOS and Android supported) for your smartphone, creating an account with Verizon (if you don’t already have one), charging up the Bluetooth speaker (you can do this with the included USB cable and car charger) and then plugging the OBD Reader into the OBD port. Depending on your car’s make and model, the OBD port can be easily or not-so-easily found. The OBD Reader then connects with the Speaker, and the speaker connects via Bluetooth with the phone and app.

I’m not going to say that setup was a breeze – the system did take a couple of tries to connect via the OBD port, and I realized that I had the Hum Speaker turned off, which prevented the initial OBD connection and Bluetooth pairing. A quick call to the Hum customer service rep got me connected and also started capturing the vehicle diagnostics.

HumX by Verizon app lifestyle image Verizon

The Hum smartphone app gives you vehicle data such as car diagnostics, trip data and a safety score on how well you drive. You probably shouldn't use the app like this while driving, though.

After a few weeks of driving, I started to generate a bunch of data, including a Safety Score that was less than I expected. For example, in the “Braking” category, I scored a 66 out of 100. The app does give a little bit of explanation about how it achieves the score: “Your braking score is based on the frequency of hard braking while driving. Hard braking may occur when you are too close to other cars or not focused on driving.” The system also gives scores for acceleration, cornering and speeding. Even more interesting – the app/system gives these scores on individual trips, marking a starting and ending point (sometimes the starting point didn’t record the actual starting location) on a map. On the map it also indicates when there was a moment of braking, acceleration, speeding or even when the user was on the phone. Because this information is tracked from the smartphone and not the device, there could be times when it’s recording a trip when you’re either the passenger (say your spouse or teen driver is driving, and you don’t want their driving to affect your score), or you’re on a bus, train or airplane (that would really break the speed score!). Fortunately, you can tell the app that you weren’t the driver on that trip, and the scores will adapt.

My favorite part was the ability to provide Wi-Fi coverage within the realm of the car itself. This means that the kids can use their devices in the car, for better or worse. It also means you need to be aware of data charges that could happen here – video streaming services can quickly eat up your data cap. Because you’re utilizing the 4G network, speeds are a bit slower than you get with your home broadband – in my tests I was getting between 10-11 Mbps of download speed and about 6 Mbps of upload speed when idle in the car. With the car moving (and an assistant to help run the speed test), I achieved an average of 10.87 Mbps download and 4.5 Mbps upload. However, data speeds varied lots during these tests (while driving at about 60 mph on the Massachusetts Turnpike), especially during upload tests – sometimes we got 11 Mbps, and other times we got under 1 Mbps. The speeds were a bit more consistent on the download side (variances between 6 and 16 Mbps), which is good enough for users who want to stay entertained in the back seat during a road trip.

Phone calls on the speakerphone were great – my wife told me she couldn’t tell that I was on a speakerphone when I called her. It had good sound on my end as well, although I probably wouldn’t use the speaker for music streaming – you could, but you probably have better speakers in your car already.

Similarly, while the GPS and navigation functions on the Hum app are nice, they’re still not as advanced as the Waze app that I normally use. The Hum device does have a cool feature that can remind you where you’ve parked, even letting you take a photo within the app if that helps (like a parking garage level/number sign).

Sleepy time tracking with EarlySense's Live

The Live sensor by EarlySense consists of a small, round sensor device that you place under your bed mattress (between the mattress and box spring). A smartphone app (iOS and Android supported) then connects to the sensor via Bluetooth to track and monitor vital signs when you are asleep. The app does require that the Bluetooth connection be active and the phone near the device, so I’d recommend that you keep the smartphone plugged in when using this overnight.

The sensor can detect your heartbeat, breathing rates and stress levels – you can tell the app whether you’ve had caffeine before bedtime, whether you exercised that day, had a big meal and whether you had a stressful day. Once you’re in bed and the sensor is detected, the system starts recording data – so if you like to read in bed before falling asleep, it will note your “awake time” and track that as well. You also tell the app your weight and height so the sensor doesn't accidentally track sleep patterns of your cat, dog or kids if they happen to jump on the bed.

EarlySense app screens sleep tracking EarlySense

The next morning, the app gives you a whole bunch of data – you can see your heart rate and breathing rate – and the system calculates how much time you were in light sleep, REM sleep and deep sleep. It can also note when you got out of bed if you happened to get up for a late-night snack or a trip to the bathroom. The app also gives you feedback and tips on ways to improve your sleep, but I think most people would use this data to give to their doctor – especially if they were experiencing a sleep-related disorder or if they noticed something out of the ordinary. For example, on my first night using the sensor I had 69% light sleep and not a lot of deep sleep (only 4%). I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.

Over the next few days I would get more data – on some nights my light sleep percentages went up, on some they went down. I did get an alert during one night that my breathing had been interrupted, and that I should speak with a sleep specialist/doctor about a potential issue (such as sleep apnea, I’m assuming), but that only happened once, so I’m hoping it was just a glitch in the sensor (of course, if this happens more often I’m booking an appointment).

EarlySense tracking screens EarlySense

The device is even more beneficial if you want to track someone else’s sleep – let’s say you have an older parent living somewhere else. For a monthly fee (Live +), you can receive reports on their sleep patterns, which can be valuable to note, for example, if they get up during the night or if their hearts or breathing is irregular. EarlySense originally developed the technology for use in hospitals, and component costs have dropped enough where they can now offer this for consumers.

All data, all the time

I’m not sure how to respond to the amount of data that I’m now receiving, both on my sleeping and driving patterns. On the one hand, it’s cool that these systems can now track this data and provide information and analysis that can help me. On the other hand, there’s a lot of data that could be useful to others. For example, could my insurance rates go up because I’ve had a few instances of hard braking? Could my health insurance go up if my heart rate is higher than it should be?

I’m sure that the data is being protected by these apps (fingers crossed), but it does make me think about the additional information that is being produced by these devices.

Grade: 4.5 stars (both)

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At a Glance
  • Live by EarlySense

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