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June - July 2006

 

Omron's Sales Surge
Omron in Japan has reported its first-quarter (April-June 2006) financial results, and its healthcare business showed a 21.5% year-on-year surge in sales, to 15.06 billion yen ($130 million).

In Japan, blood pressure monitors, body composition monitors and digital pedometers performed well as health consciousness continued to rise around the world.

Overseas, sales of blood pressure monitors, a core product, were weak in North America, but demand in Europe expanded, primarily for electronic blood pressure monitors, driven by the growth of emerging markets such as Russia and Eastern Europe.

In Asia, sales declined in China due to intensifying competition, but sales grew steadily in Southeast Asia.

In addition to the above, the net sales of Colin Medical Technology Corporation (current name Omron Colin Co), which became a consolidated subsidiary in June 2005, contributed to sales.

July 29th, 2006
 

Fashion Thermometer for Kids
This is new to me - a colorful kids' ear thermometer from fashion house Benetton. I can't find anything about it on the corporate Benetton website, and it doesn't seem to be on sale at Amazon.com. But a few online retailers sell it.
July 24th, 2006


 

 

Breathalyzers for Schools
Lifeloc Technologies has announced that it is providing demonstrations of its FC10 Plus breathalyzer at the National Association of School Resource Officers conference in Palm Springs. According to the announcement from the company:

The FC10 Plus offers “passive” testing, allowing for a simple “positive” or “negative” instantaneous test to be administered without using a mouthpiece. Tests can be repeated hundreds of times in rapid succession, allowing event coordinators to test students quickly at a very low cost. Passive testing can also be utilized to detect the presence of alcohol in beverage containers.

Read more about the
Lifeloc FC10 Plus Breathalyzer.

July 17th, 2006

 

Put down Your Pitchforks
It seems pedometers aren't as well known in the UK as they are in America. Here's the introduction to a review from the British CNet for the new Nike+iPod Sport Kit (which includes a pedometer):

This is Apple's new pedometer. Put down your pitchforks, lynch mob! A pedometer doesn't have an unhealthy interest in children, it measures how far you've run.
July 17th, 2006

 

Easy, Accessible and - Let's Face It - Big Brand Solution

Shiny Shiny ("A Girl's Guide to Gadget") likes the new pedometer-equipped Nike+iPod Sport Kit

The Nike menu will appear on your iPod nano, and it's there that you can set up runs, choosing runs based on things like time, distance or calories burned. Sadly for me, the minimum running settings are 20 minutes, 3km or 2 miles. I could have created a custom run of - say - 10 minutes, but then the Nike+iPod would have thought I was a loser.

...I think this is an excellent service - so long as you're happy to be wed to both Nike and Apple for ever more. Similar services are available: Nokia has a sports phone with a pedometer that will give you feedback, there's also the BioTrainer, MP3 Pedometers, and the Fitbug and numerous other services. But none of them combine music, online fitness tracking, community and pedometer features in such an easy, accessible and - let's face it - big brand solution.

July 14th, 2006

 

A Nice Idea, Worth Exploring
PC Advisor magazine attends the British launch of the Nike+iPod Sport Kit - a programmable pedometer that slots into a pocket in your running shoes - and comes away less than impressed:

As someone who loves running (possibly uniquely among IT journalists), this sort of thing should be right up my street. And I do mean running, not 'jogging'. But I can't see myself shelling out.

It strikes me as a nice idea, worth exploring, but for now the costs involved are too big. And the unique features are a touch gimmicky.

The success of sports-based GPS kit and the extortionate price of brand name trainers only serves to illustrate the booming market for unnecessary jogging equipment. And the joining of Nike and Apple marries two beautifully airbrushed, devil-free brands for people with more money than sense.

...I also wonder about the accuracy of the distances calculated. The chap I spoke to was candid enough to admit that, while it's much more accurate than a traditional pedometer, the Nike+iPod is not as accurate as satnav. GPS kit may seem on the face of it to be much more expensive, but you can use it with any pair of trainers so it won't wear out after a few months.

My verdict? I know plenty of serious runners (without beer guts) who love nothing more than buying kit to enhance their workout experience. And make themselves look good. But they won't want to restrict themselves to Nike trainers and they don't all own nanos. I do, as it goes, but I reckon I'll stick to my GPS. (They'll probably sell millions).

July 13th, 2006

 

A Perfect Combination
Motley Fool contributor Jim Gillies explains why he loves Garmin (the stock, that is):

I believe that GPS-heavyweight Garmin, a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick, may be the perfect combination of growth, shareholder-aligned management, and high-quality earnings. The company is a cash machine (though not a cheap one), has recently doubled its dividend, and sported cash and investments of $764 million on its last balance sheet, with no debt. It has the best-regarded products in the exploding personal navigation device (PND) space, dominates the market for aviation GPS, and produces a myriad of other GPS-related products for marine and outdoor applications. There are so many great aspects about this company that, unless shares get ridiculously overvalued, I'm happy to tuck Garmin's shares away for the long term.
July 12th, 2006

 

New Breathalyzer

AK Solutions USA has announced the release of the AlcoMate Prestige breathalyzer. A press release says:

The AlcoMate Prestige is the first product of its kind to feature patent-pending "pre-calibrated replaceable alcohol sensor modules," which means that the Prestige is the only portable breathalyzer on the market that never requires re-calibration.

The Prestige gives industry professionals a convenient and reliable method of monitoring blood alcohol concentration, and altogether eliminates the costly, time-consuming method of traditional re-calibration which involves physically shipping breathalyzers back-and-forth, to-and-from service centers.

By offering simple "snap in, snap out" replacement of alcohol sensor modules, the AlcoMate Prestige can reduce the delay caused by sensors in need of calibration from several days to just several seconds.

July 12th, 2006

 

A Perfect Combination

The Sunday Times reports on plans by LG to introduce its breathalyzer-equipped mobile phone, the LP4100, to the British market [note that the newspaper wrongly attributed the device to Samsung]:

Britain is seen as one of Samsung’s largest potential markets because of the popularity of binge drinking and gadget-packed mobile phones with young people.

July 10th, 2006

 

Breathalyzers Not So Sharp
Retailer Sharper Image is being forced to reimburse customers who bought its breathalyzers in the belief they were highly accurate. The Monterey County Herald reports:

Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo announced Friday that his office has reached a settlement with the Sharper Image Corp. for falsely advertising the accuracy of a line of breathalyzers. Under the terms of the settlement, the corporation will pay a $100,000 penalty and reimburse consumers who purchased the devices, a restitution that could amount to $1.2 million.

The case involved Sharper Image's advertising and sales of a digital breath alcohol tester, a personal device that purportedly measured a consumer's breath alcohol level. Marketed under the model numbers BT 300, BT 301, and BT 302, the devices were said to be "accurate to .001 percent blood-alcohol level.

The case was initiated by the San Diego City Attorney's Consumer Protection Unit after a city employee compared the device's results to a breath tester used by the city's police department during a training program. According to the complaint, joined by the district attorney's office, the device was not accurate.

July 8th, 2006

 

What Did You Expect for $8.50?
The Japan Times reports on a body-fat monitor with a problem - it couldn't actually measure body fat.

Handy Body Checker, sold by the Japanese Consumers Cooperative Union for around 800 yen to nearly 1,000 yen per unit, claims the percentage of a person's body fat can be measured in five seconds if users put their thumbs on the scale's metal plate.

But the scale was found to show estimated body-fat percentage figures only based on body data the person enters into the scale before using it -- height, weight and gender -- the officials said.

The co-op union has sold about 6,800 units at about 80 outlets across the nation since September. A Nagoya-based dealer had imported the product from China.

The problem surfaced when a user complained in June that the body-fat figure was always the same.


Though if you ask me, the price should have flashed a warning about the quality of the product - 1,000 yen is roughly equivalent to $8.50.
July 6th, 2006

 

 

Weigh to Go

Frankly, I can't imagine why anyone would need travelling scales. But, under the headline "Weigh to Go," the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is recommending the Tanita KD-400 foldaway travel scale:

It could help with portion control while you’re on the road, and its features also include a weighted stainless steel base, 11-pound weight capacity and tare function. The fold-up display creates a narrow, vertical footprint that can fit right in on the cookbook shelf.
July 3rd, 2006

 

LG LP4100 Cell Phone with Breathalyzer

An ABC News report says that Korean manufacturer LG plans to introduce its LP4100 breathalyzer-equipped cell phone to the US market during 2006.

The company placed several models on the market in [South Korea] last year and already has sold more than 200,000 units.

...Here's how it works: Users blow into a small spot on the phone, and if they've had too much to drink the phone issues a warning and shows a weaving car hitting traffic cones.

...The LP4100 also allows users to set up the phone so on certain nights and after a certain time they do not call certain people in their phone book. Think ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.

If you have a blood alcohol level over .08, the phone will not let you dial that person. So it not only promotes sobriety, but chastity — and probably your dignity, as well.


LG previewed the unit at CES 2006, and it attracted some media attention (with multiple appearances of the headline "Friends Don't Let Friends Drink and Dial"). Continue reading...

June 28th, 2006

"Most Cheap Pedometers Are Inaccurate"
Tests on 1,000 cheap pedometers have found that three-quarters of them gave inaccurate readings of more than 10%, with a third of them out by 50% or greater.

John Brewer, director of the Lucozade Sports Science Academy, said he was not surprised by the findings.

He said cheap pedometers could be triggered by motion other than that associated with walking, or might not respond to the motion of every stride.

However, he added: "The whole idea behind pedometers is to get people excited about taking exercise, and achieving targets and goals, and that is a good thing."

Mr Brewer said the best way to use a pedometer was to set oneself a succession of targets of increasing difficulty.

..."There is no point in using a pedometer simply to count your daily activities, it must be an encouragement to do more."

June 22nd, 2006

 

Garmin - Prime Position
Business Week tells us it's "time to home in on Garmin" (the shares, that is):

The maker of GPS-enabled products and other communications gear, Garmin is well-run and poised to grow. It has S&P's highest rating.

...We think the personal navigation device market is poised for mass consumer adoption, and believe Garmin, as a market leader, is in a prime position to capitalize on the upswing.

June 21st, 2006

 

Breathalyzer Beat
Please check out a new mini-website that I have created, Breathalyzer Beat, intended as a brief buyer's guide to professional breathalyzer resources.
June 20th, 2006

 

Pay-As-You-Weigh Body Fat Monitor
Mars Electronics International, a leading provider of coin-in-the-slot devices, has announced a new body fat/body composition monitor, integrating bill-acceptance technology with the BodySpex monitor. The result is a monitor that can be placed in public kiosks, allowing easy access to members of the public wishing to pay a few dollars to check their body composition.
June 20th, 2006

 

 

NuMetrex Heart Rate Monitor Sports Bra
When I was working in investment banking in Tokyo (up until 1992) I remember there was a real buzz around the business world concerning something known as intelligent textiles - new, high-tech fabrics that perform all kinds of functions, like monitoring your health or receiving broadcast signals. Several Japanese companies were supposed to be leaders in the field.

Since coming to live in Australia I've not followed the topic. But recently I learned of an actual product based on intelligent textiles - the NuMetrex Heart Rate Monitor Sports Bra. It's a bra that incorporates sensors to monitor your heartbeat. It was released to the market at the end of last year.

It seems to be a fascinating product, and possibly the harbinger of many more - equally fascinating - clothing items. I've written a short report on the NuMetrex bra.
June 16th, 2006

 

CBS Recommends Gadgets for Your Health
The CBS Saturday Early Show interviews Petra Kolber of Health magazine about personal health monitors for your fitness program. She recommends:

- Nike+iPod Sport Kit
- Garmin Forerunner 305
- Numetrex Heart Sensing Sports Bra
- Omron HJ-112 pedometer
- Sharper Image Talking Pedometer
- various software downloads

June 12th, 2006


Hall of Famer - the Garmin Edge 305
The Toronto Globe and Mail adds seven items to its "Travel Gear Hall of Fame." Among them the Garmin Edge 305, about which it says:

Three hours lost in the woods on a mountain-biking expedition made me realize I was no Daniel Boone. I tried checking the sun and reading the moss, but no dice — my wife and I came close to spending the night in the Ganaraska Forest. What we needed was the Garmin Edge 305, a GPS unit designed for cyclists. By looking at orbiting satellites, the Edge tells you how fast you're going, how far you've gone, how steep a hill is, and much more. And you can flip to the navigation page and find your way out of the wilderness — or around the city. It can be mounted on any bicycle (with the included clips), and it's super-accurate (since it uses the same technology the U.S. military uses to guide smart bombs).

June 12th, 2006


A Pretty Satisfied Lot
"All in all, Garmin shareholders seem to be a pretty satisfied lot," says the Kansas City Star, in a report of the Garmin annual general meeting. Sales of the company's GPS products, including the Forerunner personal health devices, continue to boom.

Reuters quotes the Barron's financial newspaper as forecasting that Garmin shares could rise 25% in the next year.

June 12th, 2006


Garmin Forerunner
A couple of articles recently have put the spotlight on GPS exercise training systems. I've already mentioned (below) the excellent article in the Kansas City Star, which also included a "Quick Gear Guide" sidebar and a piece on the success of the Garmin Forerunner GPS training device.

The other article - a little muddled - is from Reuters, and also looks at recent trends towards GPS training systems.

In response, I've collected here a series of reviews on the Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS personal training device.
June 7th, 2006

 

The Underwater Pedometer
But will it catch on?

Students at Unity Middle School in Boca Raton, Florida, have devised an underwater pedometer, to count laps swum in the pool, as part of an annual Inventions Project.

"If you want to see how far you go, there was really no good way to measure it," [co-inventor Bill] Peery said. "You could measure the pool or guess. But this way, you know."
June 6th, 2006

 

 

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