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Biotech Cellphones Science

Researcher Hacks Nine Sleep-Tracking Devices To Test Their Accuracy (brown.edu) 44

A determined researcher at Brown University extracted "the previously irretrievable sleep tracking data from the Hello Sense, from the Microsoft Band, and nine other popular devices," according to an anonymous reader, "by decompiling the apps and using man-in-the-middle attacks." Then they compared each device's data to that from a research-standard actigraph. Their results? The Fitbit Alta seems to be the most accurate among the other nine in terms of sleep versus awake data... Our findings tell that these consumer-level sleep reports should be taken with a grain of salt, but regardless we're happy to see more and more people investing in improving their sleep.

Researcher Hacks Nine Sleep-Tracking Devices To Test Their Accuracy

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  • I was asleep [wikipedia.org]!

  • Is there a kinect or similar motion sensing based applicaton for this? That's kind of the obvious way to do it instead of accelerometers on the wrist when what you really want to track is the torso - especially if people already have a kinect.
    • Seems like that would be complicated by bed sheets.
      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        Seems like that would be complicated by bed sheets

        It's only very large movements that matter so I cannot see how that would in any way be the case.
        I see the wristbands as being less useful due to them tracking the arms and so not being able to distinguish between an arm movement and a rollover, so a source of false positives.

    • You'll do better by buying and wearing a recording pulse oximeter to bed. If you have obstructive sleep apnea (which is pretty common, especially in older people) you typically stop breathing as your throat closes when you relax in real sleep. This drops your O2 saturation, which triggers a reflex that wakes you up. So your O2 sat oscillates up and down all night long, and you live tired all of the time because the only real sleep you get happens when your head and throat are in a "just right" position. Sleep apnea is dangerous both acutely and chronically -- inadequate sleep is associated with weight gain, heart disease, and more. The "pulse" part is also useful, as one can often identify periods of REM vs deep sleep as one's pulse varies somewhat, smoothing out during deep sleep cycles, bouncing around a bit with the arousal of REM.

      There are other causes of bad sleep, of course -- restless legs syndrome, anxiety, etc. and these may be characterized more by movements and tossing and turning and not so much by oxygen, but a pulse oximeter might be almost as useful as a fitbit or whatever for detecting that via the pulse variations.

      rgb

  • by known_coward_69 ( 4151743 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @09:17AM (#54418011)

    If you have trouble sleeping, change your habits

    DON'T STAY UP LATE. i'm usually in bed a little after 10 and no later than 10:30pm
    go get some exercise. being exhausted from running will do wonders to help you sleep
    Don't watch TV before bed. No TV in bedroom
    Stay away from electronics before bed including gaming
    don't drink alcohol before bed
    don't eat too close to sleep
    keep your bedroom cool around 50 degrees or less

    • by Anonymous Coward

      keep your bedroom cool around 50 degrees or less

      Even I would find under 50 F to be chilly at night.
      Did you mean 50 C? Yes, I agree the bedroom should be less than 50C

    • If you have trouble sleeping, change your habits

      Define "trouble"

      THAT is the point of these devices.

    • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:36AM (#54418389)

      I try to avoid devices with displays while sleeping. But the boss insists on showing PowerPoint presentations during staff meetings.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you have trouble sleeping, change your habits

      DON'T STAY UP LATE. i'm usually in bed a little after 10 and no later than 10:30pm

      That's gonna totally suck for those working graveyard shifts and 2nd jobs.

      go get some exercise. being exhausted from running will do wonders to help you sleep

      some exercise many people do. it doesn't lead to exhaustion. I can do 1 hour of running 2 hours before bed and not be "exhausted". I can also do 15 minutes of sprinting and feel like vomiting soon afterwards.

      Don't watch TV before bed. No TV in bedroom
      Stay away from electronics before bed including gaming

      I really do how people have managed to convince themselves that watching TV or "facebooking" before bed doesn't negatively impact them. I've run into so many people that swear to me that it helps them sleep.

      don't drink alcohol before bed

      I'm pretty sure that "d

    • by waspleg ( 316038 )

      You know, there are already people who have been diagnosed with a disorder and would like to monitor their own health more closely to make sure the treatments they're receiving are actually working for example, monitoring O2 levels over night when you have apnea to make sure the machine you have is actually doing something.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      50F degrees? That's too COLD!!!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At the bottom he disclaims a few points that mean this was a pointless exercise with too many variables and not enough controls.

  • It probably violates tons and tons of laws. Reverse engineering, decompiling, any attempt to even understand how the process works is illegal or is believed to be illegal by law enforcement. And adding terms like man in the middle etc does not help.
    • Reverse engineering,

      Is explicitly protected in the DMCA when done for purposes of interoperability, and is generally considered legal for any purposes other than circumvention of a protection device when there is no NDA or other effectively similar contract in play.

    • ... any attempt to even understand how the process works is illegal or is believed to be illegal by law enforcement ...

      Way to go, Chicken Little. I always figured you for a feathery, thoughtcrime propaganda stooge.

      Data extraction methods [github.io]

      Most of these techniques are more akin to screen scraping than decompiling or reverse engineering.

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:16AM (#54418269)

    Article Title: Researcher hacks nine sleep-tracking devices to test their accuracy"

    First sentence of summary, right under the title: A determined researcher at Brown University extracted "the previously irretrievable sleep tracking data from the Hello Sense, from the Microsoft Band, and nine other popular devices.

    Note that the first says "9 devices", the second says "1+1+9 devices".

    I know it's asking a lot for TFS to match TFA, but is it at least possible to match Title and TFS?

  • the Fitbit Alta seems to be the most accurate among the other 9 in terms of sleep versus awake data.

    The Fitbit Alta seemed to detect asleep vs awake almost identically to the other devices. Most of the other devices could do far more and a few differed in their results.

    It's like using a fitness tracker and saying well the Fitbit was the best at identifying I'm not yet dead. Whoop de do.

    Anyway. $139 for the Fitbit Alta, or $3.99 for the Sleep app on the phone. Both seem to give the same Asleep vs awake results but at least the latter can tell you how asleep you are.

  • Scary that this is coming from a researcher.. They mention that polysomnography is the defacto standard for sleep measurement and then state that the best way to run this experiment is to use all 10 devices at the same time? How about you use each device for 1-2 nights at the same time as the polysomnography and then you can compare the accuracy of each device against an industry standard? As if you are going to strap 10 devices on and around you and have any kind of normal sleep activity..
    • Yeah, I was quite disappointed. I'm familiar with the other test by Dr. Christopher Winter, which he references. In that test, Dr. Winter wore the devices while hooked up to a polysomnograph, which can accurately measure sleep cycles -- something these devices purport to do. The actigraph in this test only measures sleep/wake state, which is less detailed than the devices that were tested.

  • I've had two sleep studies.
    One when I was first diagnosed was on their premises, properly wired up to all kinds of gear and when it was over I received a multi-page report with charts and graphs that clearly showed the data.

    The second was done by 'Snap diagnostics' at home. The gear came loose, fell off repeatedly and I spent most of the night without it attached. They then took four months to tell my doctor to increase my pressure.
    No data, no report, no evidence that the test even worked.

    I still don'

  • I can only comment on the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 since it's the only device that tracks sleep that I've had. The times for going to sleep and waking up are pretty accurate. Of course I can't say anything about the validity of the "deep sleep" time.
    Since most of these devices seem to use similar hardware I don't think there can be huge differences on them

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