Beyond general products from Fitbit and Jawbone, there have been activity trackers proposed for women, kids, fingers and dogs to measure the number of steps one takes per day. But for many, there's more to a successful day, such as the time one has been able to concentrate or balance rigorous activity with some quiet calm. One wearable gadget not only measures activity, focus and calm, but the overall balance of the three in a day.
It's called Spire, which--in addition to evoking a peak and words such as "aspire" and "inspire"--shares the root of "respiration." Unlike other activity trackers that just measure steps, the $150 Spire measures how its wearer breathes. As many management studies have shown, prolonged periods of not breathing can greatly diminish productivity
From the patterns it detects, Spire can determine periods of calm and focus. Its companion app plots these against wearer-defined goals to determine how good a job the wearer is doing at balancing activity, focus and calm. Unsurprisingly, it can be quite difficult to achieve desired levels of all three consistently on a daily basis.
A smooth, display-free pebble-like presence with a sturdy clip, Spire's battery can go several days without needing a charge; the company bundles a Qi wireless charger that can plug into any USB port. But to do its thing, Spire must maintain contact with the skin to measure breathing so it's best clipped with the functional side facing inward on underpants or a bra.
Given that the device is a bit thicker than than the average clip on a product such as Fitbit, this can occasionally get a bit uncomfortable on the waist, but is easily remedied with a quick readjustment. The wearer also may need to fiddle with it to address notifications from the iPhone that Spire has lost contact with the body. The nicely designed companion app will also track streaks of activity, focus and calm but would do well to focus more on macro trends.
One of Spire's goals was not just to inform people of their state of mind, but to help them take actions in response to it. To help with this, the app includes what it calls "boosters" to help enhance focus, calm down and motivate. While better than nothing, these are merely short audio recordings that don't measure their effect using Spire. There are more comprehensive meditation guides in the iPhone app store.
Other wearable products have been proposed to measure one's mental state. The Emvio watch measures stress, but competes for valuable wrist space with offerings like the Apple Watch and Pebble Time. The Vigo headset tracks focus, but is far more conspicuous. While Spire may need the occasional intervention and falls short on closing the actionability loop for now, it nonetheless helps provide unique directional insights on the mix of mental modes one engages in throughout the day.