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System Claims To Prevent Cheating Fitness Trackers

January 12, 2016 - Written By Justin Diaz

Fitness trackers are becoming a more important part of life for many people these days, and with such a focus on health and fitness from the companies behind these trackers as well as the companies who make the phones they connect to, users seem to be taking more of an interest in their health and fitness as much as the manufacturers. The idea of a fitness tracker is to help users keep track of the fitness goals as well as their activity for things like how many calories they burn, how many steps they take, how well they sleep and so on. It is apparently possible to “cheat” fitness trackers though and basically fake your results.

While this doesn’t do much to benefit the user it likely makes some people feel better about themselves when looking down at their results summaries and seeing activity goals met. A team of researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern Univeristy aim to put a stop to faking out your trackers, and claim that a new system they have created provides an 84 percent chance at picking up deceptive behavior when using a fitness tracker. To do this, the research team had to conduct various tests using smartphones which included having participants shake their hands while holding their phones to attempt to trick the tracker. The team says their system could also be used in accordance with trackers and smartwatches as well so it isn’t just limited to mobile phone devices.

There are a number of different uses for technology like this but according to the team at Northwestern, the goal is to provide insurance companies with the means to assist customers who are generally active. It is worth noting however that the system is pointed out as not being completely foolproof, as someone could still find ways to collect genuine movement without actually wearing the tracker themselves. When and if algorithms like these created at Northwestern will be implemented inside of the future range of available trackers is unclear, but it registers as a “breakthrough in activity tracking” according to RIC research scientist Konrad Kording, and it could eventually become a standard technology applied to trackers.