Just Trying To Reach 10,000 Or Competing To Step Above The Rest – How Do Wrist Pedometers Count Our Steps?

People everywhere are getting their steps in. Whether they’re attempting to reach 10,000 steps a day or participating in competitions with friends, family, or coworkers to see who can step the most, people are moving – and they want to know exactly how much. Wrist fitness trackers with built in pedometers have become a popular mode for individuals to track their daily activity, but how do these devices work?

Let’s look at Apple Incorporated’s Wrist Pedometer Step Detection technology. This technology uses motion data to determine a force comparison threshold that can be used to accurately count steps while a user is running and walking.

An illustration of a person using a wrist pedometer for step detection, included in United States Patent No. US20140074431A1

 

Patent title: Wrist Pedometer Step Detection

Patent number: US20140074431A1

Patent filing date: 2012-09-10

Patent issue date: 2014-03-13

Inventor: Yash Rohit Modi

Assignee: Apple Inc

U.S. classification: G01C22/006 Pedometers

How many claims: 18

Forces acting on a wrist pedometer can be associated with user movement, specifically when they’re walking or running. The force of gravity as well as the forces exerted by the user against the force of gravity are measured by the pedometer; changes in forces acting on the device can be used to determine step count as well as type of exercise. While standing the force detected by the pedometer is 1G (one times the force of gravity). When a user is pushing against the ground to step forward the force detected by the pedometer can rise above 1G, and while the user is between steps the force detected by the pedometer can go below 1G. The pedometer can detect when a user takes a step by monitoring forces and determining when the 1G threshold is crossed.

Forces are compared based off magnitude and frequency to accurately count user steps. Other pedometer technologies worn at the trunk have used a 0.2G comparison threshold to account for steps, meaning when the pedometer experiences a for change of at least 0.2G one step will be added onto the step count. This threshold has been set to prevent noise and standing movements from being accounted for in step count.  However, the force differential experienced by wrist pedometers change with alternating steps. With the step on the side opposing the pedometer, the force acting on the pedometer is often less than 0.2G and may not be detected by the device with this threshold in place. To overcome this issue, this devices step algorithm has included frequency of threshold crossing to account for opposing steps. If the comparison threshold has been crossed twice over a set step time, then the technology will account for two steps rather than one. This prevents the technology from missing steps – thus, increasing device accuracy.

Motion data is also utilized in this technology to account for user activity and adjust parameters appropriately count steps . Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) is used to determine dominant frequency of motion and determine user activity. If the dominant frequency is below run threshold, then steps are counted for within walking parameters, described above. If the dominant frequency is above run threshold, then steps are counted for within running parameters. While running, there is a reduction in change of force acting on the pedometer; the change of parameters takes this into account and utilizes this information to properly account for steps.

Unlike other step counting technologies on the market, this product has improved accuracy in step count. The step counting algorithm has parameters that better define noise and non-walking movement as well as a mode to account for the imbalance in force acting on the wrist pedometer during walking. Less steps are unaccounted for and less random movements are counted – making for more accurate step counts.

There are a number of pedometer technologies that exist on the market today. Regardless of brand and step counting algorithm – these technologies are giving indiviudals the ability to count their steps and measure their fitness levels, promoting an active lifestyle for those who utilize them.

Reference

Modi, Yash Rohit. (2014). United States Patent No. US20140074431A1. Retrieved from https://patents.google.com/patent/US20140074431A1/en

How it Works: Pedometers