Fitness trackers like the Fitbit One and the Jawbone Up have been gaining popularity, but these pedometer-based devices only tell part of the story. That’s the basic premise behind the Zensorium Tinké ($119 direct), a health and wellness monitor that aims to provide more metrics to help quantify your heart health and overall well-being. The small dongle plugs into iOS devices and uses its sensors to measure factors that contribute to cardiorespiratory health. Instead of tracking steps like a pedometer, it measures things like heart rate, breathing rate, and blood oxygen saturation.
With activity trackers, its clear how much you are doing and how much more you could be doing to improve your health, like getting more active and taking more steps. With the Tinké (pronounced “tink”), you simply know where your heart measurements stand in relation to national averages. Most would likely be better served by devices like the FitBit that give you more concrete goals, like getting more active, to promote a healthy heart and lifestyle.
Design and Setup
Easily pocketable at 1.65 by 1.26 by 0.28 inches (HWD), the Tinké is available in white, gray, pink, or blue. A removable cap covers an Apple 30-pin connector (it also works with newer iOS devices using a 30-pin to Lightning adapter, but you have to buy that separately for an additional $30). Two transparent circles on front expose the Tinké’s sensors. There’s a slot along the bottom that holds the cap during use.
Getting set up with the Tinké is pretty straightforward; you need to download the free iOS app, plug the Tinké into your iDevice (iPhone 3GS or later, third-generation iPod Touch or later, or iPad 2 or later), and then follow the on-screen prompts. You’ll also need to create a Tinké account, which requires information like your name, gender, birthday, country, skin tone (for measurement accuracy), and phone number (for account verification).
The Tinké measures heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate variability. It then distills these factors into two scores, represented as your Vita Index and Zen Index. The Vita Index is the more concrete of the two, taking into account heart beats per minute, breaths per minute, and blood oxygen saturation to determine your score. Zen Index is almost entirely dependent on your breathing rate, and as such, it’s more of an exercise in proper breathing rather than an actual health metric.
Since the Tinké needs to be plugged into your device, you can only take measurements while in a resting state. If you’re interested in monitoring heart rate data from workouts, the MIO Alpha BLE offers active heart rate information right on your wrist. The BLE does not take into account breathing rate or blood oxygen saturation, however, which Zensorium claims gives you a better understanding of your overall cardiorespiratory wellness.
You take Vita and Zen measurements separately, and each one requires one minute with your thumb on the Tinké’s sensor. The app then spits out your results, represented in a colorful bar graph with your scores compared against the worldwide average for your age and gender. You can share your scores with the Tinké community, but the community of active members is relatively small, at only a few thousand at the time of this writing. And there’s an option to post results to Facebook.
Recommendations and Results
Zensorium claims the Tinké is accurate to within plus or minus 2 beats per minute, plus or minus 2 breaths per minute, and plus or minus 1 percent for blood oxygen saturation. In my tests, I found that results were usually pretty close when taken back to back. But I also found that it was easy to manipulate scores by simply controlling your breathing rate. This is especially true for the Zen Index, which is more of a way to reduce stress by promoting calm breathing patterns. To that end, it’s effective, but only for that one minute while you’re testing.
The app serves up generic tidbits on how you can improve your score. In my case, I routinely received the same advice: “Your measurements are OK, but heart rate can be improved on. Exercise and healthy living habits can improve your health.” Well, that’s just common sense. I would have liked to see more specific personal suggestions. The Tinké doesn’t do much to explain what a heart rate of 72 beats per minute or 98 percent blood oxygen saturation actually means for your health. There’s a short tutorial and a brief description of each measured factor, but it doesn’t do enough to put your results into context. Zensorium claims it is currently working with doctors to provide more granular, helpful output, but for now, this is what you get.
The Tinké provides some information about your health and well-being, but until suggestions improve, it will simply raise your own awareness of cardiorespiratory health. While fitness trackers don’t focus on heart health, they do give you a concrete look at how much activity you’re doing, and many even tell you how much you should be doing. With the Tinké, you get a picture of your overall heart health, but without much context. Some might prefer the Tinké’s more passive approach to health, but I think most people who want to improve fitness would be better off with a less-expensive fitness tracker like the aforementioned FitBit One, which takes a more active approach. If you’re specifically interested in a heart rate monitor, it’s worth checking out the MIO Alpha BLE, which tracks heart rates during exercise and incorporates the data into established fitness apps. But you won’t get the sensors to measure breathing rate and blood oxygen saturation.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc