Fitbit adds auto-detection of biking, running, elliptical, and more

By Jonah Comstock
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Fitbit has added a new functionality to its Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge trackers that will enable the device to readily distinguish between different kinds of movement, and has also upgraded the heart rate sensors in the trackers.

The automatic exercise recognition feature, called SmartTrack, will be automatically pushed out to current users of the two devices in an update. With the update, the user's Fitbit will be able to automatically identify when users are on the elliptical, biking outdoors, running, or walking. It can also pick up the general categories of sports and aerobic activities. Users can decide which activities they want to count as exercise and how long they need to participate in an activity before the Fitbit starts tracking it.

“Our users find exercise in all parts of their day, including activities like short walks with the dog or a bike commute to work," Tim Roberts, VP of Interactive at Fitbit, said in a statement. "These new features allow them to focus on their exercise, giving them credit for their most active moments and letting the technology do the work to automatically track progress toward their fitness goals.”

In addition, the heart rate tracking has been updated to provide better tracking during high-intensity workouts like Zumba. And a new feature will be added to the Fitbit app for users of all Fitbit devices (not just the Charge HR and Surge). The feature will allow users to set exercise goals and will help them to exercise a certain number of times per week.

In the past, this kind of passive exercise detection has often been a selling point for other trackers looking to compete with Fitbit. For instance, the Basis Band (now owned by Intel) added the ability to differentiate between walking, running, and biking in 2013. Moves, the passive tracking app now owned by Facebook, can automatically detect walking, biking, public transportation, and driving/riding in a car.