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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014
Domesticating the beast
Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
July 12, 2012
First Published: 20:02 IST(12/7/2012)
Last Updated: 19:41 IST(14/7/2012)
A weighing machine. Not exactly the kind of device that is usually counted in the list of techie things to own, right? Wrong!

The ever-moving beast of technology that consumes all in its path has road rolled over this usually neglected dust-gathering slab too – and morphed it into a machine that has more technology and features built into it than a full-blown computer.

Sceptical? I was too, till my quest to change this ‘domestic’ appliance in my house led me on an incredible and very fruitful quest. For a person who likes to think of himself as someone who only works with state-of the-art technology, this was an eye-opener. How did I get a new weighing machine that beat the pants off most of the other technology in my house? This is the true story of domesticating the beast.

My Never-Ending Quest
I’m on a very frustrating and mostly unsuccessful adventure on automating every part of my house (that dukh bhari dastan will follow as soon as I’m done). My goal is to have everything in my house talk to each other (other than the people who live there, which is the current status due to the chaos created by my never-ending automation project).

Lights, AV equipment, air conditioning, security system, fire alarms and appliances must all sync with each other, report statuses and be controllable without any human intervention. It’s a little foolhardy and really tough to achieve – but what’s the fun if it’s easy (that’s what I try and convince myself about everyday)? Among my list of things to do was buying a weighing machine – not very exciting and thus the perfect candidate for some serious procrastination. Till it became impossible to delay it further.

Slim and sexy: With its chrome-encased backlight display, the Aria WiFi weighing machine is beautiful to look at.

A Weighty Matter
A few years ago, in a misguided attempt to have a ‘techie’ weighing machine, I had bought a very odd contraption. You stood on it perfectly still, bent down, picked up this strange looking handlebar thingie that was attached to a cord and looked like a videogame controller, stood straight up again and attempted to be totally still while holding the bar like a motorcycle handle.

It felt foolish, looked even more so, was super clunky and frankly impossible to do everyday. It gave your weight, BMI, body fat reading and some other stuff. Besides feeling like a fool holding the odd posture, it was also inconvenient as you had to write down the readings everyday to truly get some use out of all the stats it threw up.

I wanted a machine that could distinguish between different users, give me all the necessary readings, connect to a WiFi network and upload all the information to a central area, which could then be used by the different programs and apps that I use to track my fitness. And it should do all of this automatically and with zero effort or intervention from my side. Yes, that’s a lot to ask for and yes, they do say that you should be careful what you wish for – sometimes, it does come true!

Aria vs Withings
I came across not one, but two machines (it seems like there are more people on foolhardy missions, not just me, thus the demand) that can do almost everything I wanted and a little bit more. First – the Fitbit Aria. This comes from a company that has made a huge name for itself in the fitness world. It came out with the Fitbit (I reviewed it in an earlier column), a small little thing that you clip anywhere on you and it tells you exactly how active you’ve been.

Fitbit added to their portfolio with the Aria WiFi weighing machine. It’s beautiful to look at (white or black lacquered glass) with a round, chrome-encased backlight display, no physical buttons and a very high tech dimpled back. It connects to your WiFi network, identifies you and other users automatically, uploads all your stats instantly to your Fitbit account in the cloud and can also send it to about 12 other apps and websites (including Facebook and Twitter, if you’ve got the guts to share it).

Then there’s the Withings WiFi scale that does most of this. It is also very nice-looking, has a bigger display and has more apps and services (40 the last time I counted) it can share your data with. Both send a small little electrical current through your body (totally harmless) to give you fairly accurate numbers and both have iOS and Android apps so that you can track your progress on your phone or Tablet. I went with the Aria as the setup requires no USB cable (the Withing needs it for the initial setup) and also because I find the Fitbit site much better in analytics and charts (the geek in me is a sucker for charts and graphs).

Public parts: The Withings WiFi scale can share your data with 40 services.

OverKill?
To those of you who think a weighing machine that is this high-tech and costs over 6,000 bucks is overkill, well, thanks for pointing it out – I hate you for making me feel even worse about my never-ending quest for tech nirvana. But jokes aside, the very idea of perfect fitness and true good health is daily monitoring and making sure that you don’t let go of your targets.

These rocket science weighing machines go a long way in achieving that almost impossible goal without making it a tedious daily task. For the rest,  all you need to do is get singularly obsessed with supreme and radical automation in your home – and then, a weighing machine being overkill will be the least of your problems!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, CellGuru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com /RajivMakhni

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