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MyZone’s hybrid fitness tracker breaks free of the chest strap

Mat Smith, Richard Lawler and Engadget
·3-min read

MyZone is the fitness company you’ve seen or heard of, but possibly never used. Its chest-strap heart rate monitors have tracked (often high-level) fitness types during their gym’s HIIT classes, while using connected treadmills and the like. You’ve probably seen its MZ-3 chest strap before, but today MyZone has announced an upgraded model that doesn’t have to wrap around your torso to track your workouts. The company says the MZ-Switch is the first device in the world that monitors both PPG (photoplethysmography) and ECG (electrocardiography) readings for more accurate activity monitoring with fewer “blind spots”.

The crux here is how the accuracy of wrist-based heartrate monitors (i.e. most wearables) can be affected when you grip an object, affecting blood flow in a way that isn’t truly connected to your effort. That said, MyZone says the wrist-based monitor should still be 95% accurate “for any non-gripping activity with repeatable movements,” which includes swimming alongside more typical activities like running and HIIT. The tracking technology is standard stuff, using an optical flow sensor that shines an LED light into the skin to measure the movement of blood in the arm. That flow is matched to the heartbeat pumping blood around the body to determine the user’s heart-rate.

For exercises that do involve heavy wrist movements (think activities like weight training or rowing), the MZ-Switch can be attached to your forearm or you can break out the trusty chest strap. The forearm monitor uses an optical blood flow sensor (like when you wear the device on the wrist). The chest still provides the most certainty, with 99.4% ECG accuracy and more responsive heart rate monitoring.

MyZone
MyZone

The device has a built-in memory of 36 hours for tracking workouts away from your phone or gym’s networks and it can hook into Android Wear, Strava, Garmin, MapMyRun and Apple Health. The MZ-Switch is unequivocally a fitness peripheral that’s separate from the wearables you might already use to track your workouts. (MyZone’s software will even integrate with Apple and Samsung wearables.)

The company plans to target its new tracker at corporate health programs and education, alongside its usual stable of big gym chains. According to MyZone CEO Dave Wright, the MZ-Switch is aimed at expanding the appeal of the company's high-precision fitness tracking, simplified enough for us non-athletes to understand and comprehend. MyZone has long distilled your physical exertion into easy-to-comprehend color codes (green is easy, red is hard) and this is an attempt to make a chest-based fitness tracker that’s less intimidating.

Because it just... tracks (there is no screen), the battery life is unlikely to be a concern. MyZone estimates you’ll get 140 hours of battery life on a single charge if used for chest-based tracking while using it on the wrist or forearm (using PPG technology) it should last 35 hours. Once you’ve sweated that much, you can just attach it to the USB charger.

The MZ-Switch is available to buy direct from MyZone starting today, priced at $160.