Chelsea Viola
Staff Writer

FitBit has recently been confronted with allegations that their “PurePulse”  technology is inaccurate. Users may not have been getting accurate readings of their heart rates.

Fitbit is a San Francisco-based company leading in wearable activity-measuring technology. It has been gaining popularity among people intent on accurately measuring their exercise routines; however, there are questions about its legitimacy.

A study conducted by researchers at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona utilized FitBit devices and compared their heart rate detection accuracy with the results of an electrocardiogram. The conclusion from this study was that on average, during moderate to high-intensity activity, the FitBit was off by 19 beats per minute.

Controversy erupted from this study with concerns of its experimental integrity and inherently lucrative interests. A lawsuit was filed in January, seeking “compensatory and punitive damages,” implicating that the capricious nature of FitBit’s PurePulse technology can potentially expose critical consequences on its consumers.  

“What the plaintiffs’ attorneys call a ‘study’ is biased, baseless,” as stated in a public statement by FitBit regarding these allegations. “Nothing more than an attempt to extract a payout from Fitbit.”

Criticisms of the study’s scientific procedures were also expressed in FitBit’s statement, condemning its “lack [of] scientific rigor and the product of flawed methodology.”

The study’s sample size is particularly small — only 43 subjects were tested. Based on the available information, this experiment has presumably been conducted once, illustrating the possibility of bearing different results if experimented again.

Consumer Reports conducted tests reaping results contrary to the Cal Poly Pomona study, stating that the FitBit products HR and Surge “passed [their] tests handily, accurately recording heart rates at everything from a leisurely walk up to a fast run.”

This is not the first time FitBit has been hit with a first class-action lawsuit. FitBit and Jawbone, FitBit’s big competitor in the wearable fitness tracker market, have been in an ongoing legal battle concerning accusations of FitBit purposely “poaching” Jawbone employees, intertwined within a bigger plot to steal Jawbone’s secrets. On top of this already messy legal conundrum, both companies filed a patent infringement lawsuit on each other.

This is also not first time that FitBit’s product quality has been the center of contention. Its previous product, the FitBit Force, received a backlash from consumers due to problems of the wristband material inciting painful skin rashes on wearers. After the lawsuit was filed, FitBit discontinued the FitBit Force.

It is safe to say that the FitBit executives must have burned an exorbitant amount of calories jumping through so many legal hoops.

Chelsea Viola is a second year Political Science & History of Public Policy double major, and is the 2016-2017 National Beat reporter for The Bottom Line. She is proudly from the Bay Area (Go Warriors!). In her spare time, Chelsea enjoys admiring dogs from a far, watching tv shows that induce existential crises (like Twilight Zone & Black Mirror and all of Food Network), and attending concerts.