Microsoft's Updated Band Fitness Wearable Is Geared for Cyclists

The company's wearable device now helps bicyclists track their activities and evaluate the health impact of their rides, among other new capabilities.

Microsoft Fit Band

Microsoft is currently rolling out an update for Band, the company's health-focused wearable, allowing bicyclists to get in on the fitness-tracking craze.

After applying the update to Band's accompanying Microsoft Health app for iOS, Android or Windows Phone, users can begin including their biking activities in their health profiles. A new Bike tile allows users to track their outdoor and indoor rides and tunes the device for users who are pumping pedals instead of pressing the pavement.

"When the Bike tile is active, the heart rate monitor is optimized specifically for biking activities," stated Microsoft in a Feb. 23 announcement.

Similarly, Cyclists can now also use the device's built-in GPS to map their rides. New indoor bike guided workouts include Tabata Sprints, Hour of Sweat, Total Body, Bike Pyramid and Intervals. The update also includes elevation tracking, speed analysis and estimated recovery times.

A Quick Read displays notifications, emails and texts using "a large font size and in [a] rapid succession of words," allowing wearers to glimpse full messages without interrupting their workouts, according to the company.

Users that have paired their Bands to a Windows Phone 8.1 device gain a new virtual keyboard that uses Microsoft's World Flow prediction technology to minimize errors. Alternately, they can simply speak their message replies using the new Cortana-based voice capabilities. The Microsoft Health app now features integrations with HealthVault, the company's personal health records platform, and MapMyFitness.

To get third-party developers on board, the company also launched the Microsoft Band SDK (software development kit) Developer Preview. The SDK provides coders access to the device's myriad sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate, skin temperature and UV light, as well as app personalization features.

Also new is a Web experience that demonstrates it's not just businesses that Microsoft is courting with its insight-gathering analytics capabilities.

"Today, we are launching the Microsoft Health Web dashboard—allowing users to slice and dice their data in new ways, including new observations, extended data views and more detailed charts that complement what is already available via the mobile app," announced the company. "The Web dashboard is accessible via any Web browser, providing a powerful complement to the Microsoft Health mobile app, which helps users track progress to their fitness goals."

Microsoft launched both the Band wearable and its Health app on Oct. 29. The $200 device was tough to get hold of during the crucial holiday shopping season, and remains periodically out of stock—a situation some observers say the software giant may want to correct if it seeks to capitalize on the expected boom in health and fitness wearable device sales.

CCS Insight, a technology research firm, recently forecast that sales of fitness and activity-tracking wearables would double this year, compared with 2014. All told, the analyst group expects the category to make up an estimated half of the 75 million wearable devices that will ship this year.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...