Withings Smart Body Analyser and HealthVault

Published : Wednesday 15 October 2014

The exciting world of interconnected smart health devices is not ready for the mainstream ...

Please note: this content is 10 years old. It may be of lower quality or no longer accurate.

Having recently got in to self quantification I decided to purchase a number of devices to start to build up my eHealth data. One such device was the Withings Smart Body Analyser, which is essentially a fancy set of digital bathroom scales.

The main reason I purchased these were the fact the automatically recognize the user and upload the data using Wifi radically simplifying the data collection experience. The other key reason is that Withings reportedly works with Microsoft HealthVault a Personal Health Record (PHR) platform.

Getting set up

Out of the box the first step to get them configured is to connect to them via bluetooth to enable the WiFi connection.

I went about pairing the scales with my Samsung S3 Mini Android Phone. Pairing went okay but the app never seemed to wake up to the fact that they were paired. Despite numerous attempts and pairing/unpairing etc. I gave up.

Luckily I also have an iPhone 5 which I use for work. This paired and connected first time and enabled me to setup WiFi. I was quickly registered with Withings and uploading data.

Now one of my key quantified self goals is to try and get key data in to my HealthVault account. So I set about using the online interface to try and get this working.

(Click for full resolution)

That’s not what I wanted to see! Undeterred I figured I’d share my Withings data with another app that can then forward  it to HealthVault. After a quick Google I discovered FitBit worked with Withings and also with HealthVaullt. Moments later 404 not found….. Argh!

The thing to note is that Withings are currently migrating between platforms and it seems in the process have  broken a number of key features. They have some work to do. With the benefit of hindsight and a bit more research I notice a number of users are reporting issues with their “platform” and the fact HealthVault users have been left high and dry.

After some frustration I email Withings to find out what is going on.

“I apologize, but at present we no longer have support for Microsoft HealthVault. I cannot say if or when this will change, but I will forward your feedback along to our partnership team. I apologize for the inconvenience that this is causing. "

Ignoring the fact they didn’t bother to address the FitBit issue I pressed  them a little harder for some insight to their product roadmap ….

“We cannot give a date as we do not even know if it will occur. I apologize, but at present they are no longer supported.”

Note that despite this, Withings still remain listed on HealthVault as compatible devices. Now technically you can Bluetooth to the scales and upload the data file to HealthVault so there is some compatibility, but by that measure my analogue bathroom scales and Excel/Notepad are also HealthVault compatible! I’m pretty sure that isn’t the experience most people will be looking for!

With that said, I do like the look and feel of their new platform, however without the ability to interoperate with the rest of my health and well-being data I haven’t given it much more time or attention, but I guess it is a work in progress.

My Verdict

While the concept and the product has the potential to be great it is clearly early days and Withings have some way to go before this solution is accessible to the masses and it seems very unclear how an eco-system will flourish. I smell vendor locking ahead.

If you are using Apple and don’t mind a closed platform you’re probably going to be okay. If you want to do a bit more you might want to look at the alternatives, as at present the features and usability don’t measure up to the price tag.

Dan's Blog

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