Controversy Brews as FitBit Deemed Inaccurate by Study

Technology & Health

Consumers have flocked to the FitBit, a piece of wearable technology that allows users to track their heart rate, steps, and caloric input and output. And while they have proved to be incredibly popular, a group of users are now questioning whether or not the wearable technology has as much merit as the company claims.

Recently, a group of consumers has filed a class action suit against the company, stating that the methods the device uses to track a wearer’s level of fitness are “highly inaccurate.” And now with a new study in their corner, things may get worse for FitBit.

A study was commissioned by the law firm behind the class action suit, Lieff Cabraser. The law firm had scientists at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona test the heart rates of 43 healthy participants, using both the FitBit’s PurePulse heart rate monitors and the company’s Charge HR.

One device was attached to each wrist and participants were then hooked up to device that would produce a scientifically accurate electrocardiogram (ECG) to test against the FitBit technology.Participants were asked to do a variety of physical tasks to measure their heartbeats, in addition to having their resting heart rate tested.

The study found that FitBit’s technology was inaccurate by as much as 20 beats per minute, and that the disparity reached its peak during more intense cardio workouts.

One of the conclusions of the study stated:

“The PurePulse Trackers do not accurately measure a user’s heart rate, particularly during moderate to high intensity exercise, and cannot be used to provide a meaningful estimate of a user’s heart rate.”

However, FitBit isn’t accepting the study’s results without a fight. The company feels that the research was incredibly flawed, though they do not state specifically how. Fitbit has responded with the following statement:

“What the plaintiffs’ attorneys call a ‘study’ is biased, baseless, and nothing more than an attempt to extract a payout from Fitbit. It lacks scientific rigor and is the product of flawed methodology.”

Despite the company’s claims, the Berkeley Science Review had also called FitBit’s technology into question in 2014, stating that the device did not accurately measure calories burned or the distance a wearer has traveled during a run or walk.