Helo LX – Measures Blood Pressure, ECG/EKG, Heart Rate, Breathe Rate, Steps and more!

So about a month ago, I wrote about my frustrating time with my Fitbit Charge HR which I have owned for less than a year.  I wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the product as the device couldn’t power on within a few months, started peeling and bloating at the band which cannot be replaced. After the 3rd replacement, I think enough is enough. Time to move on. My colleague moved on from the Charge HR to the Blaze which costs $300++ here in Singapore. I wasn’t inclined to remain loyal to Fitbit as this was already my 2nd Fitbit product and technologies used isn’t exactly groundbreaking either.

After searching for almost a month, skipping mainstream brands such as Apple, Garmin,  Fitbit, Jawbone, etc, I caught sight of the Helo (Pronounced Hee – Lo).

Helo is a healthcare wristband that can be worn 24/7 much like your typical fitness band. The key difference is that it is not just a fitness band. It is a health and wellness wearable that is developed to continuously monitor your vitals such as:

  • Blood Pressure (Yes, without the cuffs!)
  • Heart Rate
  • Breathe Rate
  • Steps
  • Mood and Fatigue Levels
  • Sleep Quality
  • Blood Glucose Levels (No needles, coming Q4 2017)
  • Blood Alcohol Levels (Q4 2017)
  • And more to come

I was initially skeptical. How the hell can this device measure some of these vital signs without cuffs, needles and such? As a technology savvy person, I had my reservations so I questioned the company and did my research and found that PPG (Photoplethysmography) is used by many products such as Apple Watch, Fitbit and more for their Heart Rate detection. From my investigation, a PPG signal offers much more than just your heart rate. For example, a simple Google search on PPG ‘s role in blood pressure measurement yields plenty of medical articles on them such as this. They key takeaway is that PPG is able to provide reasonably good estimations of the blood pressure measurements in a continuous manner (due to the portability of the Helo) which is impossible to achieve with a standard blood pressure measurement device with a cuff. You can’t really go about your day with a blood pressure machine attached to you all  day with the air pump going off every 30 minutes to inflate the cuffs right?

Vital signs measurements are useless if no one sees them (or only you see them). We tend to procrastinate about going to the doctor or seeking medical treatment when we are not feeling that good. This is usually because of the fear of being diagnosed with something serious. Isn’t it the case that your spouse, parents or children are the ones who will drag you to the clinic or hospital when you let slip that something isn’t right about you? Spend some time thinking about this!

Working together with the Helo, the Android / iOS mobile companion apps work to close the gap between receiving and abnormal vital reading and getting the follow up actions. The Guardian function allows you to pre-set conditions that will automatically trigger an alert to yourself and your loved ones / caregiver. You just need to set upper and lower thresholds for your systolic/diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and breathe rate and the app will do the rest for you. Of course, you’ll first have to set up your guardian(s)’ contact details to use this feature.

Another useful feature is the Panic Button. This is a physical button on the Helo for very easy access (just press twice) but works hand-in-hand with the mobile app to send mobile notifications and SMSes to your guardian(s) containing the last known GPS location as a way to report an emergency. This is extremely useful for anyone especially young children and the elderly. Potential use cases:

  • Child who got lost
  • Child feeling unsafe (e.g. suspect being followed by stranger)
  • Elderly who fell down
  • Elderly who got lost
  • Anyone feeling dizzy, on verge of collapsing, etc (potential medical emergency)

At the end of the day, it is not only the technology of the health and wellness band but also the thought put into developing a product that does more than just display pretty numbers on an app. Even as a tech person, I am more intrigued by the Guardian and Panic Button feature.

Want to find out more? Drop me an email at howard@hj.sg

If you want to order a Helo, please use this link: http://catalog.worldgn.com 

P.S. I have ordered one for my wife too.


Fitbit disappoints. Looking for alternative.

I got my first Fitbit Flex (Gen 1) in 2014 and used it for almost 2 years until April 2016 when I decided to upgrade for a few reasons

  • I got really sick of changing the bands. Each band, even the original ones, lasted me an average of 3 months before cracking and splitting.
  • I wanted that Heart-rate monitor feature badly

So fast forward to April 2016, I threw the still-functioning Fitbit Flex aside and got myself a Fitbit Charge HR (Gen 1). I love the heart rate detection feature as it allows me to track my heart rate when I have my rare jogs or when I feel unwell.

In July 2016, barely 3 months after the purchase, my Fitbit Charge HR started peeling at the bangs and the band got bloated. A few days later, it became non-responsive and cannot be powered on again. Dead.


I contacted Fitbit Support and sent them this photo as per their request (Nice right? I just bought a lightbox back then and happened to be in the mood of taking photos in the light box)

There was much back and forth between Support and me and I got pretty frustrated because they were asking me one question per email and each email took several days to get a response from them.

Finally, they agreed to ship a replacement to me – all the way from the U.S. Luckily, it didn’t take too long (a week+) for me to get the replacement. It took an entire month (till August) before I could close the matter with them.

Fast forward to December 2016. Despite extra care taken by me (and almost zero instance of exercising with the band -_-), the bangs started peeling again and the bloating happened too. I discovered that the skin of the band was glued onto an inner band and adhesion doesn’t last more than a couple of months with daily removal of the band (it’s stupidly not waterproof enough to even wear into the shower).


I raised a ticket with them in January 2017 and this time round, they wanted me to take a photo of the band with a piece of paper with handwritten date and a case number that they have just issued to me.

As you can see from the image, the bloating is quite bad on this one. I requested for them to issue me a store credit so that I can order a different (more expensive) model that may not fail on me so often. No matter how I explained about the frustration that I had to go through due to the product flaw, they refused to obliged. They insisted to send me a replacement Fitibt Charge HR again. I’m obviously less than pleased.

I am now looking around for a new fitness / wellness band. I do hope I can find a band that looks decent and can do more than just telling me about my heart rate. Maybe one day, I can measure my blood pressure without using my clunky Omron machine. Just maybe.

Anyway, good bye Fitbit. Thanks but no thanks.

Recording IP Camera Footages onto NAS or local storage

In my previous post, I shared about my overhaul of IP Cameras in my home. I ditched the 3 cheap D-Link DCS-930L and went for 2  D-Link DCS-5222L IP Cameras. One great feature of this camera is the ability to do RTSP streams. Cheaper IP Cameras usually stream in Motion-JPEG format which I personally find the quality crappy and may not have the audio stream available.

After a few days of research, I concluded that I need to get a camera that streams H.264 via RTSP so that I can capture them natively as mp4 files. D-Link DCS-5222L does that and the price was pretty reasonable for its RTSP support, 720p resolution, PTZ feature and good viewing angle. The hardest thing to do is to choose software that will:

  • Stream from the cameras via command line
  • Dump the video stream as H.264 Mp4 files
  • Save the audio stream in the same file container
  • Segment the footages at my chosen interval with appropriate file naming
  • Reasonably crash-resilient (I’ll explain why later)

I’ve tried many off-the-shelf products and the best one out there appears to be Webcam 7 Pro. It is reasonably stable but captures mainly MJPEG streams only without audio. It does a good job segmenting files and you can even make it auto delete footages that are X days old. Enough of this lest I sound like I’m promoting the software.

I found that VLC is a good candidate as it has robust command line features and can be used to relay a media stream as a fresh broadcast or dump a stream to file with real-time transcoding i.e. you can transcode a H.264 stream into a mpeg file for storage (but you don’t want to do that of course because mpeg files are larger). The problem with VLC that I face is that it crashes easily and that seems to be a bug which caused a stream to be decoded to some raw format causing my disk space to fill up overnight. In the end, I use VLC as a monitoring tool as I can easily launch the RTSP stream by passing the IP Camera URL, port, credentials and the fullscreen parameters via command line.

Here’s how I did it for my camera:

vlc rtsp://admin:[password]@[ip address]:[port]/live1.sdp –fullscreen

Remember to replace [password], [ip address] and [port] with your own values.

Moving on to the next candidate, FFmpeg. 

FFmpeg has been around for many years and many video conversion / broadcasting software including VLC make use of components from FFmpeg! As mentioned above, I needed something that can save both video and audio streams, segment files (so that you don’t get a huge 100GB file after a few weeks) and be able to use timestamps as the filename.

After tinkering for a day or two, I decided that this will work for me:

start “Door Cam” “ffmpeg.exe” -i rtsp://admin:[password]@[ip address]/live1.sdp -c copy -map 0 -f segment -segment_atclocktime 1 -strftime 1 -segment_time 1800 -segment_format mp4 -vcodec copy -acodec aac -strict experimental -ab 64k “.\Recordings\DoorCam-%%Y-%%m-%%d_%%H%%M.mp4”

The above command (yes I know it probably contain redundant flags because I whippped this up with much trial and error) will:

  • start reading the video and audio stream as defined in the SDP file of my D-Link DCS-5222L
  • copy the video stream “as-is” and convert the audio (from PCM mu-law) to AAC @ 64Kbps and mux them into a mp4 container
  • segment the files (chop up the files every 1800 seconds (30 minutes)
  • synchronise the next segment on the clock (i.e. 12:30pm, 1pm, 1:30pm, etc)
  • Give each segment a meaningful filename (e.g. DoorCam-2016-12-4_1030.mp4)

The results:

Don’t worry about the errors. It happens a lot with live streaming devices such as an IP Camera


And of course, if you mapped your NAS to your operating system, FFmpeg can dump the files there.

That’s it for now!