The following is an independent review of the HELO smart band.

Recently I have been given the opportunity to review a HELO smart band, a comprehensive health monitor which you wear on your wrist. HELO stands for Health and Lifestyle Oracle. Unlike other wristband monitors, what interested me is that this band not only monitors steps and heart rate but claims it can also measure your blood pressure, ECG, respiration and even your energy levels and mood! All the data syncs with an app on your smartphone (Android or iOS) and data can be shared with a loved one (imagine using it to monitor your elderly parents) or even your physician. It even comes with a Panic button mode so that you can summon help.

Sounds too good to be true for just a wristband? Read on.

Unboxing

The smart band comes in an unassuming black square packaging.

For the medical people upon us please don’t be put off by the “health stones” thrown in. Could be a gimmick but the meat of the package is the health band:

First steps

After charging up, you want to be able to sync with the HELO apps in your smartphone. There’s currently a beta HELO app for Android in the play store and an iOS one which is installed using an Enterprise license. The links are here

You power on the HELO by pressing the side button for a couple of seconds. The light turns green when the device is turned on (again it’s a tiny light so it can be difficult to see unless you dim the surrounding light or shield the indicator with your hand). After you launch the HELO app it will ask you to create a free account (using email or mobile number) and then it will automatically look for the device and pair with it via Bluetooth. I initially had some pairing issues but figured out that the problem was that my Android Phone (a Xiaomi Redmi Note 3) was still paired with my Pebble Time watch. After disconnecting the Pebble the phone could pair with the HELO band without issues. After pairing, there was an immediate firmware update and subsequently, I could use the HELO with my Android phone.

I find the layout quite simple and neat. At the top, you will see if the HELO is connected and at the upper right the battery level of the device.

The main page gives a timeline of the data recorded. You can set the automatic recording interval in the settings on the left-hand pane (e.g. to every 60 minutes) under Healthplan.

Heart rate, BP and ECG

How does the Heart rate monitor perform? I compared it directly with my Garmin Vivo smart HR band, manual timing and other digital monitors (like a hospital Dinamap) and it was pretty accurate.

I was at first pretty sceptical about the accuracy of the BP measurements. After all, the device does not use a traditional cuff and I suppose the magic sauce is some sensors (powered by a Toshiba TZ series processor ) for the microcirculation. The manufacturers naturally put out a disclaimer and I don’t think one should consider this a device for diagnosis but more for consumer grade monitoring. You are advised to perform a BP calibration at the beginning, and input what is “normal” for you. Once you have done that you could perform a BP check or a Heart health check which does the heart rate, BP and ECG for you. For ECG you have to place a finger on the sensor plate and a rhythm tracing will be generated in real time after a period. Above is the comparison BP and HR readings with a consumer grade BP set (Tensoval brand) which is pretty close I must say…

Note that all the readings measured by the HELO can be shared e.g. via email to a loved one or your doctor if you wish using a handy sharing option.

More on the ECG function and heart check

The ECG monitoring is done by placing your finger on the sensor plate so that creates the two points necessary for an ECG tracing. I found that you have to apply steady pressure and if the contact is not good there can be artefacts. All in all the tracing can give one an idea if you are dealing with sinus rhythm or some arrhythmia.

There is also a “Heart health check” option where the HELO takes the HR, BP and ECG altogether. In this mode, there is initially what looks like a pretty wild VT as the device does some measurements and then the ECG tracing comes on.

I think the three functions of HR, BP and ECG makes the HELO stand out above the crowd of wearable health tech. Like other consumer health devices, it is not meant to be medical grade (such as to be used for diagnosis and treatment) but it empowers consumers to monitor and understand their cardiovascular health better.

I initially was puzzled as I was getting twice the number of Steps recorded on the HELO as compared to the reading on my Garmin Vivo smart HR and Pebble Time (yes I wore all three simultaneously when testing!). I then realised there was a glitch in the settings of the HELO app. If you input your height and weight in kg and cm, the app would not register that and insist on putting it as lbs and inches, which means the HELO thought I was about half my size, and I suspect that made it roughly double the steps taken.

The HELO claims to monitor other aspects of your health like Energy, Mood and even respiration. I am not clear how it manages to do so. Perhaps the measurement of skin resistance or galvanic response may be behind this but I am not sure. What I found is that the energy levels were reported low when I was asleep and indeed after a long ward round when I was really tired. Respiration rate did not change even though I purposely hyperventilated so I am not sure what it is measuring. Mood is very subjective, but galvanic skin responses  may indeed reflect your mood so you never know.

As a sleep monitor, the HELO keeps a log of your sleep pattern. I found the reporting part needs some work in the beta app as it did not show the whole sleep cycle and it seems to be broken up by the 12MN mark. I have reported this bug to HELO support which acknowledged there is an issue with the Sleep monitoring section.

SOS function and monitoring

There are specialised SOS wrist bands out there but it is neat that HELO has one built in. In the free version (no subscription needed), you can nominate one person to be the recipient of the SOS which is initiated by pressing the button twice. If one subscribes to a plan, you could monitor the health and well-being of up to 20 people.

Final conclusions

I think the strong point of the device is that it is a useful tool if you want to keep track of your heart health. So folks with Hypertension, Diabetes, Ischaemic heart disease, Heart rhythm disorders may want to consider getting one. It won’t replace your visit to the doctor’s office but the fact is that you could keep close tabs on your personal heart health, record and share data with medical professionals.

Personally, I found the ECG function outstanding and if you think of it, it is like a personal Holter monitor. For patients with intermittent arrhythmias, it could be a useful tool to record the event to share with your cardiologist. Here’s a video which illustrates how it keeps track (30 days worth) of your ECG recordings:

Any downsides? Well, the band does not have any display in this current model so you cannot see real time data such as heart rate and have to refer to your smartphone app in order to do this. Having a display may impact the battery life (which is about 3 days currently) but as my Garmin Vivo smart HR can last 3-5 days with the heart rate monitor one and still have a display perhaps it is doable in the future.

The manufacturers make a promise of a future ability to measure oxygen saturation and even glucose. Whether that promise will be delivered, time only will tell, but as it is for heart health I think if you want one for this purpose it is worth considering.

There are so many benefits in this product and with the backing of two major corporate giants the following is very much worth considering

1) Be a customer azurelifestyle.worldgn.com

2) Become a worldwide business partner ( by purchasing the family / Executive pack)

Finally, whether you are looking for a career enhancement or one of the best health monitoring health aids then this is a must for serious consideration