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Track Your Gluttony—and Lose Weight—with Jawbone’s New UP App

Fitness trackers (those little wearable pods that seem to be on everybody’s wrists or in everybody’s pockets these days) do a pretty good job keeping track of your activity levels and estimating your caloric burn. They aren’t perfect, but they’re better than nothing. The thing is, they can only see half the equation. It’s good to measure calories out, but what about calories in?

Well, an update to the Jawbone UP app for iOS is adding a bunch of new features to help you keep track of what’s going in your food-hole. For those who don’t know, the company's UP (and the more recent UP24) are among the more popular wrist-worn activity trackers out there.

Now, Jawbone's iPhone app will support easy search for food items. You just punch in what it is (hard-boiled eggs, for example) and the quantity (three, medium-sized) and it will be added to your food log, which will keep track of your daily intake of calories, protein, fats, carbohydrates, sodium, and other metrics.

What’s more, the app will come pre-populated with a database of menu items from popular restaurants across the country (mostly chains). This means you’ll be able to plug in an In n’ Out Double-Double to get the number of calories, rather than have to enter all the components individually (patties, buns, cheese, etc.). For smaller restaurants, you’ll have to add stuff in manually at the beginning, but as more people use the app, more menu items will be saved to Jawbone’s database, which means items will continue to get easier to find.

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. MyFitnessPal has been around for a long time (in both web and app versions) and has built up quite the database of food—over three million items as of now, mostly user-generated. That’s going to be hard to compete with. Also, MyFitnessPal already integrates with some very popular fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, Withings, and (curiously) even the Jawbone UP.

Where Jawbone may have an edge, though, is in the design. The app simply looks terrific. There are several layers of polish that MyFitnessPal just doesn’t have, which makes it cleaner and a whole lot easier on the eyes.

The company has also built some neat intelligence into it. For example, if you enter in cereal, it knows you’re likely also going to want to add milk, so milk pops right up, eliminating the need to search for it. It has created pairings for several dozens of food (many of which you can see in this interactive map), and that, combined with the smarts to learn some of your favorite meals, may make logging your food a quicker, easier process.

Creating a food journal is one of the most powerful weight-loss, fitness tools out there, but it’s notoriously tedious and tough to stick with. Anything that makes it easier is certainly a welcome change. The biggest downsides to Jawbone’s new app is you need to own an UP or UP24 device to use it, and the new version has not yet been released for Android.

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goTenna

Wouldn’t it be nice to communicate directly with the other members of your party without having to rely on shaky cell service or WiFi?

Thanks to goTenna, a new communications device that launched Thursday, you can. The rugged off-the-grid tool pairs with your iPhone or Android via BlueToothLE to enable users to send and receive text messages (160 characters max) and share their GPS locations. It’s a bit like a super walkie-talkie with a range of up to 50 miles, depending on terrain.

The big bonus: it only costs $150 per pair, with no subscription fees. Field radios or sat phones can cost 10 times that.  

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It’s a nifty, affordable solution to communication in the backcountry where you rarely have reliable cell service. Say everyone in your hiking party is on the system. It would be easy to relay messages between the group, even if you got separated on the trail. Or a guide could use the device to make sure all her clients make it safely back to base camp.

As handy as goTenna might be on a backpacking trip, it was initially conceived as a tool for emergency situations. Founders (and siblings) Daniela and Jorge Perdomo came up with the idea during Hurricane Sandy when millions of people across the East Coast were left without electricity or Internet. They realized people needed a way to communicate even when cell towers were down.

goTenna could also be used while travelling abroad (forget expensive, convoluted international phone services), or anywhere on-the-grid where it’s easy to lose members of your party (think music festivals and soccer stadiums). 

The gadget has one major limitation: you can only send and receive messages from other goTenna users. You won’t be able to send an emergency text to your girlfriend back home if she’s not on the goTenna network.  

So is it about to replace all our backcountry emergency communication devices? No. But is it a game-changing tool for the majority of us who hike without $1,000 field radios or travel without international phone plans? Absolutely.

Pre-order for $150, gotenna.com

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Your Travel Photos Are Helping Rhino Poachers

Seeing a rhino in the wild is one of Africa’s quintessential safari experiences and a lump-in-your-throat moment for those lucky enough to realize the dream. This is what you came to the continent for, right? 

Maybe you’ll zoom in with your SLR camera and snap some great shots that you’ll edit later and share online with friends. Or perhaps you’ll take quick pics on your cell phone and post on Facebook or Instagram within minutes.

Either way, what you might not realize is that the second you share that photo online, you could be helping a rhino poacher find his next victim.

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Finding Rhinos

The Hospitality Association of Namibia recently posted a photo on its Facebook page of a sign hanging in a safari vehicle that reads: "Please be careful when sharing photos on social media. They can lead poachers to our rhino. Turn off the geotag function and do not disclose where the photo was taken."

Geotagging is the process of automatically including geographic information in cell phone pictures. When you share your photos with others, the information is embedded within the photograph, and anyone with access to the Internet can extract that data from your picture.

Plug the longitude and latitude into Google Maps, for example, and you could discover the exact spot where the photo was shot, give or take a few feet. Combine that with the fact that rhinos are very sedentary and often hang out in the same general area for days at a stretch, and you have a potentially serious situation.

"If you’ve got a fresh GPS coordinate for a rhino—or you know where it’s going to water every night—it’s very easy to quickly find and poach it," explains Chris Weaver, director of the Namibia program for World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Rhino poaching has dominated the news recently, as the number of endangered animals killed over the past few years has risen astronomically—all in an effort to sell the horns of the prehistoric mammals. Some believers of traditional Asian medicine think pulverized rhino horn will cure strokes, convulsions and fevers, among other ailments.

Though there is no scientific proof of such medicinal value, rhino horn is nonetheless highly prized—so much so that a single rhino horn can fetch $250,000 on the black market.

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Faux Tourists

As more and more of the endangered rhinos are killed, conservationists and government officials in some parts of Africa have become extremely protective. In fact, they try not to discuss the animals publicly anymore.

"While Namibia would love to boast about its success with relocation of protected species into private parks and the growth of its rhino population and rhino tracking activities, unfortunately such positive news may draw poachers to our area," said Gitta Paetzold, CEO of the Hospitality Association of Namibia. To combat this, several organizations have started educating travelers about how poachers can pluck GPS coordinates off photos that tourists post on social media sites.

Poachers can also examine your photos and identify markers in the background, such as a particular grove of trees or a mountain peak. And some illegal hunters even pose as tourists, going on guided expeditions on game farms or in national parks. The first time this happened, in South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, two men killed a pair of white rhinos. The men were later arrested. It’s even happened in India, where poachers killed a pair of one-horned rhinos in Kaziranga National Park.

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Guides, of course, lead their visitors right to where the rhinos are, and the faux tourists may then snap photos without raising any suspicions. Would-be poachers or informants can then send a photo with a location tag to anyone or return to the spot later to seek out the rhino.

Weaver was recently exploring the Namibian desert with some guests when he came across a group of tourists who took an unusual interest in two white rhinos. They snapped more than the typical number of photos of the animals with their cell phones and spent more time with them than Weaver has observed during his 20 years working in Namibia.

"I’m thinking, how would a person know that they’re not just forwarding these photos on to China or Vietnam and saying ‘How much will you pay for information on this rhino?’" Weaver said. "Pass that on, and five minutes later, you’ll have an answer back: ‘I’ll give you X amount for that set of horns."

It’s not a far-fetched proposition. In South Africa, for example, officials have become more vigilant about rhino tourism, documenting the names and visits of tourists. Weaver said he’s even heard of some spots where cell phones are forbidden on safari vehicles.

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How You Can Help

Although visitor photos may inadvertently help poachers on occasion, there is a silver lining: travelers can actually be a huge aid to rhino conservation efforts, especially in Namibia where tour operators work with community members who value wildlife and work tirelessly to protect it.

"You as a tourist are actually making a difference," WWF’s Weaver says, explaining that a portion of tour payments go toward community conservation efforts. "Your tourist dollars create long-term incentives for people to set aside habitat for wildlife and live with wildlife."

To ensure you’re not aiding poachers with your travel photos:

  • Disable the geotag function in the settings section of any smartphone you use to take photos.
  • Strip off the location data on photos previously shot.
  • Be mindful of privacy settings on social media sites. if posting photos of rhinos, only share them with trusted contacts.
  • Pay attention to fellow tourists. If you see someone acting out of the ordinary or hear a few too many questions about where rhinos are and how long they’ll stay there, alert national park staff or your guide. That person could be a poacher informant.
  • Be wary of sharing too much information with overly interested people, such as taxi drivers or hotel staff. If a line of questioning gets too detailed about the location of an animal you saw that day, answer vaguely.

Learn more about what WWF is doing to stop rhino poaching.

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