(Pocket-lint) - In 2019 I commented that convergence wasn't helping in the sleep tracking industry. I'd spent the week sleeping in the Garmin Fenix 6 to test out the Body Battery feature - which I rate highly - but found that sleeping in a chunky outdoors watch just a little too much bother.
I called for a dedicated sleep sensor, something to wear like a cosy wristband, rather than a shockproof adventure watch.
It seems that I was wrong in calling for divergence to bring a technology solution - but I had no idea that the convergent answer I was looking for would come from Google.
I've been sleeping with the Google Nest Hub. There, I've said it.
Google is using a different approach to sleep tracking, using radar from its Soli chip embedded in the new Nest Hub. By gathering data from the light sensor, the microphones and the radar, the Nest Hub can effectively detect when you go to bed, when you get up and how you sleep between those two events.
It can monitor the room temperature, the light levels, whether you're snoring or coughing through the night - and catch you waking up because you need to go to the bathroom.
When you awake, this is all mapped out on the display and synced to Google Fit so you can analyse how you slept. It seems pretty accurate too, as I glance at the clock when I settle down to sleep and find those timings match up.
It also knows when I'm having a really restless night, giving me the data to pour over in the morning to verify that, yes, I slept badly.
The system ensures privacy - there's no camera to spy on you and the microphone isn't sharing a recording, just a timestamp of a cough or snoring event - and the processing is done locally rather than in the cloud. The data is synced to Google Fit, if you want it, but it's not like having a video reel of you in bed.
Indeed, Google made a point of not including a camera to avoid that suspicion.
Problem solved! I can go to bed as normal, sleep - or not sleep, as the case may be - as normal, and I don't have to wear anything, put anything under my mattress, or do anything. It just happens.
But that does lead me back to a point I made earlier. I know I'm a bad sleeper. I know when I don't sleep well and the data taken out of any relevant context doesn't mean anything.
The advantage that Garmin offered with Body Battery is that your sleep data is set in the context of your activity data. It gives you a virtual battery for your body that you need to recharge at night. It tells you to take it easy because you're not recovering properly.
Google is basically telling you what you already know, although it does, admittedly, start to give you feedback once sleep patterns have been established.
The Google Nest Hub justifies its position as a bedside device: it looks good, it sounds good and it's highly connected, offering a full range of services powered by Google Assistant. But this new mine of sleep data now needs to go further.
The answer might lie in a connection with Google-owned Fitbit. Google has already said it's going to look at how these two systems can work together, but nothing has been said about what the result might actually be.
The best solution for me would be the Nest Hub tracking sleep and reporting that in the Fitbit app, in the context of activity. Then, as with Garmin's solution, I can decide when to skip a planned exercise session because I didn't sleep properly, taking a whole body approach, rather than data out of context.