The Aria of Design

As part of my weight loss regimen, I have been keeping a close eye on my day to day weight. I know full well that its going to fluctuate each day based on how much water I have drank and how much food I recently ate and with that knowledge I use it as a guide and some entertainment.

Originally I was using an average digital scale that could handle 360 pounds but after talking with my sister about my FitBit tracker, she said I could have her old FitBit Aria. It’s a sleek looking WiFi enabled smart scale that does two major things: it measures your weight, and it measures your body fat percentage.

From the day I brought it home I could not get the Body Fat Percentage function to work and I went online to find out answers. It turns out that there is very little information on a real solid fix other than calling FitBit to see if they will send you a replacement and then you can just toss the old one. However, I wasn’t going to take that road.

I found an article online that shows how to open the scale at the following link:

Before I decided to open up the scale, I checked with my sister and she said that the Body Fat function worked just fine when she had it. Also, I took another step that isn’t mentioned anywhere else and that was to remove the cover that is over the display. From there I could see how the surface connects to the computer and that in turn is the reason for this issue.

The FitBit Aria Smart Scale looks really modern and with the digital display, WiFi, and glass top it appears to be very well designed. But with any product there are flaws to trump that assumption and in this scale it has to do with the glass surface.

I reasoned that the metal surface on the glass had to connect to something and that something should kick back a resistance value if I could measure it. So I got out my multi-meter and checked the Ohms of the glass surface and found that not all of them would give me a reading. Without knowing more about what I was dealing with inside the scale, I plunged into the guide and opened it up.

Why there are screws in the battery compartment is a mystery to me because even with them removed it was a real chore trying to separate the two halves of plastic. There are little tubes in the top that little posts fit into from the bottom and at least one of them was glued together. FitBit doesn’t want you to try and repair this thing. After opening it, the inside looked exactly as it does in the instructions but what isn’t covered is the pathways for the Body Fat sensors.

On the computer, there are four wires going to contacts on the upper right that lead to four points near the display. Each wire connects to a clip that touches the glass on the other side, underneath the display cover. The contacts themselves are labeled as RT, LT, RH, LH or (Right Toe, Left Toe, Right Heel, Left Heel). Connect the multi-meter to RT and LT and you should get a positive value and then do the same with RH and LH. When I tested the connections under the lid, they all show resistance so I knew then that it had to be something with those clips.

Here is where the design of this scale is its downfall.

Most other devices that measure body fat use metal plates that you touch but this scale uses a metal coated glass and you can’t solder a wire to it. What they did is press a metal contact against the glass with the hope that it would remain there with enough surface area to allow current to pass into the coating and through you and the computer. But the clip on mine came so ever so slightly loose from the surface and then the Body Fat function quit.

The fix was rather simple after finding this by just pressing down on the little contacts on the glass surface to make sure they touch the coating. You can’t really glue the contacts down though because if you get anything between them and the coating, you lose the signal.

By just pushing down on those contacts, my scale works perfectly and now I can get a better picture of how fat I really am. 😛

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One Response to The Aria of Design

  1. Heri says:

    I used to have a Fitbit aria ; very slick device and well designed app. Like you, i didn’t find it amazingly reliable though !

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