In the “House & Home” section of last weekend’s Financial Times, an article titled ‘Domestic Science’ talked about internet-operated vacuum cleaners that feed pets, refrigerators that track emptying cartons of milk, and the $10 Savant TruControl iPad app that helps control home systems’ remotely (tied to a $6,000 home-based system). The article also touched on the Withings WiFi body scale.

The Withings scale communicates wirelessly to a computer or mobile phone, transferring and automatically recording the user’s weight, BMI, body fat percentage and other parameters to a secure, password-protected online system. The user can choose to tweet their weight via Twitter if they choose to go the social networking route. The system enables users to create charts showing progress (or lack thereof) for each of these metrics, creating PDFs for printing out and saving.

Withings started up in France in 2008 by three entrepreneurs in the technology and telecomms industries. 

Health Populi’s Hot Points: It is not hyperbole for me to say that the Withings scale has changed my life. I do not often go into personal details in Health Populi, but in this case this post is taking the form of a Consumer Reports blog with positive ‘full moons’ to recommend the product. “Knowing your numbers” is an important concept in personal health: my colleague and friend, Amy Tenderich, founder of DiabetesMine, wrote a book on the topic for diabetics, and peer-reviewed research has proven the worth on one’s tracking personal health metrics like weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, heart and lung function, and daily calorie intake.

The Withings scale passes my health consumer-test with flying colors on several critical factors. First, usability: it’s easy to pair the scale to your home WiFi network, a task that takes a matter of a few minutes with simple instructions. Once the scale is located (in my case, the master bathroom), it becomes a thing of beauty: its streamline design and slick black exterior is indeed a Shiny New Thing in our loo; good design is an important facet of our daily lives in Chez Kahn, integral to our familial feng shui. But it’s the usability that’s key: you stand on the scale, and within 30 seconds the digital read-out calculates weight, BMI, and fat mass, all recorded without pen, pencil, or fingers on keyboard. Once logged into the Withings site via ID and password, the user can create goals and access other applications for further quantifying oneself. And if you’re a visual learner like me, the ability to print out charts and watch personal progress is both educating and encouraging. Finally, if you want to socialize your numbers, you can do so via TwitterFacebook and many other applications.

The Withings scale is part of a new generation of consumer-facing, easy-to-use, elegant devices that are the building blocks for self-powered home-health hubs. That the application goes mobile via iPhone, iPad and Android adds to its usability and functionality on a 24×7 basis for bolstering whole health. This is a $100 investment that will pay back many, many times over: spoken from the sensibility of an economist married to a banker.