As someone who’s been thin most of his life, I’ve never felt the need to monitor my caloric consumption. But go to any fitness club or jogging trail and you’ll see lots of sweating bodies intently eyeing pedometers to see how many steps they’ve taken and how many calories they’re burning. Now, a group of Georgia Tech University students have developed a device they believe could provide a handy, round-the-clock solution to those obsessed with monitoring their calories.

Called HappyHR, the small, rectangular shaped instrument looks like an MP3 player rather than a fitness monitor. But once strapped around the wrist or ankle, the instrument gets busy monitoring the person’s physical activity and caloric consumption, even while he or she is asleep. The data it collects on heart rate and exercise is transferred via Bluetooth to a PC, where statistics can be analyzed through Web-based software.

HappyHR is the brainchild of Garrett Langley, a 21 year-old senior at Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. An avid runner, Langley began developing the device as part of a senior design project, partially out of frustration with current tools used to quantify fitness results. He envisioned the device as providing a fitness monitor more capable than a simple $30 pedometer but far less costly than a $400 health monitor. The project soon became a group effort among several fellow engineering students and received mentoring support from Steve Chaddick, a Georgia Tech alumnus and chairman of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering advisory board.

Although HappyHR focuses on counting calories, Langley believes the device could also be adapted for other health applications, such as respiratory and glucose monitoring. If HappyHR becomes commercially available, the device could sell for around $100.

A commercially available personal fitness monitor for $100 could find appeal beyond fitness freaks, to include the elderly or people with health issues wishing to monitor calories, heart rate, and other factors.