Tag Archives: FitBit
How will children respond to a world where personal data is ubiquitous? Bill Schuller is starting to find out with his two young children and will be sharing his story at the upcoming 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference.
Bill started tracking his exercise and weight in 2010. His preschool-aged son, listening to his father talk about his daily metrics at the dinner table, began to imitate Bill’s tracking behavior, regularly stepping on the scale, not to watch his weight, but to “just check my numbers.” Bill then designed tracking games for him and his son. One of them involved putting things away in the house while tracking steps and gaining “clean-up points.”
This fun talk will feature more stories on the creative ways Bill and his children are playing with self-tracking. As a preview, we have a version of the talk that he gave in San Diego in March 2012. Watch the video and then find out at the conference what further data adventures Bill has had with his kids in the last year and a half.
The Quantified Self Global Conference will be held in San Francisco on October 10th and 11th. Registration is now open. As with all of our conferences, our speakers are members of the community. We hope to see you there!
Data gave me power to talk about the issue.
We highlight a lot of great show&tell talks here that focus on personal medical mysteries and understanding one’s own health. Well, this one really hit home for me. I’m a runner and I’m constantly battling minor injuries and recurring knee pain. It’s nothing terrible, but it’s at that level of annoying that really makes it hard to enjoy running as much as I should.
Mark Wilson was having similar issues. After running a half-marathon his knee started giving him trouble. The typical treatments didn’t work for him, but instead of giving up running he turned to self-tracking to understand his knee pain (you can see a snap shot of Mark’s running (blue) and knee pain (pink) over time in the header image of this post). In this show&tell talk, filmed at the QS San Francisco Meetup, Mark explains how he built a database that pulls information from different sources like Fitbit, Runkeeper, and his self-rated knee pain, and what he’s learned from that process.
I think most importantly putting all this data together and being able to look at it gave me power to talk about it. Because, I can’t really describe how much despair I was feeling just looking at my knee and thinking, “What the hell is wrong with you? Why is my knee hurting?” I felt like I was trying everything I could on my own and it just wasn’t working. So I wanted to collect a lot of evidence against my knee to indict it.
This data-backed indictment enabled him to have better and more productive conversations with his physical therapist and he began to understand how to move forward. Is it working? You’ll have to watch his great talk to find out:
Here at QS Labs we’ve been curious about the differences between two of the most popular devices among self-trackers: The Nike+ FuelBand and the FitBit. I’m the latest experimenter on this topic, and since January I’ve been wearing a FuelBand on my left wrist and a FitBit (original model) in the right hand coin pocket of my jeans. The FitBit almost always counts significantly more steps than the FuelBand.
The details are interesting. When Bastian compared his FuelBand vs his Fitbit, he found a slight correlation between his activity level and the difference in the number of steps they counted. In other words, them more active he was, the more the two devices disagreed. When Ernesto did his FuelBand vs Fitbit test, his numbers closely matched. My data is more like Bastian’s, but with the effect of high activity even clearer. Look at the graph below. On the vertical axis is the difference in step count, by day. On the horizontal access is the number of daily steps Fitbit counted. The higher the number of “FitBit steps,” the more likely it is that “Fuelband steps” are much lower.
If you’re like me, then you’re always looking for new ways to learn about yourself through the data you collect. As a long time Fitbit user I’m always drawn back to my data in order to understand my own physical activity patterns. Last year we showed you how to access your Fitbit data in a Google spreadsheet. This was by far the easiest method for people who want to use the Fitbit API, but don’t have the programming skills to write their own code. As luck would have it one of our very own QS Meetup Organizers, Mark Leavitt from QS Portland, decided to make some modifications to that script to make it even easier to get your data. In this video below I walk you through the steps necessary to setup your very own Fitbit data Google spreadsheet.
Step-by-step instructions after the jump. Continue reading
We are not the only ones curious about whether our activity level looks different when seen with different trackers. Bastian Greshake, co-founder of OpenSNP.org, has been comparing his FuelBand and his Fitbit for months. Here’s what he found.
Inspired by Ernesto’s post I wanted to take a look at how my data for the Fitbit and the FuelBand compare to each other. I started wearing the FuelBand in October of last year. Since then it has only left my wrist to recharge the battery. I was already carrying a Fitbit Ultra, which I’ve had since May 2012. I wear the FuelBand on my dominant arm. The Fitbit is usually clipped to the pocket of my jeans and I have it on my non-dominant arm while sleeping. From my day-to-day experience I have a sense that FuelBand steps are usually a good way below the Fitbit steps. But I also thought that the difference was getting smaller, probably due to firmware updates on the FuelBand.
Using the Fitbit-API (and it’s integration into openSNP) it’s quite easy to get a file that contains all step counts measured with the Ultra. If you have an openSNP account you can download the complete file, also including sleep data and body measurements here. Unfortunately the Nike+ API isn’t ready yet, so one needs to manually scrape the data. As this is boring work that can’t easily be automated I only got FuelBand step data back to 2013/11/16. Still, that should be enough to get a first insight on how both devices compare.
Gary and I were inspired to start looking into activity tracker data by James Wolcott’s comment in his recent Vanity Fair Story:
According to Fitbit, I took 7,116 steps on November 27; Jawbone has me at 2,192, a bit of a discrepancy. I prefer to believe Fitbit’s higher tally is the correct one, because that is the cotton-candy cloud on which I dwell, but perhaps I’m fooling myself and Jawbone has me accurately pegged as a potted fern. Further testing is clearly indicated, as they say in those clinical trials.
Wolcott is talking about the Jawbone Up. Neither of us own a Jawbone UP (yet), but we were nonetheless curious: do common activity trackers agree? We know that this could be studied rigorously, but the first step is just to find out what happens in our own real use. Gary had a Fuelband, I had a Fitbit. Each of us bought the one we were missing. We focused mostly on step counts as this is one of the most common metrics that activity trackers provide.
At the last San Francisco QS meetup group event, Justin Fu shared the story of how he lost 40 pounds in 15 weeks using the Fitbit, how tracking affected his relationships, and how he developed a slew of new habits. Check out his inspiring story in the video below.
I’m typing this post while flying back to Southern California after spending a few days at a “Big Data” conference in San Francisco. One of the best things about the conference was meeting the subject of today’s round of Numbers From Around the Web. I first stumbled upon Bastian because he’s the main instigator and developer behind a great project called openSNP. Simply put, openSNP is a place you can host your direct-to-consumer genomic data for the world to see, understand, play with, download, well you get the point. This is a really interesting phenomenon that deserves it’s own post, but we’re going to explore some really neat QS experimentation and learning Bastian engaged in to better understand his sleep.
So, I found out about Bastian because openSNP announced that they also built a method to link and host Fitbit data (you can do that here if you’re so inclined). Turns out Bastian is an avid Fitbit user and has been using it to explore his sleeping patterns. His first major insight from his data indicated that in about 5.5 years he should be sleeping 24hrs per day:
So I downloaded my data from openSNPand started playing around with it: I did a simple linear regression over the time series and could indeed find a trend towards more sleep. The regression came out as y = 0.5x + 417, which ± says that for each two days that pass I will sleep a minute longer, which also means that it will be about 2000 days (or 5.5 years) until I will sleep 24 hours a day.
So yes, obviously regression may not be the best tool in the statistical toolbox to understand sleep so he decided to examine another question: “Do I sleep better or worse when there is someone in bed with me?” Using his sleep and calendar data he was able to identify nights he spend alone and nights he slept next to a warm body and found some pretty interesting stuff.
You can clearly see here in his table of 80 days of sleep (60 alone vs 20 with a companion) that he actually tends to sleep worse when he is sharing his bed. While he spends more time in bed, he takes longer to fall asleep, spends more time awake, and is awakened more often. For those of you who are not statically inclined those p-values indicate the probability that the difference in the two categories is due to chance (you can learn more about p-values here).
Like many good scientists he dug deeper to make sure what he was observing wasn’t related to other confounding variables such as the day of week:
Bastian didn’t find any significant differences in sleep quality between weekend and week days for his sleeping situation, but as one might expect he’s less active and sleeps more on weekends.
So, while this analysis might seem simplistic, one of the great things about Bastian and what he’s developing at openSNP is his willingness to be open with his data. Do you have some ideas about what you might find about Bastian from his Fitbit data? Have another hypothesis about sleep? Well you can test it out by downloading his data! You can start by reading his excellent post about this sleep analysis here.
Every few weeks be on the lookout for new posts profiling interesting individuals and their data. If you have an interesting story or link to share leave a comment or contact the author here.
Two weeks ago I threw a Quantified Self Meetup in beautiful downtown Louisville, and I’m writing this post, two weeks later because I’ve finally come down from the experience. We had a total of four speakers and 13 people show up to the recently renovated iHub co-working space. And I even convinced my mom to postpone her trip back home so that she could speak at it, too. Score. By all accounts it was a great night. If you missed it, check out the abridged recap below (and show up next time!).
Brushing Ain’t Easy
Our first presenter was my friend and long time Quantified Self Louisville aficionado, Alex Frommeyer. Alex has a local start-up that is building a blue tooth toothbrush called the BEAM toothbrush. The idea is to stick sensors into a toothbrush along with Bluetooth technology so that you can keep track of your or your loved ones (kids) brush strokes in a mobile application. Alex talked about the Quantified Self movement in general, the BEAM brush in particular, passed around samples and also spoke about the niche for oral care within QS. The talk was really well received, as I had to cut off the question period, and fend off my mom, who kept bugging me to see if she could get the hook up on a BEAM brush, so we could get to the next speaker.
Let Me Ride… My Personal Dashboard
I have to hand it to Nick Such, because he was really the force behind this meetup. Nick lives in Lexington but really wants a group like this to exist in Kentucky and I can’t thank him enough for helping put this event together. Not only is he a super cool guy, his presentation was super cool too… as he spoke of how he started measuring things by tracking the gas mileage he would get on an old beater he drove in high school and college. That love for efficiency later translated to him joining the Solar Car Team at the University of Kentucky, and ultimately to him tracking and creating a personal dashboard that he presented to the group. He uses the dashboard to track sleep, activity and food consumption, and I’m personally hoping that Nick comes back to speak again after having a chance to dig through his data with questions.
You’re a Data Customer
Next up was my old Humana Innovation Center comrade, Shane Regala, who I now owe a big favor. Shane won the unofficial “who’s wearing the most personal tracking devices at the same time” contest, coming in at four. He also handed out a copy of Ubisoft’s Yourshape Fitness Evolved 2012 Xbox Kinect game to a lucky winner that guessed the number of steps he took on a random Saturday as a volunteer soccer coach (the right answer was 18,000). Shane delivered a visionary talk that related his personal experience tracking his sleep with two small children in the house to the bigger picture of how tracking may be used by payers, to help us all lead healthier lives in the not so distant future. It was also great to get a peak at some of the projects Humana’s Innovation Center is working on, as well as soak in some of Shane’s abundant energy.
Last Night a Fitbit Saved My Life
Last but certainly not least, was my very own mother. My mom’s story is that she first felt symptoms related to Multiple Sclerosis in 1985, but wasn’t diagnosed until 1987. She is still able to walk and live a somewhat normal life, fortunately, and has a never give up attitude. But as you can imagine, it’s hard for her to stay motivated sometimes. As the story goes, my wife and I had purchased Fitbits for ourselves earlier this year and then bought one for my mom for Mother’s Day. We got her all set up before she flew back home to Minnesota and two weeks later, I received this E-mail from her in my Inbox:
I just had to tell you guys, I am so-ooo psyched(sp), I got my weekly results for last week, (5-28 to 6-3), I walked 20,724 steps, distance, 7.69 miles, and burned 10,303 calories. WOW!!!!! I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and I’ve lost 3 pounds since last time I was there. Not much, but dang, it’s a start. I told him my kids gave me the Fitbit for Mothers Day, and he thought that was great. I told him how motivated I am, because I can see the results, as I do them!! I told him I was thinking about getting a three-wheeled bike too, for exercise, and he really thought that was a good idea!!! I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and I laid there trying to decide, get up, or go back to sleep? I got up, got dressed and went for an early morning walk. I kept walking until I did a mile. My legs hurt so bad when I got home, I could hardly pick them up, but I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know for all you walkers, that doesn’t sound like much, but dang, dang, dang, I am so pumped up, I think I’ll go pull some weeds!!!! Love you all!!!
I’m man enough to admit that I cried when I read this the first time. Feedback loops are powerful.
But as we were looking through my mom’s weekly Fitbit summary E-mails, to put some slides together, we noticed something wasn’t quite adding up. She had been accepted to try out a new drug called Ampyra in June, and by her account it made her right leg, which had been giving her a lot of problems, feel great. However, her Fitbit summaries were curtailing month after month showing less and less activity. When she went to take the Ampyra follow up test, after using it for a month, the drug was deemed to not be helping her enough to warrant continued coverage. She had never looked at her Fitbit E-mails successively to notice that her activity had declined so much, so she was genuinely surprised to see the downward trend.
I personally thought it was super interesting that the Fitbit data didn’t necessarily support my mother’s conviction that this specific drug is helping her, and yet she still loves her Fitbit AND feels that she needs Ampyra because it helps her. A great paradox of the modern health care system. Flash forward two weeks and she has begun her Ampyra retest period, on her own dime, so that she may come to her own conclusions and either appeal a denied claim or move on to something else that correlates with an increase in both activity AND feeling good, but on her own terms. I personally think that is what the future of health care can and should look like in America.
Sidenote: My mother informed me that she is not a “public speaker” many times before the event… I’m extremely proud that she stepped out of her comfort zone to tell her story to a room full of strangers. Her strength and sense of adventure have inspired me more than she will know.
All in all it was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the early 2013. Hope to see you there!
Do you have a recap from a Quantified Self Meetup you attended recently? If so, send links over to Ernesto and we’ll post them here!
The entertaining and curious Joe Betts-Lacroix shares his investigation to decide which device he will use to track sleep. He includes how he uses each device, his opinions and how one device makes him feel that his sleep matters! (Filmed at the Quantified Self Silicon Valley meetup at Stanford’s Calming Technologies lab.)