Tag Archives: tools

Counting Money

Yesterday was the first day in a month that I handled cash. For weeks everything I’ve purchased and paid for has been handled by digital means. Debit cards, direct debits and deposits, internet purchases – it’s all 1′s and 0′s flowing through the tubes, and it’s makes my life very easy. However, now that the flow of money in and out of my life is easier, I have to find new ways of being aware of what’s happening to the money. I’ve gathered up a few examples of QS projects, show&tell talks and articles related to money – please feel free to share your own favorites. -Ernesto

Show&Tell Videos

Amaan Penang: Making Data-Driven Financial Decisions
Amaan Penang was faced with a life change when he moved from Texas to California to start a new job. While preparing for the move he started to examine his financial health and was surprised by what he didn’t understand about his spending and income. Using the popular financial tracking software, Mint, he started to examine his historical spending. In this talk Amaaan explains what he learned and how he was surprised to find out how this data opened up the doors to exploration and better financial health.

Natty Hoffman: The Enlightened Consumer
Natty had a large amount of financial data, over 14 years of expenses and spending, that she was accessing from credit card and bank statements. Because of her work as a consultant she was experiences with understanding and reconciling her various accounts and reimbursements. It wasn’t until attending a QS meetup in Boston that she realized that there was more to her data than just historical financial documents,

“I didn’t really think much about this data until I went to a Quantified Self meetup a few months ago. And then I said to myself ‘You know, I have some pretty interesting data about myself as a consumer and I wonder what I’m going to find out.”

Natty started exploring her data by looking back at the last two years to better understand the where her money was going based on a broad categorization scheme. But, she didn’t stop there. She went on to explore exactly where she was spending her money and found that she was a customer of over 300 different businesses over the two years she examined. Intrigued by the the companies she frequented she went deeper and started to see how she did as a consumer and if her spending behavior matched her personal ideals.

Matic Bitenc: Manual Finance Tracking
Outside the US there aren’t many good options for automatically tracking personal finances. Matic and his partners created Toshl Finance, an application for manually tracking how he was spending his money. In this talk Matic describes what he learned about his expenses and lifestyle by using a simple tag-based system and easy to understand visualizations.

Examples of Personal Finance Tracking

Tracking, Classifying, and Comparing Expenses by Karsten W.
We featured this very interesting tracking project in 2012 when Karsten embarked on a experiment to track his spending via a simple Twitter tool. Not satisfied with just tracking, he also categorized and compared his spending habits to what a typical person in his country (Germany) spent in different categories.

How I track my personal finances and Keeping (financial) score with Ledger by Sacha Chua.
Two great posts by our QS Toronto co-organizer, Sacha Chua. In the first she describes how she sets up understanding her financial life, and in the second she describes her tracking methodology.

I Tracked Every Penny I Spent For One Year. Here’s What I Learnt by Todd Green.
As the title says, Todd tracked his spending for an entire year. In this post he describes the process and the top 10 lessons he learned.

Articles of Note:

The Quantified Self Movement Reaches Personal Finance
Key Quote: “Personal finance tools as they evolve will take this technology much farther. GPS-based navigational systems have both improved and become more ubiquitous as raw data have become more available and the cost for both devices and services has dropped. So too will personal finance apps begin to follow us around. They’ll live in our phones or on our wrists, pulling in real-time data to help us take control of our own short-term liquidity and solvency needs and long-term retirement goals.”

What Health and Finance Can Learn From the Quantified Self Movement and Each Other.
Key Quote: “Few domains of life are as quantified as your financial self — you have your credit score, savings and checking balances, 401Ks, stocks, bonds, funds and more aided by countless apps, reports and plans provided by banks, employers and financial advisors all available online, on the phone, in person and at your local ATM.”

Banking on you — how wearable tech could change finance.
Key Quote: “Historically, banks have been some of the richest repositories of data — but also the least likely to do something innovative with it. This is partly due to regulation, but mostly due to a self-limiting mindset prevailing in the banking industry. Till now, consumers have accepted this status quo, but not for much longer. As they find their ‘quantified selves’ no doubt their demand for insights into their finances will increase.”

Financial Wearables – Part 1: Can high-tech wearables solve underserved people’s financial problems?
Key Quote: “Managing money in cash is time consuming—time to get cash, calculate it, record your every transaction. Banks do most of those actions, but do not teach you how to spend better and save money at the same time. The potential power of wearables is not in presenting you with “transactional information” about how many steps you took on a given day, but rather in showing how you can improve those steps over time with alerts, recommendations and visual elements. Banks could use the “wearables” power to incentivize users to better their financial health, deliver liquidity management tools and foster strong banking relationships and maximizing customers’ assets instead of their fees. It not only helps individuals but the bank as well.”

YOUR MONEY-Financial obsessives track every penny, every minute
Key Quote: “Australian academics Ken Cheng and Megan Oaten of Sydney’s Macquarie University once had volunteers write down every single purchase for four months, which led to marked improvement in their financial lives. They also found that positive financial habits started bleeding into other areas, with the volunteers improving their behavior in everything from house cleaning to exercising.”

‘Quantified Self’ Movement Now Lets You Track Your Money Too
Key Quote: “Cozy Cloud co-founder Frank Rousseau was originally inspired to invent the self-hostable personal cloud platform because he wanted an open source alternative to Mint.com, he told us earlier this year. But the hard part is that most banks don’t provide APIs to help users get their data out of the banks, according to the project website. To do this, Open Bank Manager is relying on a tool called Weboob (WeB Outside Of Browser) to scape data from banking sites.”

ToolsNot a complete list, so please add more in the comments and we’ll update here
Mint
Money, by Jumsoft
Personal Capital
Expensify
DollarBird
Spending Tracker
Checkbook
Also make sure to check out the long list of personal finance apps people are talking about on Product Hunt

Additional Reading
Why Wesabe failed: Marc Hedlund’s Challenge
An interesting look back at how another personal finance tool failed in the face of competition from Mint.

How can new interactions with digital money make us more aware of our spending? Chris Woebken talks about this design experiments here.

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Tidings: QS Auckland Show&Tell

QSAuckland_1

We’ve just heard from Camille Nicodemus about the sixth Auckland, New Zealand QS Show&Tell held on July 15, 2014 . Since Auckland is still getting off the ground they’re currently hosting about 6-8 people at the meetup, where they discuss their personal tracking projects in a open round-table format. They have been getting some recognition in their area as a camera crew filmed one of their previous meetups for an upcoming feature in a local current affairs TV program.

It’s great to see such a wonderful diversity of projects and experiments from the QS Aukland community. Members are actively engaged in citizen science projects, oxygen tracking, accountability groups, sleep tracking, tracking the effect of cold showers on metabolism, and habit tracking. The groups is also discussing a variety of tools and applications they’re using and exploring. These include:

If you’re in the Auckland area we invite you to join this great QS Meetup and share your story!

Tidings are notes, recaps, and insights from our wonderful worldwide network of QS Show&Tell meetup groups. If you’re organizing a group and have something to share let us know!

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The State of Self Tracking (QS London Survey)

The excellent organizers of the London Quantified Self Show&Tell recently fielded a detailed survey about the self-tracking practices in their group. In the video below Ulrich Atz presents their findings.

Some of the interesting results from the survey:

  • 105 respondents (22 identified as female, 76 as male).
  • Over 500 unique tools were being used.
  • 47% of the respondents are currently measuring weight (17% have in the past).
  • Pen & paper is being used by 28% of respondents.
  • 90% of respondents who answered a question about data sharing would share their data (or share it for medical research).

QSLondon_tracking2

The presentation is available online here (PDF) and an aggregate view of the survey results is also available for you to explore here. We’re excited to see and learn more from this interesting data set in the future.

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Toolmaker Talk: Charles Wang (LUMOback)

Stand up. Sit down. Walk. Run. Sleep. We engage in these activities everyday (well, maybe not running), but how much do we know about ourselves and our bodies while we’re in the midst of them? Are you standing up straight? Are you slouching at your desk while you read this sentence? In this Toolmaker Talk we’re going to hear from Charles Wang, one of the founders of LUMOback – a posture sensor and mobile application designed to support back health and improve body awareness.

Watch (or listen to) our conversation with Charles below then make sure to read our short interview to learn more about the story behind LUMOback.

Q: How do you describe Lumoback? What is it?

Charles WangLUMOback is a posture and movement sensor that you wear around your waist.  It gives you real time feedback in the form of a vibration when you are slouching, both when you are standing and sitting.  It also connects wirelessly to a mobile application, where it tracks whether you have been straight or slouching, in addition to sitting, standing, walking, running, and sleep positions.

One key feature of our mobile application is LUMO, the real time avatar.  LUMO mimics what you are doing in real time, and gives you real time visual feedback so that you can understand and be aware of what position your body is in.

Q: What’s the backstory? What led to it?

Andrew Chang, Monisha Perkash, and myself were funded by Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors to find a big problem to solve, and build a growth business around it.  We didn’t have to look very far to find the right opportunity.

Andrew, one of the cofounders, has had chronic lower back pain for the past 11 years, and nothing really seemed to help him.  He went to physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, and tried acupuncture and other minor procedures.  It wasn’t until he learned about postural correction by taking a set of posture classes where he started to understand how critical posture was in alleviating his back pain.  In fact, once he began paying attention to his posture, his back pain significantly improved.

LUMO-product-carousel-0_largeWe as humans were designed through evolution to move, but now we spend most of our time sitting, and in most cases, sitting poorly.  This means that improving posture and encouraging more activity can have significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing.  Studies show that back health and posture are correlated, as is posture and confidence / attractiveness.  It’s no wonder that physical therapists, chiropractors, and spine physicians stress the importance of posture.

The challenge of improving posture is twofold:  1) Most people have very little body awareness, let alone understanding their sitting and standing postures, and 2) Most people don’t have the resources or the time to take posture classes.  This is where we realized that we could use technology to solve this problem, so we started prototyping and iterating, and this is what led us to create LUMOback.

Q: What impact has it had? What have you heard from users?

Users tell us that LUMOback has changed their lives, and either that their back pain has gone away through using the product or has significantly been reduced.  People also frequently tell us that they are now very aware of their slouchy posture, which leads to posture correction, and again, awareness is the key element involved in making postural changes.

Q: What makes it different, sets it apart?

In addition to telling people whether their posture is straight or slouched, we can tell them whether they are sitting, standing, walking, running, and their sleep positions.  The ability to differentiate between sitting and other activities is a clear differentiator for what we do.

LUMOback iOS application

LUMOback iOS application

Q: What are you doing next? How do you see Lumoback evolving?

We are constantly making improvements to LUMOback, from the application experience to the accuracy of our ability to detect different biomechanical states.  We pride ourselves on being open to feedback and are constantly trying to improve and iterate on our product based on what our users tell us.  This is the most exciting part — truly solving problems and needs that people have.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

We really are at a point in time now where mobile technologies will help us to solve challenging health problems in ways we couldn’t have imagined even several years ago.  This is what gets the LUMO team super excited!

Product: LUMOback
Website: www.lumoback.com
Price: $149

This is the 19th post in the “Toolmaker Talks” series. The QS blog features intrepid self-quantifiers and their stories: what did they do? how did they do it? and what have they learned?  In Toolmaker Talks we hear from QS enablers, those observing this QS activity and developing self-quantifying tools: what needs have they observed? what tools have they developed in response? and what have they learned from users’ experiences? If you are a toolmaker and want to participate in this series please contact Ernesto Ramirez.

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Hands Free Heart Rate Tracking

A quick post here to highlight some interesting developments in the heart rate tracking space. Tracking and understanding heart rate has been a cornerstone of self-tracking since, well since someone put two fingers on their neck and decided to write down how many pulses they felt. We’ve come a long way from that point. If you’re like me tracking heart rate popped up on your radar when you started training for a sporting event like a marathon or long distance cycling. Like many who used the pioneering devices from Polar it felt a bit odd to strap that hard piece of plastic around my chest. After time, and seeing the benefits of tracking heart rate, it became part of my daily ritual. Yet, for all the great things heart rate monitoring can do for physical training, there have been very few advances to provide people with a noninvasive method. That is, until now.

ThearnWebcamPulse

Thearn, an enterprising Github user and developer, has released an open source tool that uses your webcam to detect your pulse. The Webcam Pulse Detector is a python application that uses a variety of tools such as OpenCV (an open source computer vision tool) to “find the location of the user’s face, then isolate the forehead region. Data is collected from this location over time to estimate the user’s heartbeat frequency. This is done by measuring average optical intensity in the forehead location, in the subimage’s green channel alone.” If you’re interested in the research that made this work possible check out the amazing work on Eulerian Video Magnification being conducted at MIT. Now, getting it to work is a bit of a hurdle, but it does appear to be working for those who have the technical expertise. If you get it working please let us know in the comments. Hopefully someone comes along that provides a bit of an easier installation solution for those of us who shy away from working in the terminal. Until then, there are actually quite a few mobile applications that use similar technology to detect and track heart rate:

Let us know if you’ve been tracking your heart rate and what you’ve found out. We would love to explore this space together.

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QS at Best Buy

A month ago we showed you what we thought was the quintessential example of how Quantified Self is becoming more of a mainstream activity. During a trip to the Apple store we identified over 20 different Quantified Self devices. Another outing led me into one of the largest consumer electronics stores in the US: Best Buy.

Here, I counted over 25 different tracking devices on the shelves. I’ve split them into three categories here so you can get a sense of just how many different devices are available. With a bit of internet sleuthing I also found that additional devices are available at different stores so you might see something different in your local Best Buy.

BestBuy1BestBuy2

General Health

  1. iHealth Wireless Blood Pressure Wrist Monitor
  2. iHealth Wireless BloodPressure Cuff
  3. iHealth Bluetooth Body Analysis Scale.
  4. iHealth Bluetooth Scale
  5. iHealth Blood Pressure Dock
  6. Fitbit Aria Wireless Scale
  7. Withings Wireless Scale
  8. Withings Blood Pressure Monitor Continue reading
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Nike+ FuelBand vs Fitbit Tracking: Are they the same?

Fitbit

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.

Continue reading

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Future Normal: Quantified Self Tools at the Apple Store

QS Tools in the Apple Store

This feels very fast. A year ago there were a small number of Quantified Self devices, and a sense of high geekery. I walked into the Apple Store in Santa Monica last Wednesday and this is what I saw. There isn’t much that’s more mainstream than Apple retail at the moment, and I counted twenty-two Quantified Self trackers for sale. (Two were baby trackers and one dog tracker, borderline cases, but our curiosity extends to these.)

A question for readers: What kinds of self-tracking tools aren’t here now that will be here when I take this photo next year?

Here is a key to the photo:

  1. Pocketfinder personal GPS locator
  2. Tagg GPS dog tracker
  3. Fitbit One and Zip physical activity sensors
  4. iPING personal putting coach and app
  5. Wahoo Fitness bluetooth heart rate strap
  6. Scosche Rhythm heart rate monitor armband
  7. Jawbone Up physical activity and sleep sensor
  8. Pear Training heart rate monitor and training app
  9. Adidas MiCoach bluetooth heart rate monitor
  10. Adidas MiCoach Speed Cell activity sensor
  11. Nike+ sports sensor 
  12. Nike+ Fuelband physical activity sensor
  13. Withings baby monitor
  14. Philips in.Sight wireless baby monitor
  15. IZON Wireless Camera -
  16. Philips in.Sight wireless camera
  17. Lark sleep sensor wristband
  18. Lark Life physical activity and sleep sensor
  19. iBGStar blood glucose sensor
  20. iHealth wireless blood pressure wrist monitor
  21. Withings blood pressure monitor
  22. Withings wireless scale
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More Quantified Self Tools at CES: A Second Look

Last week we brought you a look into some of the interesting Quantified Self tools that were debuted at CES. Here are a few more we noticed from the deluge of CES coverage. Thanks to MobiHealthNews, Gizmodo, Engadget and many QS friends for the tips.

body-analyzer-front-webWithings Smart Body Analyzer (WS-50)
The latest wireless scale from Withings adds some interesting new sensors: resting heart rate, ambient air quality (CO2) and room temperature. The combination of physiological and environmental monitoring, while simple in this case, opens many new possibilities for Quantified Self projects.
Measures: Weight, BMI, Fat Mass, Heart Rate, Room Temperature, Room CO2

 

 

The Zensorium TinkeTinke  is a small sensor and companion app for iOS devices dedicated to helping users understand their health and wellness. This is a really interesting variation on the emerging theme of Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability self-monitoring. The Tinke has no battery and no screen. Instead, the small optical sensor plugs directly into the iPhone.
Measures: Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, Blood Oxygen, Respiratory Rate

 

A similar approach is used by the Masimo iSpO2ispo2, where the focus is on blood oxygenation.
Measures: Blood Oxygenation, Heart Rate, Perfusion Index
Salutron

 

 

 

mia_alpha

Mio Alpha
The Mio Alpha boasts of continuous and strapless heart rate measurement. Using technology developed by Phillips, the Alpha uses optical heart rate sensing at the wrist and a soon to be released mobile app. What once seemed like difficult technical magic is on the verge of becoming commonplace.
The Mio Measures: Heart Rate
Sync: Bluetooth 4.0

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Quantified Self at CES: Digital Pedometers Add Wireless Heart Rate Tracking and More

I’ve been curious about tracking physical activity since I was an undergraduate. I remember traveling to a local middle school with a researcher interested in how physical activity was taught in low-income Native American communities. Back then, the best we could do was have the children wear simple electromechanical pedometers to count their steps during their physical education classes. Fast forward about ten years and I’m still working with pedometers and physical activity sensors – but much better ones. Quantified Self toolmakers are experimenting with many upgrades to the old digital pedometers, including new ideas about syncing, more fashionable design, and – of particular interest to self-trackers – integration of optical heart rate monitors. (No chest strap.)

Below are some of the notable Quantified Self tools recently announced at CES. Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it! I’ve also written a bit about what I think are some notable trends below.

Fitbit Flex
The Flex appears to be Fitbit’s answer to the growing trend of wrist worn wearable activity monitors. Interestingly they’ve chosen to focus on the wireless syncing capabilities and eschew a traditional display; there is just a small glanceable LEDs to highlight goal progress.
Measures: Steps, Distance, Calorie Burn, Activity Minutes, Sleep Time, Sleep Quality
Sync: Bluetooth 4.0

 

Withings Smart Activity Tracker
In 2013 Withings is stepping in to the activity tracking space with their Smart Activity Tracker. While it appears to be just another accelerometer-based device Withings has also packed a heart rate pulse sensor into the small form factor.
Measures: Steps, Distance, Calorie Burn, Sleep Quality, Heart Rate
Sync: Bluetooth and Bluetooth 4.0

 


Omron Activity Monitor
Omron has long been a staple in the low-cost pedometer market. With the launch of their Activity Monitor they’ve shown up with a wireless activity tracker of their own. Omron is semi-wireless; syncing requires that you plug a USB accessory into your computer, then place the pedometer nearby.
Measures: Workout Time, Steps, Distance, Calories burned, Pace
Sync: NFC Plate (USB)

 

Omron Heart Rate Monitor
Integration of pulse tracking  into activity monitors is a current trend, and we’re very curious about what we’ll learn from having continuous heart rate data. Omron’s new heart rate monitor uses optical sensing on a strapless watch, with eight hours of storage capacity. The press announcement promises pace, calories, and distance, which means the watch probably has accelerometer-based actigraphy on board as well.
Measures: Heart Rate, Pace, Distance, Calories Burned
Sync: Micro USB

 

Fitbug Orb
The Orb is new small and sleek device that builds on their already released Fitbug Air wireless pedometer. The new pebble-like Orb is a screenless activity tracker that uses Bluetooth syncing to a mobile app in three different modes: Push for updates on demand, Beacon for timed updates on a regular interval, and Stream for real time updating. The Orb’s small form factor works with a variety of different wear options, including wrist straps and lanyards.
Measures: Steps, Distance, Calories Burned, Sleep
Sync: Bluetooth 4.0

 

BodyMedia Core 2
The BodyMedia armband is known for its accurate activity tracking, which comes from integrating the data off multiple sensors. A new device, the Core 2, has the same measurements that are currently available (core temperature, heat flux, galvanic skin response, and tri-axial accelerometry) in a smaller package. A version with an integrated heart rate monitor will be also be available.
Measures: Temperature, Heat Flux, Galvanic Skin Response, Activity, Heart Rate (optional)
Sync: Bluetooth 4.0

 

Bonus Non-Activity Device

HapiLabs HapiFork
This last device kept popping up on my various feeds yesterday. The HapiFork is designed to help you understand how you eat by tracking how many bites you take and how long it takes you to eat your meal. It will also alert you when you’re eating too fast.  Will the first person to use this please give a Quantified Self show&tell talk as soon as possible?
Measures: Fork “servings”, Eating Time
Sync: Bluetooth or USB

 

In my current work I’m really interested in how real time information about physical activity behavior can be used to help people change their normal patterns. In our little corner of the research world we understand that self-tracking devices are wonderful tools to help people change their behavior. But, what we don’t know yet is how the data gathered by these tools can really help people in the moment. The newest crop of tools and devices may start to help us answer that question.

By now if you’ve seen one physical activity tracker then you’ve seen them all. At their core they use the same technology that’s been used for almost a decade – actigraphy. That is, most devices are based on an accelerometer, a tiny little sensor that measures gravitational force acceleration. These sensor pass data through an algorithm that used machine learning and pattern recognition techniques to determine a variety of data points. Steps, distance, activity intensity, calorie expenditure – you’re probably familiar with all these. So what’s new in this space? How are companies starting to differentiate themselves? While looking through some of the new offerings being showcased at this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It appears that there are two major themes that I think are coming forth: Wearability and Syncing

Wearability. The pedometers we made kids wear 10 years ago? Utilitarian hunks of plastic and electronics. Nothing you would want to show off to your friend or coworker. Looking at the latest from Fitbit, BodyMedia, and others it’s clear that companies are introducing real fashion where there used to be just electronics. Will they succeed in making activity trackers a fashion trend? A status symbol?

Syncing Capabilities. When Fitbit introduced their tracker a few years ago one of the biggest complaints was that it didn’t sync to our phones. Now, nearly every new device offers Bluetooth syncing with paired mobile apps. The rise of Bluetooth 4.0 has made it easier for nearly everybody to wirelessly sync. I’m curious about the future of low power data sharing beyond the phone. Soon we may see myriad devices talking to each other directly. What happens when your fitbit starts talking to your fridge?

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