Fitbit Hacks for More Than Just Fitness


Fitbit is a wireless device designed to track movement and sleep. The small machine comes in several models, which can be worn on the wrist or in the pocket. The most impressive piece of technology in the device is the accelerometer, which measures movement in multiple directions, not just back and forth like a pedometer does. It works in a similar way to things like the Wii remote control and some phones. The San Francisco based company’s devices are growing in popularity as new applications have been developed. Designed to help people become aware of how much they move in a day, Fitbit has hacks available to take advantage of its technology, making it more than just a pedometer.

The programmers at Netflix have come up with a creative solution to a common problem. Using the sleep detection capabilities of Fitbit, a demonstration at Netflix’ Hack Day showed how the device could be used to pause a video if the wearer of the device falls asleep in the middle of a program. Data from Fitbit can be uploaded via wifi automatically. That data was synced with Netflix, to automatically stop playback of a video when the wearer fell asleep. When they woke back up, an option would be given to resume playback from where it was paused or back at the beginning. Be sure to rewind a few minutes because most people lose focus several minutes before sleep actually occurs. 

The unfortunate thing is this feature may not ever become publicly available. It was a successful demonstration but there is currently no partnership between the two companies. Something anyone can do with their device is have it upload data to spreadsheets. If the information is synced in Google Docs, mass amounts of your data are available wherever you need it. This could be used for something as simple as comparing with a friend, or showing your doctor for advice. Medical professionals could have a live look at how active their clients are even in between visits, rather than relying on their word.

Most users already know about the Fitbit’s silent alarm feature, which buzzes to wake a person up, or when they’ve been sitting too long, but there are other uses for the alarm. Another useful medical application is using the device as a reminder for medication. There are several apps available that let the device sync with a user’s phone calendar or phone alarms. If reminders are programmed into the phone, the device can buzz the user whenever it is time to take a pill, injection, blood sugar test, or any number of necessities.

The application programming interface is available on their website, so perhaps we will continue to see more creative development with it. Maybe Fitbit will be synced with fitness games, set to buzz for fire or tornado warnings, or possibly another hack will be found like Netflix for more completely out of the ordinary uses. As the technology spreads development will accelerate, and Fitbit will find continued use in other areas.

By Brian Moore

Quantified Self

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