Fitbit… getting closer!

Fitbit API

I originally thought the Fitbit looked awesome, but in digging into things, I found a few issues I didn’t like. (See Fitbit Improvements.) While it looks like they’ll never go the route of sending your own data to your own computer without first sending your data to the cloud, their official API is out (in beta) and should at least offer an improvement over the “unofficial” APIs people had been working on.

Over at you can read up on the details, and get some example code (none in Perl yet though!) It’s good for the Fitbit ecosystem, as more applications may come out that make use of the data. If anything, I’d like to see something like what I created for in Heard, an application that syncs your data back to your own server from the cloud.

I also noticed that Fitbit got a mention on the Arduino blog, which amuses me for a few reasons. First, if the Fitbit had been more open I probably would have looked more seriously into getting one last year. (Open source hardware would have been awesome, but I can live with closed, though it is interesting that they use the open source Arduino for rapid prototyping.) Second, I actually got into working with the Arduino partly to try to do some of the sleep monitoring functions that the Fitbit does. (Yes, that’s another project I got sidetracked on.)

Depending on how our research funds shake out this year, the Fitbit may still be on our list. As I’ve said before, I’m the type of person who needs to collect data, and analyze it, and chart it out, in order to find more value in it. Meanwhile, I’ll be in the lab working on my Arduino-based sleep monitor…


Fitbit Improvements

I have an idea for how Fitbit can improve their web site… and, well, their product. I think it will make some of their customers very happy.


Here we see the current Fitbit web site. See the part where it says “Sync Fitbit with your PC”? I know you think that means “Sync Fitbit’s data with my PC” but it doesn’t… what it means is “Use your PC to sync Fitbit’s data with Fitbit’s servers” and that isn’t quite the same thing.


Here is my improvement, where you can see that they have added the ability to sync your own data with your own PC. This hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen.

I heard about the Fitbit back in June, and it sounded really cool. I then did some research and found out that it sends the data to the Fitbit servers, but doesn’t save it on your own computer… but don’t worry, they have an API coming out Real Soon Now. (See RSN.)

Sure, you can hack away at a Perl or Ruby version created by other people who are still waiting, but that’s not really a good solution.

From the Fitbit FAQ:

How do I get data from the Fitbit to the website?

The Fitbit is wireless and ships with its own base station. In order for the wireless functionality to work you will need to install a tiny piece of syncing software. This software will run on Mac OS X and Windows XP/Vista/7.

Do I have to use the website? Is there a way to dump data to my PC?

Yes, you must use the website. We do not provide any way to dump data to your PC, but the website will have an extensive XML and JSON API. You will be able to access most of your data through the API.

Now, that part that says “Yes, you must use the website.” worries me. It worries me because it makes me think these guys have You must use the website as part of the business plan. I know the Fitbit is a cheap device, so maybe they have something else planned to make money… Quickly, back to the FAQ!

Do I have to pay anything for the website?

No, the website is free. Once you buy the Fitbit Tracker, you will not have to pay anything additional in order to use the website.

Wow… OK, maybe not… I mean, the web site is free to use. It’s not like there is some Premium Membership… Oh wait, there is!

We’ve also launched a new premium membership with additional features to help analyze your activity, food and sleep to see results more quickly.

The Premium Membership is $49.99 per year. (Right now anyway…)

So how is that API coming? At least a few people have been waiting since late 2009.

I really do think the Fitbit is a neat device, and would consider getting one, but based on all the information I’ve gathered so far, I’m not convinced it’s a good idea based on the facts that:

  • I can’t get my own data directly from the device to my own computer
  • I can’t (easily) get my data from their servers to my own computer
  • It’s been at least 9 months and no API
  • They may have “upsell the user premium services” as part of their business model

I know the premium services cost money to develop and cost money to provide, and that’s fine… charge for it, but also keep in mind that having an API could open up the development of other applications and innovative new web services that could help you build some buzz, expand your brand, and ultimately sell more units.

And if there were a way to get the data directly on your own computer, you’d also open up the product for our friends who don’t use “Mac OS X or Windows XP/Vista/7” as well as other neat things. I know the new future is all about sharing, but maybe I don’t want my data sent out to the cloud, and right now, that’s not an option.

If you’re willing settle for the limitations of the Fitbit, and the nature of the device, then it definitely looks neat. If you’re concerned about how your data bypasses your own computer to go into the cloud where you may be able to access it (possibly for a fee) then, well… I’d think about it a bit more…

Update 2010-07-27: Here’s a nice post by someone who owns a Fibit.