Hack Your Fitness: Punishment à la Fitbit

Steve AnkneyGeneral, Hack Your FitnessLeave a Comment

This is the first of many “hack” related posts I plan on doing.  Sometimes I’ll be sharing something that we’ve come up with, but I’ll also be bringing in great ideas that I find from other reliable sources.  Some of these hacks will require a deeper understanding of technical procedure than others and I’ll try to alert you when that’s the case. Hopefully, these posts will give you new ways to motivate yourself and use your favorite technical fitness devices.  Today’s post is about a new way to use your Fitbit to help motivate you to reach your step goals from the blog BuildingInternetofThings.com.

Supplies needed:

Level of difficulty: HIGH – This hack is for the technically savvy user, and is probably best executed by those that have had some sort of scripting experience.

FitBit OneI originally stumbled across this hack at one of my favorite Mac rumor sites, CultofMac.com.  The post’s title conveyed that there was a hack, or, if you prefer, a technical work-around, that enables your Fitbit to punish you for not reaching your goals for the day.  The example used is one in which your day has finished, you begin to relax, and your Fitbit syncs to your phone. The data is then uploaded to the Fitbit site, where it is is quickly examined by Fitbit’s algorithms and compared to your set of daily goals.  Now, for those of us who use a Fitbit the standard way, that is where the story ends, but, in this scenario, the process keeps on going.

The guys at the blog “BuildingInternetofThings.com” came up with a way to further motivate the user to finish their goal for the day if it has not yet been met.  First, they wrote a script that checks your Fitbit activity every evening to see if you have reached your goal for the day.  If the goal has not been reached, the script will send a warning email explaining the “impending doom” that will come to pass if you don’t reach your goal within the next hour.  If you still don’t meet your goal after the time allotted has passed, the script will then push a command out to a Belkin Wemo Switch, which will automatically shut off any item plugged into it.  The writer from BuildingInternetofThings.com suggests a refrigerator.  We might suggest the TV, because Meagan and I are not only runners and writers, we are also movie buffs and TV addicts, so the prospect of losing our television for the evening would be a great motivator to get us moving and earn it!  Anyway, once you’ve received your warning email, failed at getting up, and have lost your TV or refrigerator privileges, you’re probably going to start to feel a bit down on yourself.  But wait, there’s more!  Instead of moping about your now defrosting food, or missing the next episode of The Biggest Loser, you have the option to improve things.  Once this script has powered off the item of “extreme importance”, it continues to check your Fitbit activity every hour until you have reached your goal.  Once this goal is reached, power is restored to the item and you can continue your evening in your usual fashion.  At first, this hack has the potential to ruin your night, but, if it happens repeatedly, we’re willing to bet that you will probably retrain yourself to meet your Fitbit goals earlier in your day (or at least spread them out better) to prevent it.

This is a depiction from BuildingInternetofThings of the network communication involved with this hack.

This is a depiction from BuildingInternetofThings of the network communication involved with this hack.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the level of difficulty on this hack is quite high, primarily because the commands being sent to the Belkin Wemo Switch have to be sent through either port-forwarding and dyndns, or by using a Raspberry Pi (small Linux box pictured above) combined with a service called Pusher.  Rather than going into the gritty details myself, I’ll allow the guys who built this to handle it for those of you who are interested.  Let us know in the comments if you end up trying it out!