How to liberate your wearable data (tip: Let the IoT work for you)
Earlier this week we reported on Government warnings not to use wearable tech apps provided by health insurers. Now we outline how to liberate your data from the four most-popular smart wearables: The Fitbit family, the Jawbone UP series and the Misfit smart wristbands, plus the Apple Watch.
What’s good to know is that the tools outlined here are totally free. What’s better is that you can get the Internet of Things (IoT) to do the heavy lifting for you: Once you have set up these rules once, they will simply run and run, no intervention required. And if you stop syncing a smart wristband or iPhone, so the logging will also stop.
If you’re rocking a smart wristband, then we recommend you pay attention to the data you’re generating – because as we commented more than 18 months ago, the real value of wearable tech is in the personal data. So if you are tracking your steps, calorie burn, sleep and even heart rate, why not keep this information to hand?
Although you might not have realized how useful this may be later in your life, your health insurer has clearly worked it out.
Downloading or syncing your wearables data via IFTTT only scratches the surface in terms of what the app / website can do – it’s a great introduction to some user-friendly IoT deployments. For example, it’s also possible to set up an IFTTT rule that will make a Philips Hue lighting system flash special colors every time you hit your daily step count, or log every song you play on iTunes into a spreadsheet …
Get started by creating an IF / IFTTT account. The website and apps provide easy to use “recipes” to start automating your digital self. We also recommend setting up a Google account and using the free spreadsheets app in Google Drive – which will give you unlimited storage for your raw wearables data.
The first time you set up IFTTT rules, you’ll need to enable specific channels – usually by logging in to a service like your Fitbit account or Google. That done, you’re ready to create some recipes that will automatically start logging your data … no human intervention required.
There are currently 13 Jawbone UP triggers that will start an IFTTT process – the two most important are “new daily movement logged” and “new sleep logged”. You’ll then have to choose an action channel – in other words, what you do with the freshly-harvested data. IFTTT offers a bewildering array of options.
Then select Google Drive although you can also try out others … you are then presented with four options as to how to save the Jawbone data. For long-term daily logging, choose “add new row to spreadsheet” – if you don’t have one, it will create one the first time the rule runs – and then don’t mess around with the various fields, just hit Create Action and sit back.
Fitbit and Misfit
Unless you have a premium Fitbit subscription, any data that’s more than 12 months old is out of reach, so grab it while you can. Using IF, it’s easy to set up rules that will be triggered every time your Fitbit device syncs. Recipes (labeled as the IF section on the website) allow you to write a new line of data to a Google Drive spreadsheet every time you log more sleep, log your daily steps, and more.
The process is largely the same as for Jawbone – choose your trigger (to get started, choose Daily Activity Summary) then choose Google Drive or OneDrive as your action channel, choose “add row to spreadsheet” and you’re set. The data collection process is exactly the same for Misfit devices.
Apple Watch / Apple Health iPhone app
The much-hyped Watch tracks heart rate and steps (while its battery lasts), and this is incorporated into the iPhone app Health. Step counting has been a standard feature of iPhone since the 5S model, and you can’t turn it off.
However, there’s no official method for exporting the data out of Apple Health, although you can easily make a secure backup when syncing your phone.
But surprise! It’s a bit more complicated to liberate the data collected by an Apple Watch or iPhone. And right now, even if you manage to export the data, it’s going to be meaningless unless you’re a coder – but never say never, grab that data now and hold on to it – one day, it will all make sense.
That said, if you’re keen on capturing your data now, then we recommend this excellent article on Computerworld on how to export your Apple Health data, with detailed instructions starting on the second page.
You may never ever refer back to how many steps you walked on July 23, 2015 – or your average heart rate on Fridays in comparison to Sundays across an entire year, but you never know how useful this information could be in future, and since it’s free and easy to liberate your data, why would you NOT want to do this?