Fitbit, why can't I have my data?

I have a Fitbit. I got it because I wanted to collect some data about myself and I liked the simplicity of the set-up. I also asked around and Fitbit seemed like the most "open" platform for collecting one's own data. You have to pay $50 for a premium account, but after that, they allow you to download your data.

Or do they?

I looked into the details, asked a buddy or two, and found out that you actually can't get the really interesting minute-by-minute data even with a premium account. You only get the daily summarized totals for steps/calories/stairs climbed. While this data is of some value, the minute-by-minute data are oh so much more interesting. I'd like to use it for personal interest, for teaching, for research, and for sharing interesting new ideas back to other Fitbit developers.

Since I'm not easily dissuaded, I tried another route. I created an application that accessed the Fitbit API. After fiddling around a bit with a few R packages, I was able to download my daily totals. But again, no minute-by-minute data. I looked into it and only Fitibit Partners have access to the intraday data. So I emailed Fitbit to ask if I could be a partner app. So far no word.

I guess it is true, if you aren't paying for it, you are the product. But honestly, I'm just not that interested in being a product for Fitbit. So I think I'm bailing until I can download intraday data - I'm even happy to pay for it. If anybody has a suggestion of a more open self-monitoring device, I'd love to hear about it.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jiawei-Bai/100000182406903 Jiawei Bai

    Sorry to hear that, Jeff... Maybe you should consider more primitive products which allow you to summarize you own "counts", "steps", etc.

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  • Marco

    Interesting article, thank you Jeff. I have stopped using my Fitbit too, as I was as well really interested in the opportunity of downloading all MY data.

  • Tony Ching

    Fitbit, nope; Basis band, on the fence...

    Maybe check Jawbone UP:

    You can download your UP data in CSV format and crunch to your heart's content. They still have your data though. Most of these companies will monetize their "customers" building up their database with your data to sell to data brokers. See at 41:05

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8SMhSPMQx8&feature=youtu.be

    The space is young so everyone is looking at the data == revenue equation

    Eventually to lower health premiums companies will broker employee tracking data to insurance carriers: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2012/12/26/167970303/who-could-be-watching-you-watching-your-figure-your-boss

    What I find incredulous is this statement by Tim Chang, a VC in this space, "People aren't really interested in raw data,"

    Why?

    I guess folks are too dumb and need to be educated for a small subscription fee for the pretty pictures :-

    Without raw data, how does one verify the output?

    Welcome to personal health IT :-)

    • Dasha Filippova

      Jawbone's data is also an aggregate by day, not minute-by-minute.

  • Massimo Banzi

    There is a cure for that: intercept the data before it goes up to the fitbit service.
    Have a look at https://github.com/openyou/libfitbit libfitbit let's you download data from the device when it's plugged in then sync with the website. From the github page "The main goal of the library is to augment the services alreadyprovided by the fitbit website, allowing for developers to makeinteresting new applications that access the fitbit data in smallertime chunks on the local machine, as well as giving users the abilityto back up their own data without having to rely on the web service."
    It's the power of open source :)

    • A

      I'm interested in accessing intraday data in ubuntu, exporting to .csv, and analyzing the data in mathematical softwares. I haven't been able to do this yet with libfitbit on ubuntu. Have you or anyone you know of (or anyone reading for that matter) been able to do something similar to what I'm trying to do; or know exactly what I need to do. I'm struggling, but any help would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you!

  • MK

    Who said you are not paying for it? Why should anyone pay $99 for a pedometer if it's not for the software/web access they provide? IMO, Fitbit is a $20 pedometer + $79 software.

    • IQTech52

      You do realize that hardware costs money, don't you? that programmers do not work for free?
      There's also the cost of maintaining servers for data upload and the cost of running a call center and paying customer service representatives.
      Your money does not go nearly as far as you think that it does and unless they are departments of larger fitness companies, many of these companies are running on very slim profit margins.

  • Sports

    I did buy it for the raw data. I am using it for 3 days now. Thanks you just save me 50 $.

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  • David Clark

    Perhaps this is a good candidate for a kickstarter project.

  • http://twitter.com/coldclimate cold climate

    100% agreed. Interested to know if anybody has got libfitbit working well, I've not had time to hack on it.

  • http://twitter.com/aldeneaton Mike Eaton

    I'd recommend keeping an eye on the Misfit Shine. The product isn't available yet but they seem like a startup that is going to be friendly to more open data models. http://www.indiegogo.com/misfitshine

    There are a lot of people who in the coming years will need to be reminded over and over: if you aren't paying for it, you are the product (as you said). Good perspective, thanks for sharing your quick story here.

  • Naupaka

    The data from the BodyBugg or BodyMedia armbands can be downloaded at minute resolution with the python script here: https://github.com/openyou/libsensewear

  • Jon Jones

    http://ripxx.com/ The device had ways of exporting all the data into various formats. The data is at 10hz for gps and the other sensors are at 100hz. You can export that to good ole csv. But they are currently in development of their second generation so looks like you will have to wait a bit.

    disclosure: I was one of the developers for the device when they first started.

  • Mike McCoy

    The wahoo fitness app lets you email all of your stats, including all gps coords (even altitude), and any accessory measurements if you have a compatible heart rate monitor or pedometer, etc.

    There are several different file types, and I've only perused the .csv file. The other files seem to be .xml formats for specific purposes, like .gpx for gps coordinates.

    Best luck,
    -Mike

  • Howard

    You could try using an Android smartphone for collecting the accelerometer and GPS data yourself. Take a look at http://code.google.com/p/pedometer/. This would give you exquisite control over how the data are collected and how you can share it. Good luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopherdancy Christopher Matthew Dancy

    Yea, I have a fitbit, and if it wasn't for my friends having it (so I can compare) I would drop it, I do love the integration with the Aria scale.

    The problems with the fitbit data access and just the devices easy to lose and sync design are too numerous to name.

    I also wear a body media, all that data has export to csv on their website, but no one uses it I know and it's not as attractive as the fitbit site.

  • Guy Harrison

    Thanks for the post Jeff. I don't suppose you could post some R snippets for reading from fitbit? I've never used R for anything other that RDBMS data....

    Maybe fitbit will open up if enough requests come through. This space is going to get pretty competitive in 2013 I think:

  • Jason Mickelson

    Just got mine and setting it up. This really bums me out! I'm a math/tech teacher so having access to this data was the main reason for buying. fitbit can have my data as long as I can have it too. I'm fine being the product as long as I get what I paid for on my end.

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  • Bec

    Just found this article after trying to find a way to download all of my weigh-ins etc in a cvs file - no luck yet.

  • Gillian Morris-Talbot

    Hexoskin (www.hexoskin.com) is a more open self-monitoring device. The guys behind it designed it specifically to be open data. You can access your body metrics as you work out, via our free iPhone app (https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/id593087144?mt=8), then get all the detail you want via our web portal (http://www.hexoskin.com/en/hexoskin-dashboard), which allows you to drill down with our tools, but also to export the raw data to manipulate the way you want.

  • Per Tschudi

    I got into fitbit because 1 minute resolution, but no!

    Now i'm looking into:

    http://www.zephyranywhere.com/

    per.tschudi@gmail.com :)

  • John A Thompson

    Jeff, do you mind posting the R code you used to interact with Fitbit API?

    Thanks,
    John

  • Robert Jacobson

    You can easily scrape the cals/min data from the graph on the activity manager on the bodymedia.com website (for certain values of "easy") using a little Python and, say, the requests Python library. I've been thinking of doing this myself.

  • Robert Jacobson

    I haven't, because I decided the site already has all of the graphs that I'd want anyway. Sorry.

  • Naupaka

    I have used it. I download the csv and then analyze in R. They also market the same device for clinical settings (called 'sensewear'), and describe the raw data output for that context. The devices are similar if not identical. Explanation of channels is mostly here: http://sensewear.bodymedia.com/site/sensewear/files/Explanation_of_Channels.pdf

  • ZJ

    Great post... I've been working with my own homemade activity tracker to look at raw accelerometer data. blog: http://www.activityhacker.com

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  • Edouard

    There s a hack for that https://github.com/andrewjw/python-fitbit some more info at http://andrewwilkinson.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/accessing-fitbit-intraday-data/

    I also tried to contact fitbit to become a partner as I am at a startup which would like to use it ... no response after a month!

  • http://jeremiahlee.com JeremiahLee

    Since 2011, Fitbit has offered minute-level data access through its API.
    (See the edit history on Fitbit's wiki:
    https://wiki.fitbit.com/pages/viewpreviousversions.action?pageId=4625297
    ) You just have to request access to it. Commercial use requires review
    by Fitbit, but any personal use is always granted. More information is
    at https://community.fitbit.com/t5/Web-API/How-can-I-get-minute-level-data/m-p/324362#U324362