Hackathon innovations: David Cohen discusses his Health Graph Java wrapper

We’re finishing off 2011 with another Health Graph (@healthgraphapi) library partner profile. Below we speak with developer David Cohen about his work on a Java wrapper for the Health Graph API. If you’re a Java programmer interested in hacking health, you should definitely check it out!

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your interest in the Health Graph API.

David Cohen: I am a senior software developer for Isobar North America, focusing mostly on back-end development in the worlds of Java and PHP. I also box on a (very) amateur level and am in the very early contemplative stages of what kind of Health Graph application I could develop to work with that.

After participating in Isobar’s Create 48 NFC Hackathon as part of Team Beer Pants Meeting, I became aware of and interested in working with the Health Graph API through a series of similar hackathon events hosted by Terrible Labs.

BD: Why did you develop your own Java wrapper for accessing the Health Graph API?

DC: In the setting of a series of shorter hackathons – being a few hours at a time rather than a marathon over the course of several days – developing a wrapper in a language that I was already familiar with seemed like a great way to both become familiar with the new API and to provide a tool that would be of use to Java developers who wanted to created Health Graph applications in the future.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API does your wrapper support? Do you use all of them in your own application?

DC: The wrapper is currently a work in progress, but the goal is to have it support the entire Health Graph API. I do not currently have my own application built off of the wrapper but I do hope to be able to use it for application development in the near future.

BD: Are there any portions of the Health Graph API that you don’t currently support but plan to in the future?

DC: There are plenty of portions that are still works in progress, but nothing that isn’t currently being worked on in terms of support.

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph? What would you like to see changed?

DC: I love the depth of data potentially represented by the Health Graph. It’s hard to look at API specifications and not have at least a few ideas for a mash-up application come to mind.

The only problem I see is right now is one that most new projects, especially ones with a large scope, suffer from: The documentation could use some improvements. It should call out specific changes when API updates are made.

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph, what would it be? How would you use it?

DC: Having not really worked on the application development layer yet, my new feature request might not be ground-breakingly exciting but I would love to see an API call added that contained a map of the MIME types with keys that would not change, so that I could dynamically create my MIME type maps for wrapper calls and not have to worry about getting bad requests when the API updates.

BD: Can you share any future plans for your wrapper? What’s coming next that Health Graph developers may be excited about?

DC: Once the wrapper is stable and contains all of the current API features, I plan on writing a sample application that will give developers a good place to start implementing the features contained within the Health Graph and wrapper. After that I may even start working on an application of my own!

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you or your wrapper?

DC: Just that so far it has been a great experience working with the Health Graph and the RunKeeper team. You all have been nothing short of extraordinarily helpful and ready to answer all of my requests and point out when my “bug reports” are real or just me implementing something poorly. So thanks!

(Editor’s note: You can see David and Team Beer Pants Meeting in action at Isobar’s hackathon around 3:16 into the video below.)

Isobar Create 48 NFC Hackathon from Isobar US on Vimeo.

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.


Scosche myTREK: Health Graph wireless pulse monitoring on your forearm

We’ve previously featured Health Graph (@healthgraphapi) applications and third party libraries in our ongoing partner profiles series. This time, we turn our attention to a device partner, Scosche Industries (@scosche), and their Health Graph-integrated myTrek device. Read on to learn more about myTrek and how Scosche is taking advantage of the Health Graph.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your company.

Rick Wenner: My background is as a fitness educator and I have spent the last decade instructing thousands of fitness professionals and consumers on how to properly maintain a healthy lifestyle. I have always seen technology as a crucial tool in expanding the possibilities and opportunities within the fitness industry. I have dedicated much of my professional career to developing award winning fitness products. I am now the Category Manager for Health and Fitness at Scosche Industries where I focus on promoting and developing Scosche’s line of Health and Fitness products.

BD: What is the “elevator pitch” for why someone should use myTREK?

RW: The Scosche myTREK is a wireless pulse monitor that is worn on your forearm as opposed to a traditional chest strap. Paired with the Scosche myTREK app, you can manage your pulse, training type, calories burned, distance/speed/pace and more. Scosche myTREK also allows you to control your music while you work out with the integrated buttons on the armband; volume up/down, play/pause and previous/next track.

BD: How did you get started using the Health Graph API?

RW: We realized that RunKeeper had a great platform for individuals tracking and sharing their health metrics with like-minded consumers. Once we launched we saw that quite a few of our users wanted to have the ability to share their myTREK workouts on RunKeeper’s Health Graph.

BD: How is using the Health Graph benefiting your business?

RW: Consumers began noticing our team’s posts during our beta testing and started asking how they could link their myTREK to the Health Graph. Since then, we have had great feedback from our existing customers, who were hoping that they would see this partnership. We are also seeing an increase in app downloads and myTREK purchases.

BD: Which portion of the Health Graph API do you use, and why?

RW: We are currently using the Fitness Activities portion of the Health Graph API. We use this to allow users’ myTREK activities to be continually monitored.

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph?

RW: The Health Graph is a great tool for enabling individuals to track their progress in one or more aspects of their fitness journey. This type of constant feedback shows the individual their end result; this can either be rewarding or show them that they need to modify their workouts to see the desired results.

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph, what would it be? How would you use it?

RW: The Scosche myTREK app allows users to name their workouts. It would be great if the Health Graph could recognize what the user named the workout and track it accordingly. Currently the only way to define the workout is via the notes section.

BD: Can you share any future plans for myTREK and related Scosche products? What’s coming next that your users will be excited about?

RW: Scosche has big plans for the Health and Fitness Category; however, we are not at liberty to divulge them at this time. What I can say is that we will be launching an Android app in the very near future.

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you, Scosche, or myTREK?

RW: We are focused on creating a complete exercise experience; an experience which motivates, guides and entertains by seamlessly incorporating music, social media, and all that connects you to the world. Scosche’s award winning myTREK app and hardware are a glimpse of the great things that are still to come from the Scosche Health and Fitness Category.

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.


Ruby fans, meet the Health Graph

This week we are featuring one of the developers building libraries and wrappers on top of the Health Graph (@healthgraphapi), Kenny Ma (@kennyma). Kenny has made his Health Graph Ruby gem available via GitHub for anyone and everyone to use. Click here to give it a try yourself and read on for more on why and how he built it.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your interest in the Health Graph API.

Kenny Ma: I’m an entrepreneur and software engineer in San Francisco. Prior to my venture in a new health start-up, I was a lead engineer at IGN Entertainment where I worked on IGN’s social network for gamers and IGN’s mobile apps. My co-founder and I are working on improving workplace wellness by creating fitness challenges for groups within companies. The Health Graph API provides a great way to track each individual’s progress.

BD: Why did you develop your own Ruby gem for accessing the Health Graph API?

KM: There are quite a few good Ruby gems for the Health Graph API now but there weren’t any when we started.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API does your gem support? Do you use all of them in your own application?

KM: The gem currently supports authentication, fitness activities, sleep, weight, profile, and users. We are currently using all of these in our application and will also be adding more API support soon.

BD: Which additional portions of the Health Graph API do you plan to add in the future?

KM: We are planning to add support for strength training activities very soon. Nutrition and background activities are also on our to do list.

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph? What would you like to see changed?

KM: I love the idea of making this data available so that developers like myself can quickly build health applications on top of it. I think end users will benefit tremendously from the innovations that will come out of this. I don’t see a need to change anything at this time. Keep up the good work.

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph, what would it be? How would you use it?

KM: None. The Health Graph works very well for us and we haven’t had any problems with it for our application.

BD: Can you share any future plans for your gem? What’s coming next that Health Graph developers may be excited about?

KM: There will definitely be more API support and more test coverage. We will be releasing more updates very soon so make sure you watch the repository if you are using the gem.

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you or your gem?

KM: I’m excited to be able to share the gem with the community and any suggestions for improvement are always welcome.

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.


Health Graph update from Le Web (video)

Our CEO Jason Jacobs (@jjacobs22) provided a great update on the Health Graph (@healthgraphapi) in his discussion with Leo Laporte (@leolaporte) at Le Web (@leweb).

Click here or watch the video at:

http://www.ustream.tv/embed/recorded/19007839

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.


Nexercise makes fitness fun with the Health Graph

Fitness games are an important and growing segment of the health and fitness landscape, and we’re very happy to have some several fantastic partners implementing games on top of the Health Graph (@healthgraphapi). Case in point: Nexercise (@nexercise), our featured partner this week.

Bill Day: Please tell us about yourself and your company.

Benjamin Young: I’ve been managing and delivering business and information technology solutions for the last twelve years. I love working on things that allow me to blend my creativity and entrepreneurial passion. I’ve worked in software development, product management executive positions and co-founded C.Y. Strategy, a boutique strategy and management-consulting firm focused on providing advisory services to early and mid-stage ventures. I’ve also worked on voice application systems and managed research in unstructured data analytics.

My latest venture, Nexercise aims to tackle obesity in America by turning fitness into a fun and interactive game. I originally conceived of the idea from personal frustrations with maintaining my weight while simultaneously working, going to school, and raising two children. Since the beta launch of Nexercise in August, the game has already grown to over 35,000 users.

BD: What is the “elevator pitch” for why someone should use Nexercise?

BY: Nexercise makes fitness FUN. It’s a new and exciting way to get motivated, lose weight, and stay in shape. You can play with friends, earn rewards, defeat challenges, and track your progress on the largest fitness mobile interactive game of its kind.

BD: How did you get started using the Health Graph API?

BY: We reached out to RunKeeper and you were extremely helpful. Your team pointed us to some great resources, including an open source iOS project in Github that enabled us to speed up our development time. [Editor’s note: Our Health Graph libraries page links to that and other third party libraries, wrappers, and related tools.]

BD: How is using the Health Graph benefiting your business?

BY: The Health Graph adds a new level of analytics and tracking for our users. Nexercise is great at making a motivational game experience and collecting data from a user’s workouts. We did not, however, build out a set of tools to give the user detailed insight on more “quantified-self” metrics like the capabilities RunKeeper provides. The integration was a perfect fit on capabilities! We make fitness fun and RunKeeper makes fitness and health data insightful.

BD: Which portions of the Health Graph API do you use, and why?

BY: Currently we allow users to link to the Health Graph and post their activities. This will enable them to get more insight into their fitness activities.

BD: What do you like about the Health Graph? What would you like to see changed?

BY: We like the simplicity and ease of use. We’d like to see a full iOS SDK to speed up integration.

BD: If you could request any new feature from the Health Graph, what would it be? How would you use it?

BY: We would love to see extended capabilities like interest discovery: You would recommend other users to connect, based on fitness level, location, interests, and activities.

BD: Can you share any future plans for your app? What’s coming next that your users will be excited about? Does the Health Graph play a role in that, and if so, how?

BY: We plan to expand functionality to provide Health Graph API users with additional customized game experiences based on their information. Additionally we will eventually allow users to get credit (experience points, virtual medals, and rewards) for activities not recorded using the Nexercise app.

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you or your application?

BY: Yes. It’s currently available on the Apple App Store. We will be coming to Android soon, so if you have an Android phone please sign up for early access by clicking here.

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.


Health Graph third party libraries

We have created a new “Health Graph libraries” page to provide a repository for all of the third party Health Graph API libraries, wrappers, bindings, and other tools available for developers.

Click here to access the page or here to jump straight to the Google Docs spreadsheet. You can subscribe to the spreadsheet’s RSS feed here to receive future updates and additions via your reader of choice.

The spreadsheet is also embedded below (scroll right to see the rest of each listing).

Please contact us via Twitter @healthgraphapi, Facebook, or Google+ if you know of others that should be added. Thanks!

Bill Day (@billday) is Platform Evangelist for RunKeeper where he helps developers learn about and use the Health Graph.