The Saga of your life

The Saga (@GetSaga) lifelogging app brings RunKeeper (@runkeeper) activities into a user’s location-based view of their life’s activities. Jeremy Bensley (@jbensley) walks us through how A.R.O., Inc. (@arodotcom), makers of Saga, use the Health Graph platform (@healthgraphapi) to show the saga of your life.

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

Jeremy Bensley

Jeremy Bensley: I’m the Director of Server Development at A.R.O., Inc. Running the platform development team means I’m involved with many tasks on a daily basis, but at my core I’m a data guy, and specifically I love tracking my movements, my activities, and my habits. My background is in machine learning, natural language processing, and making sense of lots and lots of (often noisy) output from sensors. Aside from managerial duties my primary tasks for Saga are the time segmentation of the LifeLog and integration with external APIs such as RunKeeper’s Health Graph API.

A.R.O. is a great place to work. We think the sensors in your smartphone can be used to power a wide range of awesome app experiences. Everything from contextually-aware systems like Google Now to virtual personal assistants like Siri, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface on this potential.

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

JB: Saga is a location lifelog. It creates a diary of your life based on where you go. The beauty of Saga is that it does this without requiring much attention from the user. Different people will like different aspects of Saga: Perhaps you will use it to figure out how to optimize your commute to work, or how you run your errands. Or as a beautiful way to tell the story of your amazing weekend.

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

JB: We wanted to include health details as part of the Saga lifelog. A first step is including information such as the details of your run from RunKeeper. For many runners, running is a part of your life, more than just the numbers of the run (distance, time, pace, etc). It’s about getting out to a unique location, having an amazing run or race, meeting up with fellow runners at the pub afterward, and basically just having a wonderful weekend.

And Health Graph users aren’t tracking just runs or other forms of exercise. Right now we’re focusing on run information, but soon we will incorporate other measurements available in Health Graph platform such as body measurements and food intake.

BD: How will the Health Graph platform benefit your business?

JB: People who use the Health Graph through a number of tools have already established a form of lifelogging practice, just very focused. We think they will be familiar with lifelogging in general, and appreciate the additional context that Saga will provide to their existing logging practice.

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

JB: For our initial integration we are pulling the FitnessActivityFeed and associated FitnessActivities to display a summary of a user’s workout in their lifelog. We have plans in our roadmap for expanding upon this to include other activity feeds and eventually allow people to post into some of these feeds using data from Saga.

Saga screenshot

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

JB: It’s an amazingly comprehensive platform for tracking all of the health-related aspects of your life, and it’s fantastic that RunKeeper places such a strong emphasis and dedication to making this the best API for health tracking. My only complaint as a developer would be the lack of API versioning, or if it exists documentation on its usage. [Editor’s note: Please monitor “revisions” via this blog for updates and modifications to the Health Graph API and platform.]

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

JB: I believe the Health Graph platform provides an amazingly comprehensive health tracking API. Nonetheless I’d like to see extra data to allow for timestamp normalization, by including either a UTC timestamp or the user’s timezone in the activity data.

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

JB: In the future, Saga will incorporate more logging services (for example, a service to track mood, menstrual cycle, music listening) to include in the lifelog. The Health Graph platform will certainly be a part of that, as right now we have a very small subset of it included.

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

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Corporate wellness, meet Limeade and the Health Graph

I’m very pleased to continue our series of Health Graph partner profiles with a discussion with Erick Rivas (@erickrivas) of Limeade (@limeade). Limeade is a leading corporate wellness provider that recently announced support for RunKeeper and other Health Graph API (@healthgraphapi) partner devices and apps in their Limeade Open App & Device Platform. Read on to learn more about how Limeade is using the Health Graph to make the workplace healthier and more fun too!

Bill Day: What do you do for Limeade?

Erick Rivas: I’m CTO and VP of Product Development at Limeade.

BD: How does your work at Limeade help corporations and their people?

ER: People spend a lot of time at work. And, habits at work — what you eat, how active you are, how you manage stress, etc. — have a huge effect on health and happiness. We help reinforce and change company culture in ways that promote health, happiness and productivity.

BD: That is a fantastic mission! How do you take advantage of the Health Graph API in your work?

ER: There is a lot of innovation going on in the area of fitness devices and apps. Users want to leverage best-in-class fitness devices and apps they already use and have that activity automatically count towards the rewards and incentives that are part of their company’s worksite wellness program.

For example, I took my daughter for a trick-or-treating “walk” of 3 miles around our neighborhood last night using RunKeeper and this morning, via our Health Graph integration, I automatically got 1 point for that as part of the walking challenge that I am participating in at Limeade. Employees can receive health insurance premium deductions, Amazon.com Gift Cards, be entered into a raffle for an iPad, and so on when certain points thresholds are met.

BD: How do you see this partnership with RunKeeper benefiting individual employees at the companies you’re working with?

ER: Our integration via the Health Graph API gives RunKeeper users a way to connect with others at their company in a social context. It gives Limeade users a fun way to track their physical activity using the fitness app or device of their choice.

BD: When a user starts using RunKeeper capabilities via the Health Graph integration in Limeade, what specifically happens behind the scenes?

ER: Upon authorization by the user (using OAuth), we are downloading/syncing with all Fitness Activity types and associated units (miles, calories, minutes) that are supported by the Health Graph API.

BD: Any thoughts on the overall strategy we’re taking with the Health Graph and the developer community?

ER: I really like the vision and direction of the Health Graph in providing an open way for users to store, manage and share historical health data from multiple providers.

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

ER: I’d like to be able to distinguish between activities that were recorded by a device versus self-reported activities in the activity feed that is returned from the Health Graph API without having to parse through the GPS data.

Also, I’d like to be able know what the source of the device data is in cases where the user is not using the RunKeeper app (say they were using a partner device from Fitbit, Polar or Garmin). That way, we could not only show that you had (say) burned 10,000 calories in the last two weeks as part of your company’s Biggest Loser weight maintenance challenge, but also break that down by type of device.

BD: Thanks for the suggestions and requests, we appreciate them very much. What’s next for Limeade and your use of the Health Graph?

ER: We follow an Agile Development approach at Limeade and as a result we are deploying product improvements once a month.

In the near term, we will be improving the visualization of self-improvement information (activity, biometrics) and social features on the site.

Pulling additional data types that are stored in the Health Graph outside of physical/fitness activities (nutrition, weight, blood glucose levels, etc.) is something we will be supporting as well.

BD: Is there anything else we should know about you and your customers’ use of Limeade?

ER: I trust that a lot of Limeade users will be excited about the integration with RunKeeper and the Health Graph API. And I look forward to feedback on ways that we can make it even better!

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