How to hack the bodybugg to work without a subscription fee

Posted by Erica on May 27, 2011 in Electronics, Making |

In my previous post I talked about the bodybugg and how I used it for body recomposition. Many people that look at the bodybugg hesitate due to the cost: first for the hardware itself, and second for the website subscription fee. The website displays those pretty graphs and totals that I showed earlier. More importantly, the bodybugg has a limited amount of memory on-board. The company has deliberately designed the product so that you must log on to their website in order to clear the memory. The subscription is not particularly cheap, either. It is $10/month, less if you pay in advance for extended period. I can afford this, but many people can’t.

There is a display watch that can show you the calories you’ve burned that day. So if there is a way to clear the bodybugg’s memory, it is possible to use the device without the website. Granted you lose those nice activity charts that show you what you burned each hour of the day, but having used the bugg for almost a year, I don’t need them. The “trip” function on the watch offers similar functionality in any case. The analysis tools in the website are absolutely terrible and of course you can’t export your data to a spreadsheet or anything useful like that.

I am not someone who believes “everything should be free” but this particular venture was inspired by a very negative interaction with their customer service. I got my bugg off of eBay, easy to do because eventually many people tire of paying the fees. It came with the previous owner’s remaining subscription. I was able to change gender, weight, etc. so it all worked fine for me. But, I couldn’t change the name on the account. Not a big deal. Recently I got a notice that my subscription was expiring. I figured at this point, as I was about to pay them directly, it would be fair to put my name on the account. I e-mailed them about this, and got a canned response saying that it was impossible to change the name or move my data — an obvious lie — and filled with dark hints about liability between users from sharing information.

That made me pretty mad. A few folks at HacDC had suggested I might be able to find some APIs for the device. And sure enough, I found something that would do exactly what I need. God bless the internet. An unsung genius has created the bodybugg command-line tool. It not only clears the memory but allows you to pull data off the device into various formats. You need to install Python and some related libraries; fortunately you do not need to know how to use Python.

If you follow their directions, be sure to read the comments as well. As a Windows user, I found it necessary to do the additional steps listed there: installing the Python serial library (with the installer), and editing the script to add a ser.close() command.

The clear functionality certainly works, after using it and going back to the website, the site thinks I had the bodybugg off and asks what I was doing during that time. That also reset the watch to a lower value, perhaps because the web site triggered a manually overwrite of what was in there.

I have 6 days left on my subscription. I may end up renewing after all, but it’s good to know that there is another option.

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13 Comments

  • [...] I have since figured out how to use the Bodybugg without paying the subscription fee. May be of interest to fellow hackers. … other posts by [...]

  • Watchntv says:

    Tell me how to use bodybugg for free please

  • Mark says:

    So now that your subscription has lapsed, what is your experience with the bodybugg? Are you using it without a sub? I am more than capable of using the command line tool to clear the device’s memory, but I am wondering if there are any instabilities or annoyances with the product when it’s used without a subscription.

  • Erica says:

    Shortly after this post, I switched to the Android platform on my phone, and lost the bodybugg display watch. Because of that, I donated my old bodybugg and upgraded to the SP3 version that syncs directly with the phone. It came with a year’s subscription. So I have not gone for an extended period. I’d say, try it and see.

  • E says:

    Just to share the knowledge, I too went looking for a free alternative to the pricey monthy “service” that bodybugg required for my girlfriends device.

    The python scripts on the site you found do indeed work! For the past 9 months or so I’ve been faithfully pulling data and clearing my girlfriends bodybugg using only those scripts!

    Your data file from generated from your activity is tab delimited, meaning its easy to open in a spreadsheet program (like free Openoffice/Libreoffice). The calories graph is what my girlfriend was most interested in. That is the column labled “EE”. You can use the tools inside Openoffice to give you the activity graph, and even do the calculations to pretty accurate Calories/minute burn.

    I’ll be the first to say it took a bit of tinkering to get the PC set up (Ubuntu 9.04 box), but it does indeed work for free!

    Good luck everyone!

  • Summer Fabian says:

    Any problems using this with an SP?

  • Erica says:

    I haven’t tried it, but would be surprised if the API changed very much.

  • Lori says:

    Do you know if anyone has created any bodybugg-like software that us non-hackers could download for a small fee? $10/month is not in my budget right now, but I went to that link above and just stared at it for about ten minutes. I downloaded the first Python software, but couldn’t even get that to run.

  • Erica says:

    I’m afraid I don’t. That is the tradeoff really…spend the time to figure out a workaround, or spend the cash.

  • Alaina says:

    Does anyone know if this works with the BodyBugg SP version?

  • Mike says:

    For those curious, I have been able to clear the data for the BodyBuggSP with the command line tool, but its pretty much useless because the only way to get the data since the subscription is expired is to use a pairing device like the watch or smartphone. However, when you clear using this method, you can not use a pairing device because it literally wipes everything and the software on the pairing device says that the arm band is not set up (meaning you have wiped your age, sex, weight, etc) so it will not provide the information for you.

  • Brandon says:

    I would like to rebut this. I downloaded the android bodybugg program from the play market, and with only a single initial setup on the computer with bodybugg website

    the app gives me an option to “skip login” (every time i do this)
    once logged in, it syncs no problem with my device

    i –clear on my bodybuggSP

    I clear the app cache (to delete residual data)
    the app estimates the time that i wasnt wearing the bodybugg (which would then be all day since i cleared it) and updates the onscreen data no problem

    no resetup, no problems

  • Jack says:

    If you use the bodybugg SP with an android or ipad or whatever, will it show you all the same info as the website? Can you use it without a subscription if you use it with an ipad?

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