Implications of Pebble Sale to Fitbit on OpenSeizureDetector

A couple of weeks ago Pebble announced that they have been bought by Fitbit (who make fitness tracking devices), and no longer sell or support smart watches.

A few people have asked what this means for OpenSeizureDetector.    My thoughts are:

Short Term (around 1 year)

No change – if you already have a Pebble watch or can buy one, you will be able to install the Pebble Android App from Google Play Store to connect your pebble to the phone, and install OpenSeizureDetector on it.

It is possible that Pebbles may become scarce (or looking more positively, they may get cheap – Argos and Amazon are selling them for £49, and cheaper if you like pink!   Amazon.co.uk currently says they only have 5 in stock (17 December).

Medium Term (1-3 years)

The Pebble Android App and Pebble firmware may no longer be available from Pebble.   There is an open source project that implements the Bluetooth communication with the watch, so I think it will be possible to bypass the Pebble Android App and build this all into OpenSeizureDetector (OpenSeizureDetector does not need any of the Pebble web services to work) –  I will look at doing this over the winter while the Pebble software is still available.

Long Term (>3 years)

Pebble watches are unlikely to be available so we will need an alternative device.  The options are:

  1. If we are very lucky FitBit may release a pebble-like device with software development kit so you can program it like you can the Pebble, as they bought all the Pebble intellectual property.   I am not too hopeful about this – I did try to work out how to program a fitbit before I discovered Pebble, and it is all closed-source protocols….
  2. Android Wear – Android Wear watches such as Moto 360 should be capable of doing what OpenSeizureDetector does on the pebble, and use the same Android App infrastructure (since Verison 2 I have the internal structure of the code set up to use different devices).   I haven’t done this yet because Pebbles were so much cheaper than Android Wear devices, so no point using anything else….but now I’ll have to look at it.
  3. Embrace – the Embrace ‘watch’ is doing something very similar to OpenSeizureDetector and includes skin electrodes to detect stress.  This should give better false alarm discrimination than just using Acceleration like I do with the Pebble.   But, up to now I am not impressed with the reliability of the device – it drops bluetooth connections without any of the fault warning beeps that we have built into OpenSeizureDetector – I am minded to try to use Embrace as a data source for the OpenSeizureDetector alarm notification system rather than use their Android App, which relies on an active internet connection to raise alarms.
  4. Another Device – I had looked at AngelSensor, and I do have a device to work on, but I am not sure if the company still exists – no point developing for a device that no-one can get hold of….
  5. Anything else?  I’m open to suggestions for alternative devices with accelerometers that we could use the OpenSeizureDetector system with.

Conclusion

OpenSeizureDetector will continue to work while Pebble Watches are available (I  am confident enough that I just bought Benjamin two spares for when his current ones break).

But we need to decide what to do once Pebble Watches are not available any more…

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