Awake at the wheels

A year ago, at VRooM Boston 2009, , founder and CTO of Zeo — the hot new sleep fitness company — visited questions  about who owns and controlled personal data. Was the sleep data you produce as a customer entirely Zeo’s? Was it yours? Both? Neither? What right should anybody have to use it, and under what conditions?

These kinds of questions aren’t easily answered at a time when mining and selling personal data has turned into a white-hot industry, whether people like it or not. Data about individuals is also easy to rationalize as a corporate asset: something that makes the company itself more valuable.

Since then answers have begun to sort themselves out.

First came Brian, the Cornell student who writes, “I hacked Zeo. And I got paid for it.” Specifically,

I opened Zeo up, soldered to the lines that drive the display, and got my sleep phase output to my PC in real-time! This generated substantial interest from Zeo – and Ben Rubin (Zeo CTO) and I began our discussion on hacking, open source, and Zeo. I was thrilled when I learned that part of my summer would be interning for Zeo creating official ways to get at Zeo data!

Then this month Ben wrote,

Remember everyone’s favorite Zeo-hacker-turned-intern, Brian?

This summer, Brian produced two amazing projects for Zeo: the first – the Zeo Data Decoder – allows you to get at your sleep data without uploading it. The second (the main course, if you will) is the Zeo Raw Data Library.

Use Your Brain

The Zeo Raw Data Library uses the serial port on the back of Zeo (you were wondering about that unused port, weren’t you) to pump out two very cool things:

  • Your sleep phase in real time (Wake, REM, Light, Deep every 30 seconds)
  • Your brainwaves!

We hope developers will use the Raw Data Library for cool applications.  Need some ideas?

  • Build a lucid dreaming application that triggers a light or sound when a user enters REM sleep.
  • Wake yourself during REM in the middle of the night and keep a sweet sleep journal.
  • Use brainwaves for cool Brain Computer Interface projects while you are awake.  For inspiration check out interAxon.
  • Visualize your brainwaves while awake for bio-feedback applications like concentration or relaxation.

How do I get my hands on it?!?

Calm down and step away from the brainwave detector…

You can get the documentation, the library to read the RDL, and an example sleep stage and brainwave visualizer over on sourceforge.  Yup; we decided to open source all of that stuff, so feel free to hack/modify to your needs (and share if you like!).  The special firmware (2.6.3R) needed to run the RDL is over here after you fill out a simple form.

We encourage people who are using the RDL to jump on the forums and discuss it.  People are already using the RDL to optimize polyphasic sleep naps and help them lucid dream with Zeo.  Please use the forums for support and also feel free to email us at  We’ll also do our best to help troubleshoot, but remember that this is an alpha release so there may be bugs.

The Future is Open Wide

We released the Zeo Raw Data Library because

  • It’s your data–we want you to be free to use it any way you like
  • We are really excited to see what people develop that ends up helping others get a better night’s rest

Please let us know what you think in the comments on on the forums.  Hack away!

I just had to post that whole passage because it’s so completely cool.

Next is combinatorial API fun. From Ben’s latest, All Together Now: Zeo Integrates with Digifit,

Where Sleep Quality meets Fitness and Weight

Zeo is proud to announce the first partner using ZQ outside of our own web application:  The Digifit Dashboard for Healthy LivingSM iPhone app.  Digifit is the only Healthcare and Fitness app for the iPhone that integrates heart rate monitoring for tracking cardio fitness. We’re pretty sure Columbus from Zombieland would be happy with this — his #1 Rule for a Zombified America is Cardio!

Now with the new Digifit Dashboard for Healthy Living SM ,users can also track their weight and sleep (using the Withings WiFi Body Scale and Zeo) and see them conveniently within the Digifit dashboard.  We think Digifit founder says it best:

Withings and Zeo are leading edge pioneers in the industry and we are thrilled to partner with them. With the latest upgrade, our Digifit app completes the health triad puzzle by ‘automagically’ tracking the three most important influences on one’s health: exercise, weight and sleep. We do indeed have it All Together Now.

This is close to home for me, because I’m just starting to get into serious fitness work, which started with my Withings scale. Gotta get a Zeo thing now. (Like the one above.) And Digifit.

Ben again:

This is Just the Beginning

Digifit is the first partner to leverage our soon-to-be-released Web API, which allows data from Zeo to flow out to any internet connected service that wants to leverage the power of sleep quality.  We’ll continue to partner with organizations working in athletics, nutrition, general health, and more to help their users leverage the power of sleep fully so stay tuned!

For more on API jazz, follow . I especially like his Prezi here. Gets you thinking about bi-directional or “full duplex” APIs. This tutorial shows how to do context automation with KRL webhooks and the API.


  1. Alexander Ainslie (@AAinslie)

    This is awesome! Loads of food for thought.

  2. Dave Täht

    Ha! I’ve always wanted an intelligent alarm clock, something that I could set to wake me when I was in the lightest phase of sleep +/- 40 minutes before I was supposed to wake.

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