Opt-Out Fitness Data Sharing Leads to Massive Military Locations Leak

People who exercise with fitness trackers have a digital record of their workouts. They do it for a wide range of reasons, from gathering serious medical data to simply satisfying curiosity. When fitness data includes GPS coordinates, it raises personal privacy concerns. But even with individual data removed, such data was still informative enough to spill the beans on secretive facilities around the world.

Strava is a fitness tracking service that gathers data from several different brands of fitness tracker — think Fitbit. It gives athletes a social media experience built around their fitness data: track progress against personal goals and challenge friends to keep each other fit. As expected of companies with personal data, their privacy policy promised to keep personal data secret. In the same privacy policy, they also reserved the right to use the data shared by users in an “aggregated and de-identified” form, a common practice for social media companies. One such use was to plot the GPS data of all their users in a global heatmap. These visualizations use over 6 trillion data points and can be compiled into a fascinating gallery, but there’s a downside.

This past weekend, [Nathan Ruser] announced on Twitter that Strava’s heatmap also managed to highlight exercise activity by military/intelligence personnel around the world, including some suspected but unannounced facilities. More worryingly, some of the mapped paths imply patrol and supply routes, knowledge security officers would prefer not to be shared with the entire world.

This is an extraordinary blunder which very succinctly illustrates a folly of Internet of Things. Strava’s anonymized data sharing obsfucated individuals, but didn’t manage to do the same for groups of individuals… like the fitness-minded active duty military personnel whose workout habits are clearly defined on these heat maps. The biggest contributor (besides wearing a tracking device in general) to this situation is that the data sharing is enabled by default and must be opted-out:

“You can opt-out of contributing your anonymized public activity data to Strava Metro and the Heatmap by unchecking the box in this section.” —Strava Blog, July 2017

We’ve seen individual fitness trackers hacked and we’ve seen people tracked through controlled domains before, but the global scope of [Nathan]’s discovery puts it in an entirely different class.

[via Washington Post]

Gamify Your Workout with this Wearable Console Controller

‘Tis soon to be the season when resolutions falter and exercise equipment purchased with the best of intentions is cast aside in frustration. But with a little motivation, like making your exercise machine a game console controller, you can maximize your exercise gear investment and get in some guilt-free gaming to boot.

Honestly, there is no better motivation for keeping up with exercise than taking classes, but not many people have the discipline — or the pocketbook — to keep going to the gym for the long haul. With this in mind, [Jason] looked for a way to control PS4  games like Mario Karts or TrackMania with his recumbent bike. In an attempt to avoid modifying the bike, [Jason] decided on a wearable motion sensor for his ankle. Consisting of an Uno, an MPU9250 accelerometer, and a transmitter for the 433-MHz ISM band, the wearable sends signals to a receiver whenever the feet are moving. This simulates pressing the up arrow controller key to set the game into action. Steering and other game actions are handled by a regular controller; we’d love to see this expanded to include strain gauges on the recumbent bike’s handles to allow left-right control by shifting weight in the seat. Talk about immersive gameplay!

While we like the simplicity of [Jason]’s build and the positive reinforcement it provides, it’s far from the first exercise machine hack we’ve seen. From making Google Street View bike-controlled to automatically logging workouts, exercise machines are ripe for the hacking.

Continue reading “Gamify Your Workout with this Wearable Console Controller”

Keep Pedaling to Keep Playing

It’s been said that the best way to tackle the issue of childhood obesity would be to hook those children’s video game consoles up to a pedal-powered generator. Of course, this was said by [Alex], the creator of Cykill. Cykill interfaces an Xbox to an exercise bike, so to keep the video game going you’ll have to keep pedaling the bike.

While there is no generator involved in this project, it does mimic the effect of powering electronics from a one. The exercise bike has a set of communications wires, which are connected to a relay on the Xbox’s power plug. When the relay notices that the bike isn’t being pedaled enough, it automatically cuts power to the console. Of course, the risk of corrupting a hard drive is high with this method, but that only serves to increase the motivation to continue pedaling.

The project goes even further in order to eliminate temptation to bypass the bike. [Alex] super-glued the plug of the Xbox to the relay, making it extremely difficult to get around the exercise requirement. If you’re after usable energy instead of a daily workout, though, there are bikes out there that can power just about any piece of machinery you can imagine.

The Running Cat

Cats are great to have around, but they need exercise. If you’re not in a position to let the cat outdoors, you need to look to something else when kitty wakes up bored from her 23 hour nap. Cat playscapes are useful diversions, but this is the first time we’ve considered real exercise equipment. Let’s get our feline friends their exercise fix with a hamster-esque cat exercise wheel.

[bbarlowski]’s design is simple but very clever, and almost looks like something you’d find flat-packed at IKEA. Built of CNC-milled birch plywood, the wheel rims snap together like puzzle pieces while the floor has tabs that slot into the rims. The tension of the bent floor panels locks everything together and makes for a smart looking wheel. The video after the break shows [Kuna the Maine Coon cat] in action on the wheel, and outlines a few plans for expansion, including adding an Arduino to monitor kitty’s activity and control both an RGB LED strip for mood lighting and a cat treat dispenser for positive reinforcement of the exercise regimen.

The project mounted an unsuccessful campaign in March and they’ve made the DXF cutting files available for download. Of course if it’s too much plywood and not enough Arduino for you, just build the Arduspider to torture – err, entertain your cat.

Continue reading “The Running Cat”

Cadence Meter Proves Wearable Development Is All About Just Doing It

wearables-just-start-doing

 

The tech involved in the fitness world really empowers athletes, whether they’re serious or not, to improve their performance by providing empirical evidence. The Striker project focuses on cadence, which is the frequency of strides when running, or revolutions when pedaling. It uses a force sensitive resistor in the shoe to measure footfalls or power strokes.

The concept behind the device is solid, and there are consumer-grade devices already on the market that are capable of performing the same functions. In fact, a Garmin device is used to help measure the accuracy of the system. But we love to see bootstrapped projects, and this one distinguishes itself not only in finished product, but in the process itself. To us it screams: “What are you waiting for, build a prototype and then iterate!”.

The larger image above shows the earliest working version which is just a piece of fabric that wraps around the forearm to hold a 4-digit 7-segment display. The wire following the arm of the wearer snakes all the way down to the shoe to connect with the force sensor. The image to the right is the first wireless version of the readout. But the project has already seen at least two more versions after this one, mostly using SparkFun components.

We think this is but one example of the kind of stuff we want to see as contenders for The Hackaday Prize. The project uses Open Design and it’s arguably a connected device because the sensor and readout connect to each other (but ideally you’d want to add more connectivy to get at the data). The open nature of the build could lead to leaps forward in the technology by affording talented people wider development access.

Continue reading “Cadence Meter Proves Wearable Development Is All About Just Doing It”

Make Your Treadmill More Entertaining for $0

Treadmill Computer

Treadmills can often be found on the side of the road, after someone gave up on their running regimen and found that the machine was taking up too much space in their basement. This is great for hackers, since they have some useful parts in them.

However, if you’d like to actually use a treadmill for running, some entertainment would certainly help. [KingJackOff] decided to roll his own treadmill entertainment system out of things he had lying around, bringing the total cost to $0.

He took an old laptop and mounted it in a piece of rigid foam using a gratuitous amount of duct tape. With the screen and keyboard mounted, he added speakers and a slot for the DVD drive. Then a printed graphic was taped to the front, with a nice motivational message.

Lots of people have old laptops lying around with mechanical issues. Broken hinges and frames make them unusable, even though the electronics are fine. Some foam and paper could be all you need to bring one back to life.

[via Reddit]

Personal Energy Orb prevents your life from being swallowed by the Internets

We love the Internet, but we are definitely guilty of losing track of the time we spend traipsing around our virtual haunts. This project will not only remind you to get out and exercise, it will cripple your digital experience if you don’t heed its colorful warning.

[Janko Hofmann] calls it the Personal Energy Orb. It’s really just an Arduino and an RGB LED. But as with most creations, the idea is what makes it great. The orb has a dock next to your computer. It tracks how much time you spend online, changing colors as you rack up the hours. If you don’t heed the warning signs of overuse it will even start to slow down your mouse cursor. But never fear. Full functionality can be restored by topping off your personal energy. As you can see above, there’s also a docking station on [Janko’s] bicycle. The orb monitors your mileage, moving out of the red zone so that your computer will be unencumbered the next time you sit down for a long session of flash games. Don’t miss his video presentation embedded after the break.

Continue reading “Personal Energy Orb prevents your life from being swallowed by the Internets”