Archive for the ‘Front Seat News’ Category

Lost Fitbit – Found!

Fitbit One activity tracker

Lost Fitbit

Love at First Sync
Last fall I decided to take the plunge and buy a Fitbit One activity tracker. It’s about the size of a USB thumb drive and clips to your pants or shirt and records steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, and how you sleep each night. Unlike reports you see online, I’ve never had a problem with the Fitbit falling off. But sometimes it can be annoying to wear and I’d unclip it and set it down. Of course, you know where the story is heading now. A few months ago I put it down “somewhere” and I lost it. It was gone for a day or two. That vague feeling of “I should have seen it by now” but not yet a full declaration of “It’s lost.” It wasn’t until I got an email saying that the Fitbit battery was low (a great wireless connection between mobile, physical devices, and networked web services, by the way), that I realized that it must be close enough to me in my kitchen to have sync’d with my phone or computer. Close. But where?

The Hunt
I was in my house, but didn’t know if it was on the main floor near the computer desk or kitchen, upstairs in the bedroom or bathroom, in the basement with the laundry. Using my phone I was able to see that it sync’d from all 3 floors of the house. That wasn’t a help. I went to the site to see if they had any help on finding a lost Fitbit. They had some general advice – like check the laundry. But it didn’t do the trick. I thought of downloading a Bluetooth sniffer app from Google Play, but they seemed a little sketchy/geeky, and the one I picked required permissions to access all of my phone’s contact information. Huh??

I returned to the sync strategy and noticed that the number of steps recorded that day had increased. It must have moved! I basically went and did a binary search of the house. I went down to the laundry and moved piles of clothes around for a bit. Sync’d. Nothing. Went upstairs and moved around all of my belongings. Sync’d. Got it. Eventually I found my lost Fitbit it in the dark recesses of a pocket in my computer bag. But there had to be an easier way.

PopsicleAn Easier Way
Back at Front Seat, our crack team went to work and created an easier way. It’s called Fitbit Finder, and it’s the easiest way to find a lost Fitbit. Right now it’s iPhone-only. (No promises, but note that I personally own an Android.) It works whether you are an avid Bluetooth signal geek or think that Bluetooth is what your kids get when they eat a Bomb Pop Popsicle in the summer.

One of the challenges with a tracking app built around a Bluetooth LE device like the Fitbit One (or Fitbit Flex, Fitbit Force, Fitbit Ultra, Fitbit Zip, or whatever new gizmo Fitbit comes up with), is that Bluetooth radio signals are not directional. It’s not a homing beacon. This means that finding a target is based on you walking around and noticing changes in signal strength, rather than just the software thinking harder and figuring it out. Oh, and did I mention that Bluetooth signal strength changes even if you don’t move at all? That crazy, non-intuitive signal behavior is just what opened the gap for a solution based on some world-class design insights, with the algorithms to back them up, that went into creating Fitbit Finder.

Check out the design, give a review, and let us know what you think. It’s free.

Fitbit Finder: A simple app that helps you find lost Fitbits

Personal activity trackers, like those made by Fitbit®, are popular devices for millions of consumers who want to lose weight, get more exercise, or simply improve their health. However, because activity trackers are sleek wearables, they’re also easy to lose, whether in the laundry, in the pocket of a gym bag or briefcase, or under the seat of a car. And once lost, they can be hard to find!


For all the Fitbit owners who will lose their activity trackers at some point, Fitbit Finder is a free iPhone 4S+ app for finding activity trackers that is simple and easy to use. Unlike existing hacker-oriented apps–that enumerate the cacophony of Bluetooth Smart (LE) devices in range, that just show an ever-changing, meaningless, and confusing negative RSSI value for each that you have to interpret and remember, and that display lots of mind-numbing gobbledygook, such as long, inscrutable UUID’s, hexadecimal numbers, timestamps to milliseconds, etc.–Fitbit Finder just lists nearby Fitbit activity trackers and guides you to them.

Give it a try, and tell your friends!



Password Savvy: Harder-to-hack passwords you can remember

Password Savvy is a public service to teach people what strong passwords are and how to make ones that are easy to remember.

People frequently use weak passwords–passwords that are short and all lowercase letters with no caps, numbers, or symbols–either because they don’t know how to create strong passwords or because they try to make their passwords easier to remember (or both). Even so, people still frequently forget passwords!

While it’s easy to find techniques for creating good passwords that are easy to remember, you have to follow the methods and construct the passwords yourself. Password Savvy not only shows you how to make strong passwords that you can remember, it makes them for you automatically.

The classic xkcd comic strip on password strength parodies attempts to make strong passwords by tweaking uncommon words (like “troubador”) with random capital letters, letter-number substitutions (like ‘4’ for ‘A’), and symbols (like ‘#’). It’s spot on that lone uncommon words with random changes are hard to remember. The comic suggests the approach of creating much stronger and passwords that you can remember by simply appending four random common words (like “correct,” “horse,” “battery,” and “staple”). That can be a lot of typing for a password that you type regularly though.

Password Savvy takes a different approach to creating strong passwords that you can remember. It is an homage to old CompuServe-style passwords that were two random words separated by a random symbol. By combining two random words, these passwords created phrases that were easy to remember. Moreover, using two words increased the length of passwords–a primary driver of password strength (entropy). Separating the two words with a symbol also made these passwords stronger, because using a symbol increased the size of the “alphabet” that a password cracker had to consider–the other driver of password strength. At the same time, it didn’t add complexity for the person, as the symbol always separated the two words.

Password Savvy builds on this strategy, by also capitalizing some letters and substituting numbers for some letters that look similar. However, by using patterns for these “decorations,” you can still remember these passwords, even though they’re strong. They’re also considerably shorter than four random words!

Let us know what you think on the discussions at the bottom of the Password Savvy home page. Thanks!

Walk Score Leaves the Nest

High unemployment has many parents running scared about their kids moving back home. That’s why I’m so happy that after a dose of care and nurturing, Walk Score® has now left the Front Seat nest and is a separate company with an independent board, enlarged investor group, and $2 million in the bank. (Read the story on GeekWire.)

Walk Score  makes it easy for apartment renters and homebuyers to find neighborhoods where they can drive less and live more. In the last 4 months the dev team has nearly doubled and they are truly kicking butt and taking names. 6 million scores/day served via the API, 15,000 real estate sites using Walk Score services, adding a major new apartment search function, ranking transit systems across the country, and launching Bike Score.

And there’s lots more to come from this truly special team – particularly as they add more world-class talent in business development, marketing, mobile and web development (job listings.)

Meanwhile, at Front Seat, we’re actively exploring new opportunities for tech to connect people to the places they live, the resources they consume, and the communities they participate in.

Walk Score Hires CEO

I’m excited to announce that Josh Herst has come aboard as the Walk Score® CEO, part of a new multi-year investment we are making in Walk Score to grow its impact, build partnerships, and increase our reach.

Walk Score’s stunning growth over the last year — it’s now showing 3 million Walk Scores per day on over 4,000 real estate partner web sites — has taught the team to elevate their sights, and we’re thrilled to have a leader of Josh’s caliber on board to help them achieve their vision.

Read Josh’s bio here.