A few months ago I wrote about the possibilities of integrating my family’s self-tracking data with smart home assistants, like the Amazon Alexa powered Echo Dot. One of my near-term self-tracking goals is to give members of my family the possibility of also deriving value from this data, and the Echo Dot represents one way to achieve this.
First, a brief overview for those of you new to this blog. A few years ago I started tracking key aspects of my family’s day-to-day well-being including symptoms, medicines taken, doctor’s visits, activity, vitals, finances and more. I use this data to conduct casual exploration and N-of-1 experimentation to address issues and opportunities affecting my family’s well-being—a process I refer to as Family Data Science.
My self-tracking projects are powered by ostlog – an open-source Personal Well-being Library. ostlog works great for my needs, but not so much for my wife, who prefers simpler access to the information. Today I rely on Microsoft PowerBI, generic SQL tools and other software for collecting and managing this data. The Amazon Echo Dot opens the possibility of providing natural language interface to query the same data.
We own a single Echo Dot that sits on our piano in the living room. The kids use it to ask Alexa to play their favorite songs from their favorite films (e.g. “Alexa, play Trolls on Spotify”.). My wife uses it to stream her favorite radio station from Argentina (i.e. “Alexa, play radio maria”.) As for me, the first step was to create a custom Alexa skill that responds to requests for well-being insights, queried directly from my self-tracking database.
Alexa, start ostlog
Alexa, how much do we need to pay the baby sitter this week?
With this new Alexa skill, my wife now has a hands-free way to access the self-tracking data, no special software required. And with this personal finances related request, we no longer have to fumble through devices and software applications in order to retrieve this data (while the sitter waits patiently at the end of a long day and week!)