First Steps into the Quantified Self: Getting to Know the Fitbit API

Today I have been experimenting with the Fitbit API.

fitbit Logo
Fitbit Logo

Here are some rather amateurish steps for getting data from Fitbit’s “cloud”.

Simple Client Setup for Public Data

1. Get and setup a Fitbit product.

I have access to a set of Fitbit scales (the “Aria”). The Fitbit Force looks quite good; I may get one of those when they are launched in the UK to record steps.

2. Register an “App”

Goto Login using your Fitbit password from 1). Click the link to add an “app”.

3. Setup Libraries

Install oauth2:

sudo pip install oauth2

Clone python-fitbit:

mkdir Healthcare
cd Healthcare
git clone

4. Record Consumer Key & Secret

After registering your “app” in 2) above, you have access to a “Consumer Key” and a “Consumer Secret”. You can access these details by going to “Manage My Apps”. I then store these in a “config.ini” file I keep in my working project directory. For example:

[Login Parameters]

5. Access Public Data

With the client variables we can access public data on Fitbit.

import fitbit
import ConfigParser

#Load Settings
parser = ConfigParser.SafeConfigParser()'config.ini')
consumer_key = parser.get('Login Parameters', 'C_KEY')
consumer_secret = parser.get('Login Parameters', 'C_SECRET')

#Setup an unauthorised client (e.g. with no user)
unauth_client = fitbit.Fitbit(consumer_key, consumer_secret)

#Get data for a user
user_params = unauth_client.user_profile_get(user_id='1ABCDE')

You can get your user ID by accessing your Fitbit profile page. It is displayed in a URL just above any photo you may have. The last command returns a JSON string similar to this one:

{u'user': {u'city': u'', u'strideLengthWalking': 0, u'displayName': u'USERNAME', u'weight': 121.5, u'country': u'', u'aboutMe': u'', u'strideLengthRunning': 0, u'height': 0, u'timezone': u'UTC', u'dateOfBirth': u'', u'state': u'', u'encodedId': u'1ABCDE', u'avatar': u'https://pic_url.jpg', u'gender': u'NA', u'offsetFromUTCMillis': 0, u'fullName': u'', u'nickname': u'', u'avatar150': u'https://pic_url.jpg'}}

As I am only looking at getting a current weight reading (as taken from the last Aria scales measurement) I could stop here, as long as I have made my “body” data public (viewable by “Anyone” on the Fitbit profile > privacy page). However, as I wanted to get a BMI and body fat reading I continued with user authentication.

User Authenication

The python-fitbit library has a routine called I followed this routine in iPython to get the user key and secret for my own Fitbit account.

1. Fetch Request Token

client = fitbit.FitbitOauthClient(consumer_key, consumer_secret)
token = client.fetch_request_token()
print 'key: %s' % str(token.key)
print 'secret: %s' % str(token.secret)
print 'callback confirmed? %s' % str(token.callback_confirmed)
print ''

2. Allow Access to User Fitbit Account

I first followed the steps:

print '* Authorize the request token in your browser'
print ''
print 'open: %s' % client.authorize_token_url(token)
print ''

I had registered my callback URL as http://localhost/callback. I had not actually implemented a request handler for this URL on my local machine. However, I learnt this was not a problem – the parameters I needed were included in the callback URL. Even though the page got a ‘404’ I could still see and extract the ‘verifier’ parameter from the URL in the browser.

3. Get User Key and Secret

First I stored the ‘verifier’ parameter from the URL as a string (verifier = “*parameterfromURL*”). Then I ran these steps to get the user key and secret:

print '* Obtain an access token ...'
print ''
print 'REQUEST (via headers)'
print ''
token = client.fetch_access_token(token, verifier)
print 'key: %s' % str(token.key)
print 'secret: %s' % str(token.secret)
print ''

4. Save User Key and Secret and Use in Request

The last step is to save the user key and secret in the “config.ini” file. I saved these as “U_KEY” and “U_SECRET” in a similar manner to the consumer key and secret. Hence, these variables could be retrieved by calling:

user_key = parser.get('Login Parameters', 'U_KEY')
user_secret = parser.get('Login Parameters', 'U_SECRET')

Finally, we can use both sets of keys and secrets to access the more detailed user data:

authd_client = fitbit.Fitbit(consumer_key, consumer_secret, user_key=user_key, user_secret=user_secret)

body_stats = authd_client._COLLECTION_RESOURCE('body')


Some further work includes:

  • Adapting the python-fitbit routines for the iHealth API.
  • Building a script that gets data and imports into a website datastore.
  • Using the body data to alter a SVG likeness.

12 thoughts on “First Steps into the Quantified Self: Getting to Know the Fitbit API

  1. I’m stuck on step 2…
    I get a reply, a URL
    I copy and paste that on my browser
    Then I click the allow button
    What do I do next?


    1. I think on the App configuration on the Fitbit developer site there’s an option to add a “callback URL”. This is the URL that loads after you click the “allow” button. I entered a made up URL: http://localhost/callback.

      This would try to look up a path on my machine but fail (as I don’t have a web-server handling requests at /callback. However, if you look at the URL in your browser address bar (e.g. without clicking away) you should see a long string as a URL parameter (beginning ?). Copy and paste the URL including this string into a text file or the like and manual extract the callback token value.

  2. This is awesome! I have been struggling with this for a few days. I am now all the way up to the point where the web browser redirects back to my site and gives me the values of oauth_token= &oauth_verifier=. I do not understand what to do now…
    How does that become the client key and secret?

    1. File “C:\Users\C3P0\workspace\SY1415\”, line 76, in
      token = client.fetch_access_token(token, verifier)
      File “C:\Python27\lib\site-packages\fitbit\”, line 127, in fetch_access_token
      self.resource_owner_key = token.get(‘oauth_token’)
      AttributeError: ‘unicode’ object has no attribute ‘get’

      1. Jeff, how did you resolve the error on self.resource_owner_key = token.get(‘oauth_token’)? I successfully got the callback to retrieve oauth_verifier but stuck on Step 3.

  3. Hey, thank you for the guide. I am trying to download my heart beat from my account but I still have to understand how to… Anyway, following your guide I still have some trouble. When I try to do the Fetch Request Token step I end up with the error:
    AttributeError: ‘dict’ object has no attribute ‘key’. I guess this is because in the “token” dict there is no “key” key. Does your code is still running? Hope you can find the time to answer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s