News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

Sydney startup BadgerMe is an automated calling service that helps users log data

Hands up who’s still on track with their new year’s resolutions a week into 2016? Not many of you? That sounds about right. For all that we love reading about health and wellbeing, buying fitness wearables, and downloading apps that track how much water we drink and how many calories we eat each day, sticking to a regime beyond a week is difficult. When it comes to the apps, the need to be constantly inputting data manually into various apps is too bothersome for some people to stick with.

New Australian startup BadgerMe has created an automated service that aims to help people keep at it by going a little bit old school. BadgerMe allows users to log data through a daily phone call, its bots calling mobiles and landlines to ask about anything from hours worked, dollars spent, how much water the user drank, whether they did their half an hour of exercise that day, and more. The user can choose what day and time to schedule their calls for.

Founder Yvonne Lee, who previously launched 99interns and Oddswop, said the idea for the service simply came from the fact that she hated doing timesheets, and so kept ignoring app reminders to do her timesheet each day.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be so good to have a PA who could just call me up asking, how many hours did you work on this project and that project on a daily basis. I don’t have to accumulate all the information at the end of the week or end of the month and then go oh my god, I didn’t do my timesheet,” Lee said.

Lee said she built on the idea because she’s a “quantified self wannabe”, with the idea of the quantified self being to measure and track a metric about oneself, whether it be weight, mood, or else in order to learn about ourselves and take action.

“I’ve got all my apps, but if I want to be able to consolidate all that data and see the trends that happen, there’s no way currently to easily consolidate that information, a lot of it is off system. Even if I used Google sheets and drag all that data in, there’s nothing for me to see, say, did I meditate today or did I journal today or anything like that which is off the book,” she said.

A user signing up to the platform must first input their phone number, then choose what type of tasks they want to track, either picking from a pre-set list or entering their own questions. The questions must be worded in a specific way in order to be answerable by data entry via phone. Once the user sets up their calling schedule, the system will begin to call; if a call goes unanswered, it will keep calling until someone picks up and inputs data. Users can then export their data as a CSV file for use through other platforms, or view graphs.

As it currently stands, there is one call per question, which Lee said may help get answers that are as accurate as possible

“I don’t know about you but my memory, if you call at 5 pm for something you’re tracking in the morning, I might not remember it so I really want it to be done at that time close to when I might have done the task so that it can be logged,” Lee said.

Though she said the idea had been churning at the back of her mind for ages, it was at a hackathon that Lee began to work on BadgerMe, her team putting together a working demo that took out second place. She has been bootstrapping the development of the system thus far, getting ready for its alpha launch this month.

While Lee envisions developing an enterprise version for things like timesheets and internal and customer surveys, she is excited about BadgerMe being used by individuals to ameliorate themselves in some way. One area in which she believes it can help is healthcare, tracking things like blood sugar or blood pressure levels, or adherence to medication.

While the plan is to develop an app down the line, Lee said the phone works well.

“Because it is old tech, it’s almost like you have a compulsion to answer the phone as opposed to when you receive an app notification or even an SMS. Down the track, there will be things like letting people respond by SMS or letting people SMS in advance to the question being asked, but the accessibility of a phone call is quite prevalent around the world. Even if you use your desk phone, you can get called on your deskphone before you leave work. You can call older people who may not be okay with apps and it doesn’t require someone to download an app,” Lee said.

“I can sign up for my mum and say, I want you to track your blood sugar levels every morning so can you answer this call. The intention is to also have voice to text as well so you can answer with just your voice, and have different languages so you can use it globally.”

Depending on how many different things a user is looking to track, receiving half a dozen phone calls from BadgerMe bots each day may eventually get irritating, but as Lee said, there is something about a phone call that would make some more likely to stick to it rather than having to manually input data through a smartphone app; there are dozens of apps I’ve stopped using because they kept wanting too much from me. Of course, on the flip side are the people who use their phones for anything but taking calls and would prefer to use an app.

No matter which way it ends up being used, BadgerMe could prove interesting. Lee is gearing up to roll out the alpha version of the platform this month, having done a blogger outreach program to get users on board.





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