Bob: The Bot I Created to Watch Out for Me

I first started working on Bob a few years ago. How it began was I lived alone and had my own apartment and had my business. It was not unusual for my family or my best friends not to hear from me for weeks at a time especially if I was knee deep in a development project. However, because of this I realized that if something were to happen to me, it could have been a while before anybody realized it (after all, I do have cerebral palsy so I am more prone to accidents).

So I created Bob. The first task I programmed Bob to do was to check on me every eight or nine hours by sending a message to my phone. If I didn’t respond within so many hours, it would send a text message to my family and my best friends saying, “it’s been x hours since I had checked in, could someone please check on him?” This worked well. Too well. The problem with it was if I would occasionally sleep in, I wouldn’t hear the request to check in and it would send a lot of false alarms.

What I did to solve the “bot that cried wolf” problem was reporting common daily activities to Bob. Whenever I did one of the following activities, Bob would count it as a “check in”, resetting the clock:

Post something on Twitter or Facebook
Using my phone’s location, check in every time I left and came back to my apartment
Since I was using an Android phone while I was developing the upgrades, I was able to go deeper into the integrations such as:

  • Every time I sent a text message
  • Every time I made a phone call
  • Every time I answered a phone call
  • All of those activities counted as a “check in” (those activities don’t count now that I switched back over to iOS since Apple doesn’t allow developers access to the phone or messages portion of their devices).

I also expanded it where if I’m at either a hospital or a police station in Bakersfield for over ten minutes (to prevent it from going off by just driving by), it will send me a message asking me if I’m okay? If I don’t respond within ten minutes, it will alert everyone where I’m at.

The next portion of the system that I want to get around to developing is adding motion sensors so Bob automatically knows when I wake up in the mornings and when I go to bed at night.

However, my goal is to expand its functionality than just being a monitoring system. I’m not quite sure how yet but I want to make it smarter to either automatically handle a handful of digital tasks or do a lot of the repetitive steps for me.