In an increasingly digital world, time-tracking software like ActivityWatch plays a pivotal role in enhancing productivity and self-awareness. As we look to the future, three key elements stand out: Artificial Intelligence (AI), privacy, and personalization.

The Role of AI in Time Tracking

The Power of Data

While ActivityWatch itself doesn’t currently utilize AI, the data it collects serves as a fertile ground for AI-driven applications. The software logs a comprehensive array of your digital activities, from the websites you visit to the applications you use. This data can be transformed into actionable insights through machine learning algorithms. For example, natural language processing (NLP) could analyze your text-based activities to gauge your focus levels, while clustering algorithms could categorize your activities into productivity zones.

AI’s capability to sift through large datasets makes it invaluable for identifying long-term behavioral changes or trends. By applying time-series analysis on your ActivityWatch logs, you can gain insights into how your work habits, focus periods, and even leisure activities evolve over time. This can be particularly useful for self-improvement and for tailoring your work schedule to your natural rhythms.

Day Summaries and Note-Taking

Imagine an AI assistant integrated into ActivityWatch that can not only summarize your day but also take context-aware notes for you. Utilizing speech-to-text algorithms during meetings, it could generate summaries and action items automatically. When you’re working on a project, it could log your key milestones based on your activity data, thereby creating a daily journal without any manual input.

How It Could Work:

  • Speech-to-Text: During meetings, the AI assistant could transcribe and summarize key points.
  • Text Summarization Algorithms: At the end of the day, a summary of your activities could be generated, highlighting your most productive periods and areas for improvement.

In-Context Suggestions

Think of this feature as a modern, less intrusive version of Clippy. By leveraging real-time analytics and historical data, ActivityWatch could offer spontaneous, in-context suggestions. For instance, if the software detects that you’ve been working on a coding project for an extended period, it could suggest taking a break or even recommend a relevant Stack Overflow thread based on your recent queries.

Technical Details:

  • Contextual Bandit Algorithms: These could be used to offer suggestions that are most likely to be useful to you at any given moment.
  • Collaborative Filtering: By analyzing data from multiple users, the system could offer suggestions that have been beneficial to people with similar work patterns.

Integrating Brain-Computer Interfaces with Screentime Data: The Next Frontier in Time Tracking

The future of time tracking isn’t just about what you’re doing on your computer; it’s about understanding the cognitive processes that accompany those activities. Building on the pioneering research in my MSc thesis, which explored the classification of brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG) and automated time tracking, we see a new frontier emerging.

The Synergy of EEG and ActivityWatch

ActivityWatch provides a robust framework for tracking digital activities, while EEG devices offer a window into the cognitive state of the user. When combined, these two technologies can provide unprecedented insights into not just what you are doing, but how you are mentally engaging with those activities.

Technical Insights:

  • Data Fusion: By synchronizing EEG data with ActivityWatch logs, we can create a multi-modal dataset that captures both behavioral and cognitive aspects.
  • Machine Learning: Advanced classifiers based on Riemannian geometry, as demonstrated in my MSc thesis, can be employed to analyze this rich dataset.

Real-World Applications

The practical implications of this integration are vast:

  • Personalized Productivity: Imagine a system that knows when you’re most focused and automatically blocks distracting websites during those periods.
  • Mental Health Monitoring: By tracking cognitive states alongside digital activities, we can identify stressors and recommend timely interventions.
  • Enhanced Learning: For educational software, understanding the cognitive load during different tasks can help adapt the material in real-time to optimize learning.

Ethical and Privacy Considerations

While the potential is exciting, ethical considerations, particularly around privacy and consent, are paramount. All EEG data would be encrypted and stored locally, in line with ActivityWatch’s privacy-first philosophy.

Future Research and Development

As we look to the future, the integration of EEG devices and ActivityWatch opens up new avenues for research, particularly in the realms of cognitive science, human-computer interaction, and even preventive healthcare.

By marrying the behavioral data from ActivityWatch with the cognitive insights from EEG, we’re not just tracking time; we’re understanding it on a whole new level.

Full-Context Tracking: A Double-Edged Sword takes time tracking to the next level by offering full-context tracking, capturing not just screen data but also audio and microphone inputs. While this provides a rich dataset that can fuel advanced AI applications, it also introduces a set of challenges and ethical considerations. (Disclosure: I am an investor in

Opportunities for AI Applications

The depth of data collected by full-context tracking opens the door to a multitude of AI-driven applications:

  • Voice Analytics: By analyzing audio data, AI can gauge the sentiment and tone of meetings, providing insights into team dynamics.
  • Content Classification: Advanced machine learning models can automatically categorize screen content, offering a more nuanced understanding of user behavior.
  • Real-Time Feedback: With access to both screen and audio data, AI can offer real-time suggestions or alerts, such as flagging potential security risks or recommending breaks based on detected stress levels.

Privacy Concerns

While the wealth of data offers numerous possibilities, it also raises significant privacy concerns:

  • Data Encryption: Storing audio and screen data necessitates robust encryption methods to prevent unauthorized access.
  • User Consent: It’s crucial to obtain explicit user consent for capturing and analyzing such sensitive data.
  • Data Minimization: The principle of collecting only the data that is strictly necessary should be adhered to, in line with GDPR and other privacy regulations.

Resource Consumption

Full-context tracking is not just data-intensive but also resource-intensive:

  • Storage: The sheer volume of audio and screen data can quickly consume local storage, requiring efficient data compression algorithms.
  • Processing Power: Real-time analysis of such data can be CPU-intensive, potentially affecting system performance. has addressed this by leveraging it’s macOS-only nature to utilize Apple’s CoreML framework for on-device AI processing, allowing efficient data compression and real-time analysis with relatively low impact on overall system performance.

Balancing Act: AI, Privacy, and Resources

The challenge lies in striking a balance between leveraging AI’s capabilities and maintaining user privacy and system performance. One potential solution could be edge computing, where data is processed locally on the user’s device, minimizing data transfer and storage while still enabling real-time AI analytics.

The Importance of Privacy

The Privacy Imperative

In a world where data breaches are increasingly common, privacy is paramount. ActivityWatch addresses this by storing all your data locally, ensuring that you have complete control over your information.

The Resource Trade-Off

While full-context tracking offers richer data, it is much more resource-intensive and poses greater privacy risks compared to ActivityWatch’s local storage approach.

The Need for Personalization

Beyond One-Size-Fits-All

ActivityWatch allows for custom plugins and scripts, enabling you to tailor the software to your specific needs. This is crucial in a world where no two users are the same.

The Need for Researcher Tools

The Value of Data in Research

In the realm of behavioral and social sciences, the availability of accurate and comprehensive data is often the cornerstone of impactful research. Traditional methods of data collection, such as surveys and interviews, have their limitations in terms of scale and objectivity. This is where time-tracking tools like ActivityWatch can fill a significant gap.

Addressing the Lack of Data Collection Tooling

One of the challenges researchers face is the lack of specialized tooling for data collection that is both ethical and efficient. ActivityWatch addresses this void by offering a platform that is not only privacy-centric but also highly customizable. Researchers can use custom plugins and scripts to tailor data collection to the specific needs of their study, thereby enhancing the quality and relevance of the data collected.

ERC-Funded Project: A Case Study

ActivityWatch is currently being utilized in a 5-year project funded by the European Research Council. The project aims to delve into the intricacies of human behavior and time management. The use of ActivityWatch in such a high-profile research initiative underscores its value as a reliable tool for academic and scientific inquiry. Learn more about the ERC-funded project here.

WARN-D Research Project: The Broader Context

While not directly using ActivityWatch, the WARN-D research project aims to build a personalized early warning system for mental health by tracking stressors among students. This project highlights the broader societal value of time-tracking data and sets a precedent for how ActivityWatch could be employed in similar research endeavors. Learn more about the WARN-D project here.

By offering a robust, customizable, and privacy-focused platform, ActivityWatch is poised to become an invaluable asset in the toolkit of modern researchers.

Leading the Charge: ActivityWatch’s Role in Shaping the Future of Time Tracking

ActivityWatch is not just another time-tracking tool; it’s a platform that embodies the future of this technology. Situated at the crossroads of data-driven AI applications, stringent privacy measures, and extensive personalization capabilities, ActivityWatch is setting the standard for what time-tracking software can and should be.

By offering a platform that is both customizable and privacy-centric, ActivityWatch provides a unique solution that caters to a diverse user base—from individuals seeking to improve their productivity to researchers aiming to collect valuable data for scientific inquiry.

As we look to the future, ActivityWatch is committed to further enhancing its platform to meet the evolving needs of its users. Whether it’s integrating more advanced data analytics or expanding the range of custom plugins, the roadmap for ActivityWatch is geared towards innovation and user empowerment.

In a world where time is our most valuable resource, ActivityWatch offers a way to make the most of it. By focusing on the key pillars of AI, privacy, and personalization, ActivityWatch is not just keeping pace with the future of time tracking—it’s leading the way.


The future of time tracking is intricately tied to AI, privacy, and personalization. With its focus on these areas, ActivityWatch is well-positioned to lead the way.

If you are excited about this like we are, consider joining the Discord server. We’re always looking for new contributors and ideas!

And if you aren’t using ActivityWatch already, now is the perfect time to start collecting your screentime data!