Facebook acquires ProtoGeo, maker of activity tracking app Moves

By Aditi Pai

Moves-2-on-iPhone-5sSocial networking giant Facebook has acquired Finland-based fitness app maker Protogeo for an undisclosed sum, according to a blog post from ProtoGeo.

The company's high-profile app, called Moves, passively tracks a user's daily activity using the phone's built-in accelerometer in order to provide all-day tracking without killing the phone’s battery. To keep track of where the user goes, Moves also activates the GPS intermittently in the background. ProtoGeo's blog post specifies that "the Moves experience will continue to operate as a standalone app, and there are no plans to change that or commingle data with Facebook".

The deal marks the latest activity tracker acquisition in the last few years. Almost exactly a year ago, San Francisco-based activity tracker maker Jawbone acquired Pittsburgh-based BodyMedia, another company that developed activity trackers, but BodyMedia's are dedicated devices. In March 2014, Intel confirmed its previously rumored acquisition of Basis Science, the activity tracker company that makes the high-end Basis B1 Band device. Then, just this week, Nike reportedly laid off a majority of its FuelBand engineering team. According to the rumors, Nike let go of 55 employees, over half of its then 70-person team. That move might have been influenced in part by Nike's relationship with Apple and the growing buzz around the possibly soon-to-launch Apple iWatch.

Moves is one of many apps that focuses on passively tracking activity. While Moves predated it, the number of passive tracking apps grew when Apple launched the M7 motion co-processor for its latest iteration of iPhones. Since M7 was launched, big names like RunKeeper and Fitbit added passive tracking to their apps. While Moves has historically been a free app, at the end of last year, ProtoGeo announced that it would start charging for Moves at an introductory rate of $1.99. It later upped its price to $2.99.

At the time ProtoGeo CEO Sampo Karjalainen told MobiHealthNews that because of the new battery mode, he thought the app could provide a similar value to activity tracking gadgets but at a much more affordable price than the $100 price tag on most wearable devices. In early January, Apple announced its 2013 App Store earnings, which showed that Karjalainen might have been right: Moves was included on Apple's list of  "surprise hits" from the past year. 

While Facebook hasn't done much in the digital health industry until now, the company recently acquired virtual reality gaming startup Oculus Rift for more than $2 billion. During a call with reporters and analysts following the announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that while Oculus will continue to focus on gaming in the short term, the deal was more about placing a bet on the next big computing platform shift, which could include a telemedicine play.

“Gaming is just the start,” he said at the time. “After games, we are going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers from all over the world, consulting with a doctor face-to-face, or going shopping in a virtual store where you can touch and explore the product you are interested in just by putting on goggles in your own home.”

Update: Facebook issued a statement about the deal, too. Here's an excerpt:

"As part of Facebook’s multi-app strategy, we’re excited to announce that the popular Moves app will be joining Facebook’s suite of applications. Key members of Moves will be joining Facebook. The Moves app will continue to run as a separate, stand-alone application."