A new player has entered the already-crowded activity tracking field, with no $100 device to plug in, charge or sync. Moves, from Finnish startup ProtoGeo, is an activity tracker, but it takes the form of a free iPhone app rather than a wearable device, using a smartphone's built-in accelerometer and GPS to track movement continuously throughout the day.
The app has had 1.5 million downloads since its January launch, Designer CEO Sampo Karjalainen told MobiHealthNews in an interview. The company also raised $1.6 million in seed funding in January, led by Lifeline Ventures and PROFounders Capital.
The lack of a device offers a significant cost improvement over wearable devices (in fact, the app is free), as well being arguably more convenient for continuous use. The app runs continuously in the background of the phone, which also makes it a discreet tracker for people who might want to track their activity but not broadcast that they're doing so. And anecdotally, GigaOm's Eliza Kern wrote that the app returned nearly identical data about a day's movement to her Fitbit.
Still, there are reasons people who use a Nike Fuelband or a Fitbit wouldn't want to switch to an app. To use Moves, the user has to have their phone in their pocket or somehow on their person, which runners and cyclists won't always do during a workout -- a wristworn or clip-on device might be more convenient. Certainly it's not much of an option for swimmers. The app doesn't track sleep or diet at all. Additionally, for tracking a particular run, Karjalainen admits an app like RunKeeper might be more accurate.
But the target audience for Moves is not necessarily runners tracking their workout, but people wanting to track the totality of their daily movement. The app's interface shows a timeline of all of a user's movement for the day, including public transport and driving as well as walking and cycling. Because the phone also collects GPS data, it can also give the user a location map of their day. Even though tracking public transportation and driving doesn't tell a user anything about their activity, it can illustrate opportunities to move more in their daily life.
"In general we are happy to see it really works for the target users," said Karjalainen. "They kind of see how much they actually move and make small changes in their habits -- park the car a little bit farther away and take lunchtime walks. That's really great. It's collecting a new type of a dataset -- all-day data about your activities and places you've been to, and that's something the Quantified Self and diary type users have really liked."
The biggest challenge for the company, Karjalainen said, was that background monitoring is potentially a huge drain on an iPhone's battery. But the company says it has resolved that issue by activating the sensors and, especially, the GPS, only intermittently, to achieve the optimal balance between high accuracy and low power usage.
The next step is to develop the app for Android, which Karjalainen said the company is aiming to do as soon as possible. In addition, they've begun to talk to employee wellness programs about offering the app B2B.
"We are kind of now learning how this fits into the bigger picture of wellness and health and the whole ecosystem. Some of these corporate wellness companies are providing gadgets to their customers, but it's a behavior change to remember to carry and charge one more gadget. [An app] is more convenient for everyone and we think Moves can be a great tool for that."
Karjalainen said users have responded positively to the design of the app, as well.
"People like the fact that it asks for so little and collects so much," he said.