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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Helsinki-Based Moves App Automatically Tracks Your Physical Activity

How active are you every day? As the old adage goes, you can’t improve what you can’t measure, but the new buzz around Helsinki is for Moves – an iPhone app that does a whole lot more than your basic pedometer. Rather than just tracking how much your phone shakes, it helps you understand the types of activity you do in your day-to-day life. Your data is then visualized on a daily storyline that shows where you’ve walked, cycled, or run to, and well as where you camped out at. The app was launched a little over a month ago, and so far has seen a little over a million downloads.

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“The main idea is that it should be really simple and effortless,” says Sampo Karjalainen, the Designer CEO behind Moves. “So compared to all those sports tracker devices like Nike Fuel Band or the Finnish sports trackers, they’re really good at one run or cycling event, but you have to remember to turn it on, and to stop it. And they also use GPS all the time. So if you go on a long walk, the battery is empty in like five hours.”

Thanks to all the sensors a smartphone offers, Moves can also be smarter about the types of activities you’re doing. A fuel band can tell you that you did half an hour of medium intensity shaking, but Moves figures out if you’re walking, running, cycling, or taking transportation, for example.

Automatically tracking your movements offers some cool insights. Its fun to go back though your history and see when you did walk to your friends place, the routes you took, and so on. And for some days when you’re at work 12 hours, the app makes you realize that you have only moved like 100 steps – which is pretty worrying but exactly the type of info Moves was created to deliver.

Starting to move
Moves got its start as a slightly different project when Aapo Kyrölä, one of the Habbo founders, was doing his PHD work at Carnegie Mellon University. According to Karjalainen, Kyrölä noticed he was busy working all day and not moving around too much.

“We started discussing ideas how we could motivate Aapo to move a bit more. Initially we discussed like a gamified motivations – like badges and leaderboards, and virtual pets. We actually built a leaderboard and tested it with a smaller group of people but it didn’t really work that well. We were interested in everyday physical activity like walking and cycling and people didn’t remember to use the app, even with the gamified stuff in it.”

So instead of making users actively update their progress, they built a prototype that automatically tracks your movements using sensor and location data. They realized they could build a new market with this concept, so they created Helsinki-based ProtoGeo with six co-founders. The company now employs 8 people today.

The company raised a decent amount of seed funding this winter – roughly €1.2 million from Lifeline Ventures and PROfounders leading the round. That’s a fairly large seed funding round for the region, but the team sounds driven that they way they’re empowering the phone will become a new app category. To monetize the app they plan on having some sort of end-user revenue model, where users will pay extra for some additional features. “Our intention is to build a product that is valuable enough where people will really pay for it,” says Karjalainen.

Empowering Personal Statistics
The problem with automatic tracking is that your battery gets really thirsty. Karjalainen tells us that they have worked hard to get their battery life drainage down to the point where the average person only needs to plug in their phone overnight. Moves uses “smart adaptive tracking” that recognizes when you start to move, and then uses GPS and WiFi locations occasionally, and does most of the number crunching in the cloud.

Compared to devices like the Nike Fuel Band or the line of Finnish sports trackers, Moves hits an easier demographic. Karjalainen points out that for these devices you first need to be interested enough to purchase a €150 device, and then you have to remember to keep it charged all the time. “It’s kind of a behavioral change you need to do,” he says.

The app doesn’t force you to carry around another device, but unfortunately the Moves app does force a behavioral change on my phone usage. I’ve got to be updating my ‘Book statuses all the time while keeping my Instagram followers double-tapping, so I’m finding my phone is in the danger zone more often than I’d like.

So far it’s too early to be seen if Moves sticks around on phones, or whether the quicker drain is a big turnoff to people. Karjalainen says they’ve gotten the battery usage down to where about half of their users don’t need to change anything in their lives, but for someone who already uses a lot of battery it becomes another drain.

But ProtoGeo thinks they can still optimize the battery life even better, and will be working with Apple (and later Google) to see how they can better optimize the hardware.

Moves is beautifully presented and well worth the free download, but users have to figure out what’s going to kill them first: the heart stress of having constantly low battery, or the realization that the amount of sitting around you do all day is probably going to cause blood clots to develop in your legs and then travel up to your brain. Well, that’s the dilemma on my mind.

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