Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Moves App Journals Physical Activity Without a Wristband

Moves launches today as a free iPhone app available worldwide to help people track their physical activity and keep a daily journal of it.

The main Moves interface is a neat-looking personal daily timeline, with proportional representation of time spent walking, running, biking, and in transit, in a vertical display that links together all the locations visited within 24 hours.

The app uses adaptive techniques to minimize battery drain by drawing cell-tower data most of the time, and then activating GPS when the accelerometer moves in a recognized way.

It’s made by a Helsinki-based company called ProtoGeo that is led by designer Sampo Karjalainen, a founder of kids’ virtual world Habbo Hotel.

Karjalainen thinks Moves can be a viable alternative to the Fitbit, Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up, because it doesn’t require people to buy an additional device and keep it charged.

And besides, wristband-based sensors are not terribly sophisticated, anyway — many people find that they only approximate a measure of their physical activity, and they do a terrible job of tracking cycling, since it’s a stiff-wristed sport.

I was particularly interested in the app because I think it’s an example of passively harvesting personal data for the user’s benefit.

So the two big questions are 1) Is Moves accurate? And 2) Will it kill my phone battery?

This isn’t a product review, but I’d say that in two weeks of using the app my answers would be 1) It’s pretty accurate, but not as accurate as constant GPS tracking. And 2) It will have an impact on your battery, but not as bad as constant GPS tracking.

You may still want to use an additional app like Endomondo or RunKeeper to track workouts. I found that Moves was particularly bad at counting my mileage on the treadmill at the gym.

Karjalainen told me that Moves users can hold their phones normally — in their pocket or bag is fine — and the service has learned patterns of movement that correspond to various activities.

His goal is for Moves to be an everyday, mainstream tool to make people more conscious of their physical activity. It’s all about low-effort record-keeping. For instance, a future feature that Karjalainen mentioned would be interspersing photos from the day throughout the timeline.

But there is nothing if not competition in this space. Passive tracking seems likely to be a future feature of Google’s Google Now Android personal assistant app, which quietly launched a monthly activity summary of walking and biking.

I’d previously experimented with using Alohar Mobile’s Placeme app to passively track all the locations I visited on a daily basis, but Moves’ timeline interface seems more interesting and informative than a map of everywhere I’ve been (plus, Moves has a map view, too).

ProtoGeo has raised $1.6 million in seed funding from Lifeline Ventures and PROfounders.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus