Counting Steps Towards Better Apps
With the introduction of the latest hardware and software, we are seeing more health and fitness technologies making it to our phones. There are many possibilities and integration opportunities for developers who want to expand their current portfolio of apps. Let’s look at some of the shifts in these trends and how we got here.
Image by: Ed Yourdon
A Single Focus
Initially we had individual devices for every activity; if you wanted a pedometer you had to buy a pedometer, if you wanted a heart rate monitor you had to buy a heart rate monitor apparatus. Each device had a single focus and if you attempted to go jogging with all of them you would look like a bad Robocop impression. In addition to that self-esteem building picture, these devices put the responsibility on the users to write down and keep track of all their logs in a journal. Not only was this too cumbersome, but it also lacked the ability to synchronize all the data from a time perspective.
Some Bulky Integration
As technology got better and pieces got smaller a new set of devices came into the picture; multi-purpose is the word that better describes them. Devices could now do more than one task; they could measure your heart rate, temperature and steps taken altogether. There were still some limitations, calorie calculations were very generic and still the user had no other option but to look at the data as he was exercising and jot it down when he got home. Questions like, how elevated is my heart rate when I’m exercising vigorously, what was the best work-out this week and others remain unanswered for users.
Smaller and Finally Smarter
The next step in the progression of these devices was an antenna. While this might sound like an over simplification, the concept is powerful. The idea was to collect the data on the devices, but outsource the task of logging and keeping track of scores to another device. Bluetooth helped connect devices and phones; this offered flexibility to developers to build applications that communicated with these devices.
The apps that connected the phones to the devices had a nice side effect — it also connected the users. As users became engaged with these new devices and the amount of data that they could access. Dashboards, charts and activity trends made it personal; this was no longer “some data” this was “my data.”
After personalizing the experience, it was not long before users wanted to share it. They wanted to let their friends know how they were doing, it was this driver that introduced gamification and social media elements into the picture. Now users can encourage (and even sneer) each other when they reach daily goals.
There are new co-processors, sensors and additional operating system APIs to count steps and track activity. Mobile phones are now replacing some of those sensors and allowing for the same functionality of many of those single focus devices. While this might not be an accurate solution for those of us who leave our phones at our desk all day long while we run up and down the building, for others it is certainly an alternative.
Tap Into This Data Well
For developers all these devices and phones present new opportunities to have apps interact with customers. If your app detects a user is jogging, you can provide a different user interface with bigger buttons, gestures, or even audible cues (instead of visual ones) to allow for easier usability. Providing new interfaces are only the beginning, tremendous discoveries can be achieved with the data from these feedback sources. Imagine an app that learns the optimal time you wake up in the morning and retrieves the news for the day at that time, thus saving energy and network resources by not polling the servers during “sleep time.”
What other possibilities do you envision for your apps? Let us know in the comments section. As sensors get better and faster the amount of data grows exponentially. Services like AT&T’s mHealth can help store this data safely and on the cloud. Try it out today!