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A Quick Guide to Google Fit


Over a year ago I turned my sceptical eye towards Google Glass. Today, I’ll be taking you on a whistle-stop tour of Google Fit, Mountain View’s new health tracking platform.

The Fit framework was first announced during the Google I/O developer conference earlier this year, and was positioned as a direct competitor to Apple’s HealthKit.


Since the end of October an Android application has been made available to the public for  people running Android 4.0 or more recent versions. It also comes pre-installed on the Android Wear watches (such as the Moto 360), and can be accessed using a desktop web browser.

So… what is it?

It’s a set of APIs that combines fitness related data into a single platform. When set-up, it will be a go-to destination for all of your runs, bike rides, and it will also keep tack of your daily steps to make sure you move around enough.

The term will also be used to refer to the  application installed on your smartphone or tablet, which will act not only as a mobile interface to the platform, but also as one of the sensors which will collect your fitness data. You’ll be able to use multiple data streams to feed into Fit. Confirmed partners include Nike, Runkeeper, Polar and a couple more.

How do I get started?

The easiest way to try Fit out is to download the mobile application to your device, accept the Terms of Service, and then allow Google to use your device to detect your activity data. You will also have to enable location history on your Google account, which provides Mountain View with a scary amount of detail about your whereabouts.

location-history-lunchtime-run

Privacy concious people might say that this is another attempt to get users to consent to sharing more data by tempting them with features. However, Google assures you that location data is used to allow the association of activities with locations, but we suspect that it will also be used for search engine results personalisation (or “bubbling”). Screenshot below of the application tells me I’ve been cycling in Leeds in the evening for a total for 1hr 27 mins, which allows for easier identification of your efforts.

Google Fit - Cycling Progress

Setting goals and personalisation

Your default goal is set to a total one hour of activities each day, but this can be adjusted depending on your lifestyle and fitness levels. The Android application allows you to track progress towards your goals, as you can see above I’ve exceed the default goal by 198%.

After installing the app, you can replace your pedometer with your phone. Set a 10,000 steps application goal, as this is a general guideline most physicians agree on, and off you go.

The platform allows for some personalisation, by inputting your gender, height, and weight (in theory it could also track  heart rate). You can keep an eye on your weight changes, but you will have to add this manually (and on a semi-regular basis), unless you have a supported device that could take care of this. Similarly, the app can also be fed activity data by manual input in case you’re not a fan of exercising with your phone.

All of your tracked activities are plotted on visually attractive graphs which allow you to see your progress.

Third party application support

This is where Fit goes beyond the Android application and allows for connecting your phone with other platforms and devices. Unfortunately, at the moment of writing, Google’s partners’ apps haven’t been updated yet to support Fit, however it appears that Stava might be one of the first ones to do so, as developer working on the project hinted.

Final thoughts

If you’re not enjoying Google’s new service, or if you want to remove your fitness and location data from Google’s servers, you can do that easily from the application. When testing it, I came across some bugs. A train ride was once classified as a bike ride, a couple of times Fit failed to register an activity at all, it crashed a couple of times. It also had problems with some of the animations.

It’s far from a finished product, it looks like it has been released early in order to gather feedback from a larger sample in order to troubleshoot these issues, or maybe so algorithms responsible for processing information from sensors can be modified.

I’m  curious to see how Fit is going to be integrated with Google Now’s monthly activity card, as well as Google’s MyTracks, the popular fitness tracking application which relies on GPS signal to track movement.

A Google Fit SDK has been made available, and there are interesting concepts being discussed in the Google Fit developer community. The health and fitness markets account for a significant amount of GDP in developed countries, no wonder Google, Apple, LG, Samsung and other companies are trying to become a part of this landscape, we’ll be keeping an eye on the developments. Now pick up your phone, go outside, and play!

UPDATE (04/11/2014): Strava have just updated their Android application “Strava can now sync data with the new Fit app as well as other health and fitness apps that are participating. This service is optional.”

strava-fit

 

(Title photograph “Stay active” by Kenny Louie, made available on a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Image has been cropped.)

 

Sav SzymuraSav Szymura (BA Hons Business and Psychology) is an Analyst at twentysix search. With over 4 years of agency experience he delivers practical and effective search engine optimisation solutions. Away from the office he enjoys trail running, cycling, and all things science fiction. Sav can be also found on Twitter.

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