What if you could wake up in the morning, go about your day, and all the while have a personal trainer by your side, telling you to take a few more steps, nudging you to walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, and, generally incorporating a sense, through small motivational urgings, that you’ve had an all-around healthy and active day.
In essence, that’s the concept behind Breeze, a mobile application developed by Boston’s FitnessKeeper, better known by its popular activity tracker RunKeeper.
Breeze, which uses technology built into the most recent versions of the iPhone (and yes, only the iPhone), tracks the overall distance a user covers in a given day.
It’s a high-tech pedometer, but it tracks more than steps.
For one, you don’t need to clip any dongles, fit any bits, or fasten any other “wearables” to your person in some creative way. Breeze works through the hardware you already have with you most of the day, your phone.
“The growing fitness wearables market is simultaneously bringing up the levels of fitness trackers and apps,” says Halle Tecco, managing director of RockHealth, a seed fund for early stage tech and health care companies. “We are used to paying for health and fitness, with gym memberships, but we are hesitant to pay for fitness-based technology.”
She said there is a value in having fitness apps on phones, as new wearable devices keep coming to market and people are trying them. “I’ve lost many gadgets, Fitbits, and the like, but I’ve never lost my phone,” Tecco said.
And even though growth in the wearable technology market may be slowing, a recent report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers still found that one in five Americans owns a wearable device, and one in 10 wears one daily.
As soon as a user downloads and opens Breeze, it immediately dives into the movement information tracked by Apple’s M7 and M8 chip, a high-tech motion sensor built into the iPhone 5S and 6. (For those curious how Apple’s motion processors work, the best description is that they are a combination of accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass.) Breeze pulls out the data on your walking habits from the past week, and, based on your recent activity level, sets a benchmark slightly more than how far and how often you’ve walked or run lately.
The daily goal, a mythical number of steps to conquer, sets the bar for healthy achievement high and is updated at the end of each day. It’s like a personal trainer because Breeze always pushes its users to take more steps than the previous day.
Once you open the app the first time, you really never have to do anything with it again. It’s just there, tracking, counting, and gently prodding you when you may have spent too much of a Saturday on the couch watching football. That’s because as Breeze exists in the background of your normal phone activity, it tracks your activity and sends reminders if, for some reason, you aren’t on the pace you’ve normally been on.
Breeze allows users to see details, such as maps, of longer activities — a long walk across town, an evening run, a quick hustle across an airport — and can also be connected to the main version of RunKeeper to utilize the running/biking/anything athletic app’s more detailed features, including altitude changes and potential calories burned.
You never really notice the app is working until it pings you, to tell you you haven’t moved as much as normal, and it even lets you know if you have achieved some sort of milestone, like most steps taken in a day. (Is there anything better than receiving a congratulations for an accomplishment you didn’t even know you achieved?)
It might pop up with a message that randomly says, “Hey, why don’t you take a quick walk today?” or hit you with a midday “Nice job!” after you’ve walked the dog or moved between the office and a local sandwich shop for lunch.
“The small decisions you make during the day can make a big difference,” explained FitnessKeeper founder and chief executive Jason Jacobs about why the company built Breeze.
A lot of thought went into the positive reinforcements and habit-building motivations of Breeze’s notifications and the way it unobtrusively operates in the background of your normal daily activities.
Dennis Keohane can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DBKeohane and on betaboston.com.