Sampo Karjalainen on Moves API – Track like a Pro

The founder of Habbo Hotel - a staple of many childhood memories - went on to launch ‘Moves’ as part of a new venture. As a consumer application it is built to monitor and track daily activities; helping to progress your fitness levels (or at least help you in becoming more active!)

This creates masses of unique data about the user which could be used in applications for a variety of innovative uses; now the company, ProtoGeo, is opening up that ability via the Moves API.

Before any project can get off the ground; it requires some financial backing. Whilst Habbo was a great success, this was a brand-new company starting from scratch.

On initial investment he says: “We started off first with Lifeline Ventures here in Helsinki, who are entrepreneurs themselves - it’s been very helpful to work with them. Then in October we had talks with PROfounders in London. Along with these two investors, and two angel investors, we raised about €1.2 million.”

Like Habbo, Sampo tells me Moves started off as a personal project which grew as the potential was realised. In fact, the initial application (which was in private testing) involved more gaming elements; including a virtual pet that responded to your activity.

Sampo explains why they did not retain this model: “In our tests we saw that people did not remember to use the traditional start/stop model we had back then, which got us thinking ‘maybe it could work automatically in the background?’”

He continues: “The challenge with all games is that they tend to get boring after some time. With Moves, our goal is to build a companion app that could be useful for years. We want to make them interested in their own physical activities, and the experiences they have.”

Many apps, such as Fitocracy, add small amounts of game or reward elements: “We know that sometimes adding things like ‘Congratulations!’ for good days .etc makes a lot of sense. Now, with the connected apps catalogue launch, we think there’s a great opportunity for game developers to build great experiences around activity data.”

Moves is not the only fitness-based API on the market; Nike is an obvious competitor in this space along with their ‘FuelBand’ product. Sampo assures me the way they track movement is of the same level of accuracy - if not more - than a dedicated accessory. Unique in the fact that Moves recognises various methods of transport.

He goes into more detail: “Other activity trackers just give steps and the number of activities; but we actually give the routes, recognise activity types, and recognise the places. The type of data we collect has gained interest from very high-profile people.”

The team is soon to launch an Android version of their application after success with the iOS equivalent which is out now. Naturally I wanted to ask Sampo on his findings with both platforms, to which he gives some insight:

“With iOS, the range of models is very small. On Android, there are hundreds and hundreds of different handsets, so we can’t test every one of them. We have to exclude some, mostly old models, because they can’t run the accelerometer in the background.”

Although the API is only launching today, I wondered whether Sampo had any tips for any developer releasing their own: “We just need to present something valuable, and that is our hypothesis with the whole API and Connected Apps catalogue. We think the data we collect is unique, and the smartphone is a great way for activity tracking.”

He summarises: “We just want to provide something valuable for exercise services and independent developers.”

Straying from the Moves development - whilst I had the chance - I wanted to know more about the inspiration behind Habbo Hotel: “We created a website for my friend’s band back in 1999, and the initial idea was just to build something which stands out as a website. We were able to create this visual world where people could interact in this virtual world.”

He continued: “It started to work so well that we decided to turn it into a business. We were very active in the community - since we were building it for ourselves in the early days - so we knew people wanted their own private areas where they can meet friends and customise environments.”

You can download the Moves app for iOS here (Android coming soon)

Get started with integrating the new API into your applications here.

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