Google’s new APIs transform your smartphone into an activity tracker

google-ioIt may not have come as a total surprise to Moves, Saga, Pinion and Human, but the news during the first day of the I/O developer event may still have raised quite a few eyebrows. This was when The Big G announced the introduction of no less than three new APIs. The Activity API is without doubt the most striking of the three.

Not one, but no less than three new APIs are set to challenge Android developers to create even better looking apps. According to Google, the main strength of these APIs is that they are so well designed that they are able to track users via the GPS feature for an entire day at a battery consumption of only 1% per hour.

Two of the three APIs are strongly location-bound. The Fused Location Provider (which ensures that users can be localized even quicker) and the Geofencing API (which allows developers to set ‘boundaries’ in applications between which apps can perform other actions) both use the GPS feature intensively.

The introduction of the Activity Recognition API is an exciting development if we look at the growing market for activity trackers. The new API will be available for all Android developers. Among other things, it uses the device’s accelerometer and GPS features as well as various algorithms to determine whether the user is walking, running, cycling or driving a car.

Although the makers of Moves, Saga, Pinion and Human are likely to say that this type of movement recognition only forms a part of the secret sauce, it must have been one of the hardest nuts to crack during the start-up phase. Incidentally, Saga is currently the only one of these players to offer an Android app.

The introduction of the Activity Recognition API also raises a number of questions: is it an advantage that there will be a centrally regulated algorithm, and how good, in fact, is Google’s algorithm? Although it was developed by Google, past performance is not indicative of future results etc.

In all honesty, I suspect that these APIs are mainly aimed at developers of apps for Google Glass, and I doubt whether the current generation of smartphones will actually enter into competition with dedicated activity trackers for areas such as sports. In the coming period, we will no doubt see a lot of Android apps that will make an attempt. However, what is more important is that the threshold for developers has become so low by now that we are likely to encounter this type of tracking in entirely different apps as well.

Surely it will not take that long before the next version of Google Now will simply ask you why you still haven’t jumped on your bike to travel to the next appointment?

(Photo courtesy of Techcrunch)