Google adds low-power step counting to Android 4.4

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 1, 2013        

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Moves on Nexus 5

Paired with the announcement of the Nexus 5, Google also announced integration and details of the new version of Android, Android 4.4, or KitKat. Details on KitKat include information on an updated accelerometer, just a few months after Apple announced its motion co-processor, called the M7, which offers enhanced motion sensing capabilities.

In a section labeled “step detector and step counter,” Android wrote 4.4 added support for “two new composite sensors — step detector and step counter — that let your app track steps when the user is walking, running, or climbing stairs. These new sensors are implemented in hardware for low power consumption.”

The step detector takes advantage of the accelerometer to keep track of when the user begins taking steps. It will then record the step as an event so that developers do not need to include their own detection algorithms in their apps. While these two features are currently only available on the Nexus 5, the company plans to bring them to new devices soon, according to the website.

Android includes pictures of Moves and Runtastic Pedometer as examples of apps that are already using the hardware step-detector.

After Apple’s announcement, in September, Moves announced its Android app and told MobiHealthNews that even though Apple was making technology that Moves was already using more accessible, they were not worried about the potential competition.

“Tracking is first, but then the challenge is to really make sense of that data, and help [users] change their behavior, those are really important,” CEO Sampo Karjalainen told MobiHealthNews at the time. “And that’s something we are working on with new features on top of that data. But the first step is to make activity tracking work really well. And we have the best technology at the moment.”

Another fitness app maker, Noom, with technology similar to Moves’ has already announced its own updates to two apps — Noom Walk and Noom Weight Loss Coach — so that they will work with the new sensors.

This isn’t the first time Google has added activity tracking features to its technology. Last year, Google announced an app, Google Now, which proactively gives users information about their day-to-day activities in small “cards” at the bottom of the app. One of the information cards, added sometime in that month, is an activity card that offers a monthly summary of time spent walking or cycling, which the device passively measures.