Fitalize: Bitwalking done right

Monday 04 April 2016

Pay-per-step is an attractive idea, but it’s fraught with problems. Fitalize have a viable solution that’s going live any time now.

A while back I wrote about Bitwalking, an initiative that allows you to earn crypto through walking. I was not complimentary. The concept was full of holes you could walk a cow through. (And I’m talking a large cow, with issues around personal space.) When I first learned about Fitalize, which is imminently to launch, I wondered whether it would be more of the same. So I talked to the dev team to find out.

As it turns out, Fitalize have taken a much smarter approach that solves or substantially mitigates the most significant problems I had with the Bitwalking approach. Unlike the competition, it's almost as if they thought about it first.

Pay per step

The basic concept for both is simple enough: you get paid to exercise. It’s a good idea in theory; you incentivise people to walk or run, encouraging them to get fit and maybe give up their cars or public transport for their commute. Small payments contribute the ‘nudge’ factor that often makes all the difference in these situations.

The combination of cryptocurrency payments and GPS technology means you can log your progress and literally get paid on a per-step basis, thanks to the suitability of crypto for micropayments. But that’s where the similarity ends.


How do you know the app owner has not faked their exercise?

Smart exercise

Fitalize have taken quite a different approach to their immediate competitors. Instead of using a smartphone app alone, they are using existing fitness devices such as the Fitbit.

That may sounds exclusive, because you need a dedicated and somewhat expensive device as an entry criteria, as well as the app that allows you to access them. But actually, that’s the strength of the decision. Firstly, it opens up a ready-made market: Fitbit has sold in the region of 20 million units, and you can assume that most of the people who buy one probably have an active interest in exercising. But it's not just about commercial sense.

Raising the entry barrier in terms of cost also makes sense because any system that can be gamed economically will be. If your platform is open to anyone with a smartphone, there’s very little reason for anyone who already owns a smartphone not to try to fake a few miles at the expense of genuine exercisers. By tapping into the established market for fitness devices, Fitalize largely side-steps this problem - as well as using other safeguards to weed out fraudulent exercisers.

An existing currency

Moreover, Fitalize isn’t just using an established market, it’s using an established cryptocurrency. Blitz is also the native coin of crypto social media platform The Viral Exchange, and various other projects-in-the-making.

This is important because it means it’s using a coin with a good track record, and some existing value. Other variations on the pay-to-walk idea use new blockchains, and coins are ‘mined’ by walking. What gives them value? Why should any merchant accept these? What about hyperinflation rendering them worthless? These are questions have not satisfactorily been addressed. Or, in fact, addressed at all.

Fitalize will be bootstrapped with a quantity of Blitzcoins donated by the community, but after that the plan is to sustain the programme using advertising revenues generated from engagement with the app. You can expect some fluctuation in value with supply and demand (this is crypto, after all), but not a one-way swan dive.

Bottom line, this is one I’ll be keeping an eye on. It’s a good use case for crypto, a good way to get people interested and off the mark without having to mess around with exchanges, and a lot smarter than existing alternatives appear to be.

The beta version of Fitalize goes live on Friday. To get in on the Fitalize beta test, join the Bitalize Slack group.

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