New cryptocurrency offers incentive to keep fit

First we had fitness trackers and Apple Watches which quantified and analysed our daily activities, and it was only a matter of time before a company sought to turn it into a FinTech niche.

Bitwalking has launched a phone application that will turn users’ footsteps into Bitwalking dollars (BW$), real money that can be used to buy products in Bitwalking’s in-app marketplace, trade BW$ with other users, and make purchases with third-party partners. A user earns BW$1 each 10,000 steps, which is roughly five miles.

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The app will initially launch in the UK, Japan, Malawi and Kenya. It has already raised more than $10m (£6.6m) of initial funding from predominantly Japanese investors, according to the BBC.

Murata, the Japanese electronics company, is reportedly working on a wearable device that will track and show how many BW$ a user has earnt.

The BBC also reports that a British shoe manufacturer will accept the cryptocurrency and a UK bank is exploring the potential to use the cryptocurrency at major UK festivals next year.

The company’s initial appeal is its global potential. By opening in diverse markets across the globe such as UK, Japan and the African continent, the app can be many things: the agent of fitness, inspiring people to walk more every day or a viable source of income for people who walk a lot every day.

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It’s the app’s cryptocurrency nature that allows it to monetise people’s footsteps. Alternative currencies such as Bitcoin have created a whole model where people earn the coins by doing a task i.e. mining – using their computer to solve mathematical problems.

The closest comparison to Bitwalking in terms of allocating financial value to leisurely activities would be Huntercoin – the first human-minable coin, whereby it can only be mined by playing a P2P game . It’s an online multiplayer and real-time strategy game. The more time you put in and the better you arrange your pieces, the more coins you receive.

However, one should note there are a lot of things we have yet to learn about Bitwalking. The company hasn’t officially released the algorithm it will use to calculate or verify the steps made, although it did try to use Google’s and discovered that steps can be spoofed. When it launches, the maximum amount of BW$ one will be able to earn in a day is reportedly limited to BW$3.

In terms of sustainability, not very much is clear. Initial interest will be crucial, as will securing partnerships with major health and fitness brands, as well as appealing to fashion labels, all of whom have an incentive to work with the company.

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