RunKeeper builds a fitness network with Health Graph API

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RunKeeper, which began as a way to track runs for users, is now poised to become a full-fledged fitness network with the release of a Health Graph API that lets developers and device makers tap into its growing data set and community. The API opens up the RunKeeper experience enabling a host of apps and devices to publish to RunKeeper’s FitnessFeed and contribute to its Health Graph.

That will allow its 6 million users to start integrating a much wider array of fitness data into their health history, allowing them to better understand how their progress changes over time and how it compares to others. And it positions RunKeeper as a destination for the growing number of people who are using websites, apps and devices to help improve their health.

RunKeeper had previously integrated with select devices like the Fitbit Tracker and the Wi-Fi Body Scale from Withings. But now many more devices and apps will be able to easily tap into RunKeeper’s back-end, helping create a full picture or map of a user’s health. Foursquare, Zeo, Withings, Polar, Wahoo and BodyMedia have been announced as launch partners for the Health Graph alpha.

“Imagine a system that can identify correlations between a user’s eating habits, workout schedule, social interactions and more, to deliver an ecosystem of health and fitness apps, websites, and sensor devices that really work, based on a user’s own historical health and fitness data. The Health Graph has the potential to completely alter the health and fitness landscape,” wrote RunKeeper CEO Jason Jacobs in a blog post.

RunKeeper will store a host of data from the distance and pace of runs and bicycle sessions to data on weight, blood pressure, sleep and diabetes. And it will evolve over time to absorb any health-related information and body stats from third-parties.

This is part of a larger evolution of RunKeeper, which I wrote about earlier this year after the company went freemium by eliminating the cost of its $10 app. The move helped grow downloads of the app and build a big community of RunKeeper users, but it also accelerated RunKeeper’s ambitions to be a broad holistic platform for users who want to track their overall health and fitness.

There’s a lot to like about RunKeeper, which has been out in front in the charge to help turn smartphones into health devices. By tapping into the phone’s sensors as well as connecting to other third-party devices, RunKeeper has been able to make it easy to achieve the idea of the quantified self, where we’re able to better understand ourselves through self-tracking. It should get even better with new improvements to Bluetooth, which my colleague Kevin pointed out is helping enable a lot of medical related devices. 

And now by opening up the platform to developers and device makers, RunKeeper is poised to be a repository for our health data as well as a social network for fitness-minded people. I think it shows that there is a need for more specialized social networks like this that are tailored to a specific audience. And it’s just great to see that all of this technology and social engineering can be brought to bear on the real issue of health. People have a hard time tackling their own health problems but I think RunKeeper, if it continues to evolve, can be a valuable resource in helping not just fitness and running buffs but a much larger swath of the population who want to improve their health.

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