Cell phones help track exercise, green transportation

By Ann Griswold • Published: February 26th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Cells phones may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of consumer health, but an application developed by scientists at the University of Washington and Intel may change that.

The applications use motivational images to help cell phone users keep track of their exercise and eco-friendly travel habits. A recent field study revealed that the application can encourage users to stick to their fitness routines and transportation goals throughout the cold and dreary winter months.

The applications, called Ubi-Fit [You Be Fit?] and Ubi-Green [You Be Green?], rely on a motion-detecting sensor that’s worn near the waist. The sensor transmits information about each leisurely stroll, bike ride, fast-paced run or commute to work to the user’s cell phone via Bluetooth.

Users are rewarded for sticking to their goals with motivational images. Ubi-Fit features an empty garden at the beginning of the week that gradually fills up with flowers in response to each physical activity. A butterfly flutters through the garden when weekly fitness goals are met. Ubi-Green works in a similar way, with a barren tree that gradually accumulates leaves, flowers and fruit as the user elects various green transportation options. The application also tracks the user’s carbon footprint when eco-friendly modes of transportation are chosen over car rides.

The applications could appear on the market as early as 2009, allowing cell phone users to multitask in ways that not only improve health, but also help save the planet.