Sweatcoin App Uses Cryptocurrency to Pay People For Walking and Exercising

Never mind the blockchain, meet the walkchain.

Flickr / Ronmerk

Bitcoin mining involves some seriously impressive power consumption, but a new app rocketing up the Apple and Android charts aims to use cryptocurrency to get people burning their own calories.

The app Sweatcoin swaps the blockchain technology of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for what it calls the walkchain, in which users earn coins for the steps they take during the day. It’s then possible to redeem those coins for in-app offers, which can include anything from Amazon Credit and a Fitbit Flex to a curved Samsung TV and an iPhoneX.

Whether Sweatcoin is technically a cryptocurrency is up for debate, as it’s not currently based on blockchain tech or available for use outside the confines of the app — you can’t exchange Sweatcoins for dollars or bitcoins, say. For now, Sweatcoin is effectively a closed ecosystem, with the coins only having value within the app. It’s arguably a high-tech, souped-up version of the ticket reward system at the local arcade.

That said, co-founder Oleg Fomenko revealed plans to fix that after revealing last week the company had raised $5.7 million in its most recent funding round.

“This round will allow us to build out the product and technology team to improve our step-verification algorithm and develop an open-source blockchain to allow Sweatcoin to be traded like any other major crypto- or fiat currency,” said Fomenko.

For now, users earn a Sweatcoins for every 1,000 steps they walk, less a 0.05 Sweatcoin commission. Free users can earn up to 5 Sweatcoin a day or 150 a month — that’s the equivalent of walking a mile or so each day. More active users can upgrade to plans that allow them to earn more.

While that might sound like an alarm bell to those familiar with the scourge of in-app purchases in supposedly “free” apps, this is a fairly benign version. It’s only possible to pay for those upgrades with Sweatcoin itself. Again, it’s all a closed ecosystem, and the more steps a user takes, the more they can do.

The app does have its drawbacks, at least if you’re a treadmill junkie like me. Sweatcoin uses your phone’s GPS to compare steps recorded with actual movement, so the app won’t work unless you’re actually moving through space while using it. Think of that as the walkchain equivalent to the verification process for newly mined bitcoin — Sweatcoin wants to ensure no one earning its exercise-based currency is cheating the system.

It’s also worth noting that Sweatcoin requests users keep the app running at all times, saying that quitting the app may affect its ability to log steps more generally. It also requests that it have constant access to your phone’s GPS feature.

The London-based app is currently available in both the Apple and Android stores in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

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