Sweatcoin: An App that Pays You to Walk

If you don’t currently make a habit of getting outdoor exercise, now might be the time to start. An app called Sweatcoin (available on Android and iPhone) is offering to make your steps matter by counting your steps and paying you for them at the rate of 0.95 coins per 1000 steps.

Currently, the Sweatcoins (SWC) you earn in the app are only redeemable for items from the in-app store. Despite the name, it’s not a cryptocurrency, though it has plans to become one. Dedicated walkers can still get some tangible rewards, anything from a gym membership to an iPhone X. Alternatively, you could take a shortcut and join the thriving Sweatcoin market, where you can trade each coin for a few cents (USD).

The technology and economics behind Sweatcoin are fairly simple. It uses motion sensing technology and GPS tracking to calculate your steps (with varying results; expect not to log quite as many as you actually take) and pays you accordingly.

The app was born in 2014 in London when two Russian entrepreneurs came up with the idea of incentivizing exercise by giving it economic value. It seems to have caught on, with more than two million active weekly users generating about 500 million SWC to date.

Sweatcoin is available for both Android and iPhone, and it doesn’t take much to get started.

1. Download it from the app store.

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2. Set up your account.

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3. Turn on your GPS.

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4. Start walking, but look below for a few tips on how the earning actually works.

The best way to earn is go outside. The app probably won’t count many of your steps indoors, even if you have location turned on. The development team is working on making indoor step-tracking more reliable, but since GPS reception is better outdoors, you’re probably still better off leaving the treadmill behind. Even then, you may not get 100% returns: the developers are working on improvements but still estimate that as few as 65% of your steps may be logged on average.

By default, you can only earn 5 SWC per day — that puts you in the “Mover” tier. However, if you find yourself bumping up against that limit, you can upgrade your account to “Shaker” (10 SWC per day), “Quaker,” (15 SWC a day) or “Breaker” (20 SWC per day). You do have to pay a fee to access these higher tiers, but you can pay the fee in Sweatcoins you have earned, so you won’t have to sell your car to finance your new jogging addiction.

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The primary way to spend is through Sweatcoin’s built-in shop. The products on offer here are on constant rotation and are mostly provided for free or at a discount by retailers who see the app as a good marketing opportunity. Given that the demographic here is “people who exercise,” it’s easy to see why there tends to be a lot of health classes, workout gear, exercise videos, and similarly-themed offers in the Sweatcoin store.

The other way is to sell your Sweatcoins for cash. The app allows you to transfer the coins between users, and there is a thriving market spread across a few websites, subreddits, and Discord servers, though as with all financial decisions, exercise discretion. In the future, you may be able to sell SWC on exchanges for other cryptocurrencies.

Though it sounds like a cryptocurrency, and in some ways behaves like one (you “mine” it by walking, you can trade it to other people, etc.), it is currently just some points you earn in an app. In January 2018, though, the company (SweatCo Ltd.) received almost $6 million dollars in venture capital funding, after which it announced that a blockchain was in the works. Existing Sweatcoins will likely be converted into this new currency, so if you’re looking for a safe way to invest in the crypto market, try getting off the couch!

Sweatcoin is probably not going to be the next Bitcoin, but the prospect of earning a few cents for a jog might keep it popular for longer than Pokemon Go. You’ve got nothing to lose except battery life (and maybe some weight), and you could gain a bit of muscle and some cryptocurrency in the process.

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