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The app that lets you get rich quick by walking faster

This Digital Life

Imagine a pedometer that counts pennies instead of steps. Bitwalking is a new app aimed at letting you earn cash as you stroll, in addition to the health and fitness benefits. But is it really a viable money-maker? Katie Wright finds out.

Whether it's language learning, or tackling your to-do list, working your physical or mental health, practically every app out there offers on-screen incentives - things like sparkling stars or unlocked levels - to get you to keep going on your quest for self-improvement.

But what if the reward for your efforts was cold, hard cash? A new app promises just that - well, almost.

The tool uses what's known as a cryptocurrency (one that's created and regulated outside the usual framework of a bank), rewarding users with one Bitwalking dollar for every 10 thousand steps walked, as measured by your phone's accelerometer.

That equates to around five miles, which may seem like a lot, but in developing nations, where people have to walk many miles to work or school, the dollars could soon add up.

"We believe that everyone, everywhere, should have the freedom and ability to generate money," says Bitwalking's Andrew Whyte.

"Users are able to spend the money they've generated to purchase a wide range of products, both from our marketplace and local and global third party partners."

But how can one walk towards financial freedom if one doesn't have a smartphone?

With Western markets saturated, smartphone sales are actually soaring in developing countries, stoked by the proliferation of affordable handsets.

It's estimated that there will be three billion smartphone users by 2020, compared with 2.2 billion in 2013, plus a Japanese electronics firm is working on a wristband that will be compatible with Bitwalking.

Two Bitwalking hubs have been set up in Malawi to teach local people how to trade the currency, while over here it's hoped the app will be used more as a fitness incentive, with companies offering cash bonuses to employees who rack up the most Bitwalking mileage.

Membership is being rationed to begin with (a huge surge in users could disastrously devalue the currency, after all) and limited to a few countries, one of which is the UK.

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