Mapbox is acquiring passive fitness tracking app Human

Human’s team will join Mapbox and work on Mapbox’s mobile SDK and real-time maps. I’ve covered Human quite a few times over the years. It’s a well-designed fitness app that was ahead of the current trends in fitness tracking. Human turned the simple habit of moving around the city into human-readable data for yourself and your friends.

Over time, Human started using this anonymized data to learn more about cities. With many users tracking their daily movements using the app, the company could surface interesting mapping data. Look at this beautiful visualization of people riding bikes around New York for example:

“This made us realize that opening up our data, while protecting the privacy of our users, can help to shape the future of our cities,” Human co-founder and CEO Paul Veugen said. “Activity data not only powers our leaderboards and social features, but is also of great interest to urban planners, architects and health policy makers around the world.”

The team of five will join the 175 employees at Mapbox — this is most certainly a small acquisition for Mapbox but it’s important to close the loop on Human’s startup story.

“Human’s team is playing a huge role with our mapping data — they expand our mobile play and are processing this anonymized aggregated data into a real-time updating map,” Mapbox founder and CEO Eric Gundersen told me. “From knowing where it’s safe to bike to real-time traffic, it’s like we have the pulse for every city on the planet.”

In case you aren’t familiar with Mapbox, the company provides a mapping SDK so that companies can integrate map view in their apps and on their websites. Clients include Foursquare, Evernote, Instacart, Pinterest, GitHub, Mapquest, etc.

Mapbox gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to the styling of the map. Companies can customize the map to their overall branding image.

And when it comes to data, Mapbox has been tapping into OpenStreetMap, the open-source mapping data alternative. Mapbox then updates data and adds a layer of features on top of it. It turns OpenStreetMap into a ready-to-use mapping SDK. Mapbox also contributes back to OpenStreetMap.

But that’s not enough. Roads and buildings are changing all the time. OpenStreetMap can’t quite keep up with mapping giants Google, Apple and maybe soon Uber. So Mapbox is also processing tons of data on its own.

“Mapbox is collecting more than 100 million miles of anonymous data on a daily basis, which allows us to update maps in every country in the world, in real time,” Veugen said.

And then, there’s Mapbox Drive. When it comes to mapping, all the major players are working hard on mapping solutions for car. Accurate maps are going to be the backbone of self-driving cars once car manufacturers have reached a stage when drivers don’t need to stay behind the wheel. Mapbox wants to be part of this major change, so it needs to think about ways to process huge amount of data.

“The network effect is crazy — as more people install the SDK the map gets better, and then more people want to install the SDK,” Gundersen said. “And now this month we’re getting more than 2 billion miles of anonymized data and the whole map is just lighting up. This is moving so much faster than we ever imagined.”

The Human app will remain available for the foreseeable future. Mapbox plans to showcase its SDK using the Human app and get anonymized data from Human users. And it’s a good demo of Mapbox indeed.