Read the original version of this story and many more at TD Curran’s blog.
Yesterday, I was using the Maps app on my iPhone 5s to get directions while driving to a friend’s house. I parked my car a few blocks away and proceeded to walk the rest of the distance. To my surprise, Maps immediately switched from driving to walking directions as I walked away from my vehicle. How did my 5s know to do this? The answer lies in Apple’s new M7 motion chip. Pushing the limits of how “smart” a smartphone can be, the M7 chip is redefining how our daily movements are interpreted and analyzed by technology.
First introduced at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this past June, the M7 chip is a motion-detecting coprocessor that was designed to run parallel with Apple’s A7 64-bit “system on a chip.” The M7 collects and processes motion data from accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses contained within the iPhone 5s, iPad Air and second-generation iPad Mini. While smartphones have had motion sensors incorporated into their processors for years, Apple’s M7 chip is the first to process this data as a coprocessor. This means the M7 chip is housed separately from the central processing unit, the A7, and is able to continuously collect motion data without draining battery life.
The M7 collects, analyzes and stores motion data for applications to use even when the device is asleep. When an app that uses motion data is first booted up after the device has been turned on, it is able to easily access the M7’s data – leading to less strain on battery and faster-running applications.
Along with the ability for navigation apps like Maps to tell whether a user is walking or driving, the M7 opens up a whole new range of possibilities for fitness apps. Pedometer++ is a free app by Cross Forward Consulting that utilizes the M7 motion coprocessor to track a user’s daily and weekly step counts. Since the M7 collects data even when the app is closed or the iPhone 5s is asleep, Pedometer++ will keep an accurate step count as long as the device is kept on the user’s body.
Strava Run by Strava Inc. is another fitness app that was developed to take advantage of the new M7 chip. Strava Run will map out the course of your run while also keeping track of statistics such as distance ran, elevation gained and calories burned. Strava Run also has social integration, making it possible for you to see where you stack up against your friends and other Strava users on a leaderboard.