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January is the month of good intentions and new beginnings, so we couldn’t think of a better time to launch our new Fitness Step!

That’s right, if you haven’t already started, then from today you can get your finances in shape whilst you are! All you need to do is connect your Apple Health or Google Fit account to Oval. Once you do, you can start setting aside money every time you take a set number of steps or cover a certain distance. If you want, you can even use it as an incentive to get fit by setting aside money each time laziness takes over and you fail to meet your daily step target!

It’s been an ambitious and innovative project that has excited the whole Oval team (and our Oval users!), with over 4,000 of you activating the Step within two weeks of its launch.

But the real question is: how did we come to develop it?

We asked Francesco, fitness addict and one of our front-end developers, to tell us about the whole process: from concept to release.

Hi Francesco, thanks for talking us through this! Firstly, could you tell us about the research phase?

It all started with a phase of discovery. We focused our attention on studying Android and iOS platforms and how both function in relation to their fitness systems, as they are both different native platforms.

In relation to the fitness data: Android adopts a Cloud approach, where it takes data from Google Fit and sends it to the Cloud - which Oval requests and receives the day after – whereas iOS collects and stores all the fitness data within a single device.

What were the difficulties in development?

The real difficulty was in understanding how to unify the two systems. We needed to create a method of unifying the two platforms so that they would both return the data in the same way. The classic approach in the development of such a function is the ‘bottom-up approach’, which starts with the native development (the largest part) and only then leads to the development of the overlying structure.

What approach have you used to standardize the two systems?

By focusing on user functionality we have taken a top-down approach. "Encouraged by our initial analysis, we first made the app functionalities dedicated to the user and to the calculation logic of the savings, by calling the underlying native structure through mock-ups.

Only later did we complete the development by implementing the native call layers, thus focusing on the truly necessary features. The most complex work was to normalize the way in which input and output data was called, so that the two platforms were consistent. The data, in fact, is not only conveyed through two different channels, but also presents in different formats and query methods."

We’re the first team in Europe to have built a structure that can connect a savings app to the fitness features of both Android and iOS.

This is why it was released in open source, so as to give the developer community the opportunity to integrate and improve what we started.

What did you take away from this experience?

The challenges in Oval never end. This time, I learned how to approach problems in different ways. I also learned the important of testing, trying and dedicating a lot of energy to the preliminary research phase, which is essential if you’re to get to grips with the reality of what you’re dealing with.

We also had the opportunity to deal with problems that no one had ever faced before, bringing them to light and then returning them to the online developer community to ensure we continue working together to raise the technological standards of the sector.

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