Local coder makes iPhone running mate

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New app tracks route, stats for athletes

A local programmer has created an iPhone app for people who love to run.

Randy Troppmann’s RunningMap Trackometer app debuted last week in the Apple iTunes store. The downloadable application is meant to help cyclists and runners track time, distance and routes as they train.

Most runners today carry a watch, GPS, iPod, cellphone, map and other gadgets as they run, says Troppmann, a St. Albert resident and multimedia developer at NAIT. He and Edmonton programmer Dustin Friel developed their application so runners could replace those other devices with an iPhone.

The program uses a stopwatch-like interface and GPS to record the time, location and elevation of an athlete on the move. The finished routes and stats can be uploaded to Troppmann’s RunningMap.com website and shared with others.

Troppmann, a distance runner, says he got the idea for the program back in 2003. “It’s hard to know how far six kilometres is,” he says, and distance runners like to run specific distances during training. Being a computer guy, he started thinking about a program that could track the precise distance of his runs. That led to his website RunningMap.com, which lets users plot and share routes on an online map.

The site soon attracted about 40,000 users, Troppmann says, which got him thinking. “Runners liked using it, so I saw a commercial potential.” Noting the simplicity and popularity of the iPhone, he decided to develop an app for it that would complement the website.

The iPhone is an excellent platform for web developers, Troppmann says, as it favours clean, simple user interfaces. It also has a secure forum — the iTunes store — that programmers can use for cheap distribution. “As a developer, I don’t have to worry about e-commerce. I just develop my app and submit it.”

Troppmann says he’s surprised his program was accepted by the store so quickly. “We fully expected it to be rejected the first time,” he says — Apple’s approval process is notoriously complex, according to critics. He immediately grabbed his iPhone to buy a copy of it.

Troppmann hopes to upgrade the program so it can guide joggers along a route and analyze their performance. He’s not sure how well it will sell, but notes that it was one of the top-selling health and fitness applications on iTunes as of Monday.

Shelley Beaubien, an athlete who uses Troppmann’s site and works at the St. Albert Running Room, says the program could be an effective learning tool for her students. Most runners now carry several devices to track their location, route, pace and time, she says. “We all carry our cellphone with us, so this would allow us to have it all in one device.”

Anyone looking to break into the app business should attend the regular Democamps at the University of Alberta, Troppmann says, where they can meet other developers and show off their projects. “Don’t try to duplicate the functionality of a desktop,” he advises. “Keep it simple.”

Contact Troppmann at RunningMap.com for details.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.