Hacking the Virgin Pedometer

Apparently one of my office mates is a very competitive sort. So I have to pull a fast one on him. I setup my Arduino to pulse pin 13 ever 10ms. I then took that output and put it across the magnetic reed switch on the pedometer. I know, I know, I could have done a magnetic coil but what's the fun in that?

17 thoughts on “Hacking the Virgin Pedometer

  1. Hi there. I’m new to the Arduino (just got an Uno). I have an old pedometer that I’d like to try this on. Did you just set pin 13 to output and the set a loop that set 13 to high then delay for a few ms and then set low and then delay for 10ms? How long did you set it high for? Did you put a resistor in line with it when you connected it to the reed switch? Lastly it seems that the reed switch is normally closed as it reads 2.72V and 0.02A just sitting there. When I push the pendulum down the meter goes to zero. Seems you would need to push the pendulum down while pulsing with the Arduino. I’m a little concerned about the voltage and amperage from pin 13 on the Arduino being so much higher than the voltage I see on the reed switch in its normal state. I don’t want to burn up my Arduino or the pedometer. Pretty cool stuff you have done here and in your other videos. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the reply. I gave it a whirl and it worked just fine. I was wrong about the normal state of that reed switch though. For some silly reason I thought it was normally closed (which would just drain the battery in no time). I tried different resistors off of the gnd pin on the Arduino just to see how it affected it. The largest resistor that would still allow a step to register seemed to be 270K.

  3. Is there anyway you could go through this step by step for a person who is a total newb? I’d like to get an arduino and do this.


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  5. Hi @truthspew I know its been a while since you posted this, but can you give more details about how you did this? Did you remove the reed switch and sent the pulse onto the circuit board, Or, Did you dettach one of the legs from the reed switch and sent the pulse? Or, if none of the above, Do you mind explaining? Thanks!

  6. HI, I opened mine and setup my arduino, but for the life of me I can’t find where to connect the arduino. Could you give more explanations or a picture ?

    thanks !

      1. I can’t find this, but granted I ma not an expert. Just to confirm, I have this model which is the new version: http://www.ebay.com/itm/VIRGIN-PULSE-MAX-ACTIVITY-TRACKER-PEDOMETER-/222071572741?hash=item33b47f4905:g:VX0AAOSwZ8ZW8VJx

        DO you have the same ?
        or do you have this one, that seems different and older:

        Thanks for your help

      2. I think I can answer that question and say it is neither. The one that was originally hacked by truthspew is this one:


        I believe it is the oldest of the pedometers that were used by the Virgin Healthmiles program. It has a simple mechanical ‘pendulum’ reed switch that you simply had to connect GND to one side and a digital output to the other and send a pulse to in order to advance the count. The ‘Max’ that you have is based on a MEMS accelerometer. I’ve had the chance to examine one and, at least on that particular unit, they had gone out of their way to cover the chip and traces in black epoxy. If you could locate the trace that supplies the data from the MEMS to the MCU you could probably put a scope on it and see what the signal looks like when it moves enough to register a step and then go from there to work out a way to send the same type of signal to it manually and then automate that. Sounds like a nice challenge… I’ll be honest though I enjoyed pushing myself to do the actual activity and get the steps that way. Good luck either way!

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