Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 11, 2014

Dieting and Health Find New Potential with Wearable Tech, Connected Living

Today’s connected world has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last few years thanks to mobile devices and cellular connections that have become sophisticated enough to share and communicate data in real-time. This has opened up the door to a myriad of possibilities, from ‘smart cities’ to connected living, and even improved healthcarethere are tons of news mobile applications and devices that can monitor one’s well-being.

While mobile apps have played an important role in weight loss recently, the advent of new connected technologies is taking that a step further.

A blog by mobile analytics company Flurry highlights some of the recent trends and uptick in mobile health apps in just the last year alone.  According to their research of apps on their Flurry platform, health and fitness related items are growing 87 percent faster than the industry, which is itself growing at an astounding rate.

What’s really pushing the use of these apps is a plethora of new fitness devices and wearable tech being offered on the market. These devices can be worn on a person to measure personal data and send that information to the mobile apps.

Nutrisystem, a well known company in the weight loss space is stepping up their mobile focus to deliver apps consumers are looking for.

Earlier this year, the company announced their new offering, NuMi which is basically a digital weight loss system targeted at DIY dieters. The app is a tool that adapts to personal lifestyles and goals based on information being tracked.

To find out more about the new offering and how the connected market, especially diet and weight loss focused offerings, are surging in importance, I caught up with Aditi Gokhale, senior vice president & general manager Digital at Nutrisystem. Our interview follows.

The connected market is expected to hit a substantial growth. Why do you think there is a surge in popularity now and what role do mobile apps for weight loss play in pushing this market forward?

The Internet is permeating into all parts of our life and the cost of hardware has drastically dropped over the last couple of years. This combined with the advent of mobile apps has been key to the surge in the connected market. Particularly when it comes to health, our busy and ever-rapid lifestyles leave little room for self-care so that’s where mobile has stepped in.  Seventy percent of Americans are overweight and are now looking to mobile apps for on the go solutions. Weight loss apps in conjunction with the rise of wearables are pushing this mobile, connected market to new heights.

How are diet and health apps and gadgets changing the way people stay healthy and get in shape today versus just a few years ago even? What does the latest in tech offer?

Diet and health have always largely involved identifying personal habits and modifying those behaviors.  Small changes lead to big results. We carry our phones all the time and the average smartphone user looks at their phone 120 times a day.  This provides an opportunity for the app to get the user’s attention at the right time at the right place. For instance, we at NuMi are able to recommend healthy meal choices to a user at a restaurant based on their weight loss goals.  These are real-time recommendations and are personalized.

What role does cost play? Is there a certain price point/threshold that consumers using the mobile / digital apps are willing to shell out?

On demand services have been growing leaps and bounds in the last few years - moving towards a subscription economy. Consumers expect to pay a few bucks for services they use on an ongoing basis, whether for watching movies and TV on Netflix or listening to music on Spotify. In fact, the subscription economy is expected to be about a $200 billion market in 2015. One week on NuMi, for example, costs less than a latte from Starbucks! And the subscription includes invaluable instruments for weight-loss, such as ongoing advice from our behavior modification experts ‹ the NuMi Squad that encourages, motivates, and guides users 7 days a week to stick to their weight loss goals.)

Your NuMi not only delivers on the digital app experience, but it also keeps the 'human touch', which is lost in much of today's automated world. How does it do this and why did you keep that element?

 Apps that allow users to log statistics and track progress on their own only take people so far. Users lose the enthusiasm to keep logging or tracking because they have no one by their side to encourage them or keep them accountable. Additionally, we believe that the emotional side of weight loss is just as important as the nutritional and physical components of it. When we developed NuMi we wanted the digital experience to be simple and easy, yet the efficacy of helping people to lose weight and keep it off was crucial. Consequently, we decided to develop the NuMi Squad to provide on-demand advice, tips, and encouragement seven days a week - regardless of where our member happens to be. Our mentors provide valuable insights based on the tracking behavior of each user, which our members find key to their success. As a result, they keep coming back to seek guidance and expertise from the NuMi Squad.

Can you talk a little about the technology behind the in-app chat offered to users? How does it work? What technology is used to make it possible for the NuMI squad and dieter to communicate?

Our goal is to make expert health advice accessible and relevant to people on the journey of weight-loss. The in-app chat is ideal for this purpose. In order to give our members the most value from their experience with NuMi, we’ve partnered with a leader in real-time chat platform development and customized it to meet our requirements. Our number one objective for the chat was to seamlessly blend the situational aspect of having a health mentor on-hand while at the same time taking into account a dieter's data in order to tailor the advice to each individual member’s well-being. This resulted in combining three different technical systems that come together and enable the mentor to provide insightful advice and relevant tips to each member. The fact that all mentoring is done in real time - without missing a beat - is of paramount significance when it comes to the effectiveness and ease of use of NuMi.

 Want to learn more about the latest in fitness and sports tech? Be sure to attend Fitness & Sports Wearable Technology Conference (FAST), July 22 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.  Stay in touch with everything happening at the event -- follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Adam Brandt
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