Until recently, I had three “go-to” health and fitness apps on my phone. I am a diligent user of the Fitbit app (for steps and non-step exercise), MyFitnessPal (for food), and Weight Loss (Jillian Michael’s app for incredible workout videos and health coaching).
My apps are linked to a whole collection of fitness devices. I own a Fitbit Surge (no, I’m not upgrading!), an Aria connected scale, and Tory Burch’s lovely rose gold Fitbit bracelet. When I wear the bracelet, my dress watch gets downgraded to the right wrist. I wear a Garmin watch during runs, next to my Fitbit, and upload runs separately on GarminConnect. I’m a budding triathlete and still track swims and bike rides manually—but a bike tracker is in my plans.
So, while you may think I am a healthtech super geek, I do sometimes find it hard to make sense of it all. Which is why I am so excited about a new and potentially game-changing app called Under Armour (UA) Record, and a related set of hardware called Under Armour Healthbox.
Why this solution is different
In order to appreciate why the UA Record app, and the related suite of HealthBox devices, has the potential to be a more powerful behavioral transformation tool than any existing apps combined, take a look at Under Armour’s corporate moves over the last three years. UA Record is about much more than just launching another app. Made famous by its “Protect This House” ads, Under Armour is moving aggressively to become the premier in-home health tracking company.
How UA is thinking big about the health and fitness space
Almost 160 million users: Since 2013, UA has acquired three fitness app companies, Endomundo, Denmark-based provider of GPS-based tracking apps; MapMyFitness; and MyFitnessPal, with access to a fitness community as large as 157 million consumers. MyFitnessPal’s connections are contributing significantly, including Garmin, Fitbit and many others.
Aggregator App: In January 2015, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), UA launched UA Record, its homegrown app, positioned as an aggregator app with a large number of app and web connections.
Artificial Intelligence: At this year’s CES, UA announced a partnership with IBM Watson, IBM’s supercomputer, to show data from IBM Watson in the UA Record app. Watson will analyze users’ daily activity, sleep, and food data shared and compare it with insights from other, similar (anonymous) members of the UA fitness community. Just now, my UA Record app told me there are 4.3 million women in its community in my age group! It sends me UA insights such as—“UA community members who friend and connect with other users track more workouts than those who don’t.”
I also learned I should target at least 7,000 steps/day and 10,000 steps on days I don’t work out. This was a very useful insight because after more than a year on Fitbit, I still wasn’t clear on steps vs. other exercise.
UA and IBM plan to go beyond the fitness community data—factoring weather predictions into workout guidance via the now IBM-owned Weather Channel, grabbing the local gym schedule to propose an alternative workout on bad weather days, or recommending times that fit your preferred workout times and days of the week.
The Internet of Things (IOT): With UA’s core business being in fitness apparel and shoes, it’s no surprise that UA targets connected fitness gear. Again at this year’s CES, UA and HTC in partnership announced the launch of the HealthBox, a bundle of connected devices including a band, a connected scale, and an HR monitor. Healthbox will eventually expand to connect with shoes, shirts and other devices, bringing a whole new meaning to home healthcare.
Will all this make me healthier, fitter, and a better athlete?
Possibly! Already after a few weeks of UA Record use, my daily app existence has gotten easier, and I get behavioral modification nudges on a daily basis in a quest that I know is shared by millions like me.
There are some drawbacks – for example, the anonymous voice of Watson does not do what Jillian Michaels does with her personal stands on fitness, diet, and lifestyle based on solid evidence and her experience as a real human coach helping real human beings.
What does all this mean for pharma marketers?
The bar for pill + bundles is getting higher: In an environment of consumer connectivity, patients will have increasingly high expectations of the value add of pharma apps to track medication compliance and lifestyle modifications.
Expect more partnerships: Life sciences companies are seeing the value of real life data in pill + service packages. CVS and IBM Watson in July 2015 announced that they will use Watson’s cognitive computing and predictive analytics capabilities, along with both companies’ predictive analytics and patient engagement expertise, to provide tools to manage a range of chronic conditions. Novo Nordisk and IBM Watson in December 2015 announced a partnership to explore possibilities for improved diabetes care via insights from real-time, real-world evidence of Novo Nordisk diabetes treatments and devices.
Look for partnerships in which you can play in a higher level value exchange: No organization is likely to fly solo in the emerging environment of connected health and vast data pools. Pharma marketers will be wise to look for a part to play in a consortium of value propositions to help increase patient engagement and improve health outcomes. That being said, even with all these technologies and partnerships, I’d still like to see Jillian Michaels on the stage at next year’s CES to give it all a human face.
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