HealthTech: Mobile drives fit landscape for start-ups

The smartphone and growing demand for wearable tech are transforming the HealthTech market by giving consumers the platform to be connected to their health-diagnostic devices 24/7. With a global increase in household expenditure on fitness, dieting and healthcare, mobile health apps and services are offering fertile ground for start-ups. States are also encouraging this trend, recognising the need to cut balooning healthcare costs. For example, Bristol corporate finance and the UK government are working together to develop a digital healthcare home assistant, in a project launched in 2013.

In 2015, more consumers are acting on their belief that monitoring their wellbeing digitally will help them stay well. Fusing consumer interest in preventative healthcare that takes in lifestyle eating, fitness and healthy living habits plus the passion to benchmark against other consumers with near 24/7 digital engagement, connected health is a prevalent trend. App downloads show just how much consumers have taken to digital health, and the world of fitness, healthy lifestyle, daily workouts, dieting, medical information and tracking it embraces.

This includes concerns about new diseases triggered by heavy use of gadgets and related sedentary living. By November 2014, according to, the MapMyRun app tracking various physical activities and calories burned, had notched up 5.4 million downloads on Android. WebMD, used for checking symptoms, medicines and conditions, reached 6.9 million downloads on Android. A staggering 32 million consumers had downloaded the Calorie Counter app.

Controversies over sleep monitoring, imperfect wearables, gadget-related syndromes such as “text-neck” and the desirability of wearables for children aside, the trend seeing consumers interested in digitally monitoring their physical activity through wearable devices and apps to help them meet their fitness goals is flourishing. This is because consumers are aware of the benefits of exercise, yet are lacking in drive. Keen to follow medical advice to stay active, and worried about the impact of obesity on health, the multitude of digital tracking devices seem like the panacea and brands that make them have been urging the ‘worried well’ to get wired and start recording their activity. This blend of exercise and technology also mirrors broader lifestyle trends. Consumers everywhere are connected most of the time, thanks to smartphones, so it feels natural to them to blend fitness elements into their mobile cocoons.

For consumers wishing to make and maintain far-reaching lifestyle changes, such as dieters, monitoring that hooks into their mobile lifestyle makes obvious sense. Dieting is an interesting model, because eating meals and snacking happen throughout the day. This is fertile ground for greater consumer interest in tracking food consumption via the ‘internet of things’. This sees devices in the smart home and outside it such as calorie counting apps, smart watches and smart mirrors to give you a peak at the future you and shopping trolleys that flag unhealthy items, all offering motivational messages. One popular dieting app, New Zealand’s FoodSwitch, lets shoppers scan barcodes of packaged food items to see immediate nutritional advice in the form of traffic lights.

The consumer need to share, benchmark, compete and stay motivated means this tracking and health-promoting activity is spilling over into discussions on social networking, dedicated social networking platforms/apps, some created by brands such as Nike and Adidas, and blogs. This phenomenon is also related to the broader perception of wellbeing. In the eyes of consumers, fitness is more than the physical element and linked to factors such as purpose, social life and community.



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