Wearable health trackers are making a lot of news lately, with three major product launches in the last month, but one big question that remains is what will it take to drive adoption of these trackers, not just among health nuts and tech enthusiasts but among most of middle America?
One solution to that problem is media visibility. Feel Rich's partnership with Text4Baby and the NFL and NBAs' recent adoption of mobile-enabled EHRs both bring mobile health into the public eye, but perhaps not so much as its upcoming inclusion in the world of reality TV, when the 14th season of NBC's The Biggest Loser premieres January 6th.
After an absence of many years, NBC is reintroducing the BodyMediaFIT armband as a tool for tracking the health, fitness, and weight loss progress of contestants and their families, this time through a direct partnership with BodyMedia.
According to BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins, the partnership makes sense because BodyMedia, like The Biggest Loser, is targeted at obese or overweight users with specific weight loss goals.
“As a business our core focus is solving problems,” Robins said. “It’s less 'Get active', more health-related. About 80 percent of our users have a BMI that’s clinically overweight or obese.”
BodyMedia's technology was last seen in the early seasons of the show under another name – Bodybugg. The Bodybugg brand was offered through a partnership with 24 Hour Fitness, which in turn partnered with NBC.
When NBC and 24 Hour Fitness parted ways, the network tried out another technology briefly, but wasn't impressed.
“We transitioned briefly to another product in the hopes of getting mass retail distribution but quickly learned that the prior technology [BodyMedia's technology white-labeled as Bodybugg] was much more effective and preferred by trainers on the show,” Kerry O'Donnell, the Director of Licensing for NBCUniversal Television Consumer Products Group said in an email.
So the studio re-approached Robins this fall.
BodyMedia provides constant monitoring of a number of different metrics.
“Our approach is not motion-based, it’s physiology-based,” Robins said. “We’re streaming about 5,000 data points a minute when someone’s wearing our technology.”
Contestants on the show will use the FIT armband in much the same way existing BodyMedia subscribers do, using the tracking data to better coordinate with their personal trainers and plan weightloss strategies.
But while consumers can sync up the FIT with their smartphones, contestants are required to turn in all personal technology before going on the show. So, instead, a wireless display will be accessible in a less mobile format.
“There will be computer stations around the ranch where the contestants will access BodyMedia's online activity manager to sync up their armbands to log-in their food, track their activity data and sleep duration, and see how their caloric fod intake lines up with their calorie burn for each day,” said O'Donnell.
BodyMedia will upgrade the contestants to the mobile platform when they leave the ranch at the end of the show.
Robins told MobiHealthNews that “one thing they’re going to put far more emphasis on this season is how can these people be successful once they leave the ranch,” mentioning BodyMedia's tech as a part of that emphasis. NBC, however, denied that there was any change in their approach.
“Our philosophy has always been to motivate our contestants to lead a long and healthy life long after leaving the ranch,” said O'Donnell. “We are expanding our plans around The Biggest Loser as a trusted lifestyle brand and see BodyMedia playing an integral part.”
Robins hinted that there may be other uses for BodyMedia's data on the show, as part of some of the challenges. She also said that though this season will feature BodyMedia's existing offerings, future seasons would see the company showcasing some “very significant innovations.”