HHS-backed employee wellness platform adds proximity sensor nudges

By Aditi Pai

The Department of Health and Human Service's Idea Lab and the Office of the National Coordinator have partnered with San Diego-based Total Communicator Solutions to develop the Idea Lab's workplace wellness initiative, called Project Boundary.

Project Boundary partnered with Total Communicator Solutions for its Spark Compass platform, which sends notifications to users based on geofences and beacons. Project Boundary also partnered with location aware platform Gimbal.

Project Boundary, which was created by HHS Innovator in Residence Naganand Murty and Presidential Innovation Fellow Nayan Jain, aims to help employers engage their employees with proximity sensors and messages that are sent to the user's smartphone.

Project Boundary Idea Lab HHS“The Project Boundary team has an innovative vision for improving corporate wellness,” said Erik Bjontegard, president and CEO of Total Communicator Solutions. “We knew our Spark Compass platform would be ideal for powering the experiences and gamification that Project Boundary desired. We designed a fully operational platform and mobile app, integrated with the Gimbal platform including proximity beacons with Apple’s iBeacon technology placed throughout an office building, enabling the delivery of personalized, highly relevant communications to employees’ mobile devices to encourage healthy habits in the workplace.”

"Today’s corporate wellness platforms tend to center largely [on] health portals, and wellness services to enable the employees (users) to adopt and maintain activities that are beneficial to their health," the project description reads. "However, many of these programs have not been able to effectively engage employees, and corporate wellness often does not tend to register high on an employee’s radar, when they think about their own health and wellness in the workplace."

In its first demo, Project Boundary focused on helping employees increase the movement and physical activity they did every day. For example, when users approach the elevator, the beacon near the elevator will send a trigger to the user's phone that suggests users take the stairs. After users take the stairs, another beacon will trigger a message that offers the user a "mountaineer achievement" for choosing the stairs.

"It will be argued that a simple notification might not be sufficient to cause most of us to act, and eventually we might need to worry about 'notification fatigue'- but the beacon deployment allows us to consider different approaches toward tracking and motivating healthy behavior," the description adds.

After the team sets up Project Boundary in different workplaces, they will start to "nudge" the employees based on what the program learns about the users' habits. Eventually, Project Boundary also plans to incorporate competitions and other gaming components.