Fit to Wear – The implications of wearables

May 28, 2015



Fit to wear — wearables and health data

Whilst an Apple Watch may very well allow you to see your messages in slightly less time than it would take you to pull your phone out of your pocket, the real opportunity for wearables lies in the health and fitness data they’re capable of gathering.

The synergy of strategy here between fitness data and marketers makes perfect sense. In fact, other wearable manufacturers have already formed noteworthy partnerships that hint towards a future where we are all held more accountable for our health, with the link between our physical activity and the marketing content we receive being more relevant.

Currently anyone who has health insurance with Medibank in Australia can link the data from a range of wearable fitness trackers to their Medibank account, scoring 10 Flybuys points every day they reach a goal of 10,000 steps.

Insurance companies are paying very close attention to the wearables sector with an eye to optimising their policy pricing algorithms. Yet who amongst us wouldn’t gladly reveal our exercise habits in return for a lower insurance premium?

A point of concern is that, above and beyond voluntary data linking like the Medibank/Flybuys example, a lot of this data is already being sold to third parties for marketing and other purposes. But is this a bad thing? Imagine this:

  • A footwear brand gets hold of your step count and prompts you with shoe offers when you reach certain distances — “Hey Ben, you just passed the 600km mark, time for 10% off a fresh pair of runners?”
  • You reach a particularly big step count in one day and instantly receive discount offers from soft drink brands who know, for sure, that you may be particularly thirsty that day.
  • A mattress brand gathers your wearable’s sleep quality data and targets you with a choice of more suitable mattresses if you’ve had a few too many restless nights.

I’m right behind this — it’s the shift towards marketing as a function and I’d rather my ad content be about things I’m interested in. Just so long as it’s an opt-in. The privacy issues will be litigiously tricky if we reach a point where health insurance companies make fitness wearables mandatory and premiums are hiked or even policies refused for those whose fitness trackers reveal the unfit truth.

Until then I feel it’s a win-win and most of us will be happy to grin and wear it.