Wearables in the Workplace are Alive and Kicking


Yesterday I had a chat with Derek Newell, CEO of Jiff, a company that utilizes consumer digital health technology to enable improved employee benefit programs. Jiff is using wearables as a tool to create unique mobile and web experiences in order to incentivize and gamify health within the workplace.

Jiff is part of the recent corporate wellness trend that has emerged over the last few years, where large companies that self-fund health insurance have started to use digital platforms like Jiff to encourage their employees to lead healthier lifestyles with the added goal of a more productive workforce. Recently, I also wrote about Oscar Insurance being the first private health insurance company to introduce a branded Misfit tracker, which is linked to a rewards-based program.

Using the Jiff platform, employees can purchase wearable devices of their choice, either free or at subsidized rates, and can use Jiff apps to track their own activity levels. Jiff uses a number of techniques to make wearables more fun. One is to incentivize users to achieve a certain goal, in return for a financial reward or voucher. A second approach is to use gamification techniques to build challenges for teams where employees can compete against their colleagues to achieve a fitness goal. Another technique is to use social media to gain kudos and encouragement from their online circle for specific fitness tasks.

And the results are quite impressive. Jiff already has close to 250,000 employees on their platform using wearables on a day-to-day basis. By the end of 2015, Jiff expects that number to grow to 1.5-2 million. The dropout rate of employees who abandon their wearables is fairly low. Jiff is one of several companies in this space, and therefore there is a much larger population of enterprise wearables beyond the Jiff user base. I estimate that number to be in the 1-2 million range for 2014, which is still a very significant chunk of the total number of wearables in use today including consumer wearables. This could go to 5-6 million by the end of 2015.

One of the key contributors to this massive growth could be the sensible set of data privacy policies that Jiff and other corporate wellness companies have adopted. The employee owns their wearables data, and the employer only sees the data at an aggregate level. Companies like Jiff are basically adding value on top of the wearables device and competing in the kind of experiences that one can create around health in corporate environments.

Contrary to what many would assume, enterprise wearables are very much alive and kicking. This new market has moved beyond the trial stages, with wearables embedded into employee benefit packages and factored into insurance premiums. The enterprise wearables market has moved beyond the simple tracking of steps, with Jiff being able to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, stress levels, and nutrition levels, with wearables aiding if not providing the full data feed. The next step is scaling the platform, possibly using a wider range of wearables like smart glasses or smart clothing, which would give a more holistic view of employee wellness, albeit with an expanded set of issues around user experience and privacy issues.

We should also expect to see machine learning playing a more prominent role as the data sets get larger, with platforms like Jiff being able to learn individual employees’ fitness or activity patterns and suggest appropriate actions, such as additional exercise or medical treatment.

In a sense, your employer has much more to gain by having a healthy, productive employee, and therefore in the future most of us are likely to be on some sort employer-sponsored wearables program, or if we stretch it even further a government-sponsored wearables program. This suggests that BYOW (Bring Your Own Wearable) might not be as big a trend as some have expected.

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