Under Armour, Gatorade leveraging Big Data for digital health

 In Medical Product Design

When you hear Gatorade and Under Armour, you probably think "sports beverages" and "athletic apparel." Would you believe that both of these companies are now making digital health products? Using the power of Big Data and innovative product design, these two companies have entered the fitness wearable and digital health markets. Their products could change the way people think about their health by providing real-time data. 

Under Armour HealthBox
Earlier this month at South by Southwest in Austin, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank told conference attendees "data is effectively the new oil," reported Jessica Gardner of the Australian Financial Review. Plank is convinced that companies that win will be the ones who "use math," so he's spending the last two years focusing on digital health products. 

"Users take more control over their health data."

Under Plank's direction, Under Armour has spent roughly $700 million purchasing digital health startups. UA's most notable purchases were diet and exercise tracking app MyFitnessPal, social fitness app Endomondo and jogging app MapMyFitness. These apps make up Under Armour's technology division, known as the Connected Fitness group. 

Under  Armour expanded its digital footprint in January when it unveiled the HealthBox at the Consumer Electronics Show in Law Vegas. This collection of wearable fitness devices shows Plank's dedication to Under Armour's new identity as a technology company. Touted as "your connected fitness system," the $400 HealthBox includes the following digital health products:

  • UA Band: A wristband that measure sleep, steps, workout intensity and heart rate. Users wear this all day and all night. 
  • UA Heart Rate: A chest strap that measures heart rate. When worn during a workout along with the UA Band, users can "train as smart as possible" and see the most accurate heart rate reading in real-time through the UA Band. 
  • UA Scale: A digital scale that tracks user weight, body fat percentage and progress towards weight goals. This data syncs with the UA Record app. 
  • UA Record: A mobile app that connects the three devices, allowing you to track activity, workout, nutrition and sleep data. 

In a way, Under Armour has not pivoted from its original goal of helping to "make athletes better". In fact, Plank understood that the way to do this is through data, in addition to apparel. The data is the most important aspect of this new product offering, and Under Armour is betting that accessing and tracking it will help users live healthier, more active lives. Plank noticed the ongoing trend, in which users take more control over their health data. He saw an opportunity to take advantage of this data, and create a new product segment. 

Gatorade Smart Cap
Gatorade has taken steps into the digital health field as well, according to FoodBev Media. With the growing popularity of fitness data tracking, the athletic beverage maker is developing several products that harness health data. This new connected product line includes a bottle cap with an embedded smart chip and a sweat patch. The sweat patch is worn on the body and it tracks the user's activity. By communicating this activity to Gatorade's software, the products identify when the user should drink fluids, and tracks the intake of electrolytes and other nutrients, all in real-time.

"These products could change the way people think about their health."

When it's time to hydrate, a light will flash on the cap. To foster quick adoption, Gatorade will be selling pods that can snap on to existing bottles, rather than requiring the purchase of an all new bottle. By harnessing data on the body's activity levels, Gatorade is providing a digital product to help improve user health. Like Under Armour, Gatorade has identified the importance of wearable technology that can make use of the body's data, and developed a product that can leverage the health information that's important to consumers. 

The company has been testing prototypes with Brazilian soccer teams, and may be releasing a commercial version to the public in 2018. The price has not yet been announced. 

Big Data and wearable health technology
A recent study by MarketsandMarkets predicted the global wearable fitness device market will be worth $12.44 billion by 2022. The report attributed this to a number of factors, including increasing awareness about fitness and the growing popularity in wearable medical and fitness products. Businesses in other markets have come to see the many useful applications as well. 

Anand Srinivasan wrote in Smart Data Collective that the insurance agency was the first to begin leveraging data on consumer activity, nutrition and health with wearable technology. By collecting this information, insurers have been able to develop more comprehensive risk assessments. Employers have adopted health wearables as part of their company wellness programs, and Oral Roberts University has recently required students to wear FitBits as part of the physical fitness requirement, reported The Guardian.

"Wearable technology can make use of the body's data."

David Pierce of Wired said it best: "It won't be long before our fitness trackers are built into our shoes, our shirts, our headphones. Everything will be a fitness tracker, and every fitness company will be a tech company." Both of these companies have identified the importance of data and leveraged it towards their consumer health product design. The vast influx of data that's available has made it possible to share intuitive new products that improve consumers' lives. 

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