Activity Trackers Get Aggressive

A New Business Model: Wearables as a Service


It’s still a very new market, but activity trackers are already looking and acting alike. Some manufacturers are preparing to enter the market with fresh features that include pain, humiliation and an encouraging pat on the back.

Behavioral Technology Group is working on a wearable device that uses positive and negative reinforcement to change the user’s behaviour. The company claims that its Pavlok device works by using tested behavioural theories to drive willpower and create good habits. The wrist-worn band jolts the user with a small electric shock as punishment for falling short of goals, and other penalties include monetary fines and an automatic post to social media to shame the user. Pavlok’s maker thinks that tough love is the key to success, and the company is working on a crowd-funding campaign and plans to start shipping the product next year.

The GOQii activity tracker is another device bringing a new feature to market. In addition to its hardware, owners get time with a coach who monitors the user’s results and suggests activities to reach desired goals. The company’s founder says that people are more likely to work to achieve results if they know someone is monitoring their progress. It’s a valid point.

The hardware features in the GOQii are quite ordinary for an activity tracker — collecting data on movement, sleep and calories burnt — but the business model is something different. Rather than simply paying for the hardware, GOQii owners pay for a subscription to a personal coaching service. The Indian-based company will start sales of the device in India for 5,999 rupees ($99, including a six-month coaching subscription), or 9,999 rupees ($164, including a one-year subscription) and plans to launch the GOQii in other regions including the US, UK and Singapore.

The market for fitness trackers is becoming commoditized at a frantic pace. Xiaomi’s Mi Band, introduced last month at a price of $13 (see Instant Insight: Xiaomi Unveils the Mi 4), is evidence that hardware margins alone won’t support product development and marketing for most manufacturers. Given people’s willingness to spend on health and fitness, the use of a subscription service and building an ongoing relationship with owners makes the GOQii a product to track.