Sensors are overrated. We don't need them to generate more penetrating, rarefied data about what's going on inside our bodies. What we really need is a friendly face--a mentor, a confidante—who can help us put simple exercise and sleep data to good use.
That's the philosophy behind GOQii, a new fit-tech platform that intends to enlist an army of personal coaches to advise, encourage, and gently cajole humankind toward better health habits.
Yes, you read that correctly. GOQii is a "coaching on the cloud" service that will employ thousands of wellness advisors to reach out and nudge couch potatoes via daily instant messages. It's one the craziest ideas I've heard in all my time covering activity-tracking wristbands. But in a fit-tech market that's hitting critical mass with samey-samey devices stuffed with off-the-shelf sensors, it's a crazy idea that just might work.
"The most important sensor is common sense," says Vishal Gondal, GOQii founder and CEO. "This really comes down to human interaction, and no algorithms can match that."
Pinging, chatting, constant engagement
At its core, GOQii is a subscription platform. When the service goes live in the U.S. this December, a six-month coaching plan will cost $99—and GOQii will toss in its activity-tracking wristband for free. The band itself—a rubbery lash of silicone with a removable hardware module—is nothing special. An onboard accelerometer helps count steps, calorie burn, distance traveled, total activity time, and sleep. All these metrics are displayed on an OLED display, and synced with an accompanying mobile app over Bluetooth.
The hardware is pedestrian, but the service is designed to supercharge engagement. According to a January study by Endeavor Partners PDF, more than half of all consumers who've bought modern fit-tech wearables have given up on their devices. So how do you get people to stick with the program? Gondal says it all comes down to basic human accountability.
"Our coaches are pinging you, they're chatting with you, asking you how you're doing. That's really the secret sauce of what we're doing—fostering engagement, which only humans can do," he says. "This whole thing has been scientifically designed to reinforce the element of OK, I'm now responsible.' There's going to be somebody talking to you, and asking you how you're doing."
This April, GOQii will launch as a public beta in India with some 500 coaches, and Gondal says the system will scale to more than 5,000 coaches within the next 24 to 36 months. Each coach will be assigned a set number of regular clients, with the expectation to instant-message each customer two or three times a day.
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