What do you get when you mix fitness technology and fintech?

For every mobile app that costs money, there is an underlying payment mechanism pushing the purchase through. As payment providers, different financial technology companies have their feelers in every industry trying to sell its wares to the masses via app.

However, in recent years, advances in health technology have begun to migrate fintech out of the Terms of Service shadows and into the limelight of the app itself. These healthtech/fintech crossovers can have far-flung effects — not only on the health of those who purchase these hybrid apps, but on the future of both of these industries.

One health technology market that has received a major fintech boost is weight loss. Dieting can be a herculean task for many, whether because of the cost involved in adopting a healthy lifestyle or because it’s really, really difficult to convince yourself to start eating right and exercising.

However, in 2013 the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study with the potential to shake up the weight loss industry. Research found monetary incentives were an important tool in helping people lose weight, especially when this money was divvied up in a group setting.

Enter healthtech: Pact, DietBet, FatBet, and HealthWage are all application that use financial incentives for weight loss by allowing individuals to gamble on how much weight they can drop in a group setting. Each individual contributes a certain amount of cash to the communal pool; in the event that you succeed in meeting your weight loss goal, you get paid. if you don’t, your money goes to the lucky (slimmer) group members.

A fully legal form of gambling, weight loss betting apps blend healthtech, fintech, and a dash of peer pressure and ego to create a highly motivating diet tool.

Diet gambling apps aren’t the only apps converting calorie loss into cash. A number of health apps count miles walked, run, or biked as a type of currency which can be exchanged for donations to a charitable organization.

With Charity Miles, for example, you choose from a list of over 30 global charities, and with every mile you walk, run, or bike, Charity Miles donates a certain sum to that charity – 10 cents for biking or 25 cents for running or walking. Thanks to corporate sponsorships, the user spends nothing to use the app (except for calories).

Other apps, like Walk for a Dog and ResQwalk, are specifically geared towards dog-walkers: each app donates a certain amount of money towards animal rescue shelters for every mile a dog gets walked. And while these apps certainly benefit the charities as well as the health of those who walk with the app, what’s transformative about apps such as these is the idea that exercise itself can be an exchangeable good.

Healthtech apps that integrate fintech into their main offerings are just a small part of wider trend of healthtech and fintech partnerships. In May 2016, reigning wearable fitness monarch FitBit acquired wearable payments technology from Coin. Although you won’t be seeing the fruit of this partnership anytime in 2016, the idea of a fitness tracker that’s also a payment device has a lot of potential — just ask anyone who’s ever gone for a run and left their water bottle at home.

“At a macro level, there are many similarities in technology trends in both the health and financial sectors”, says Sharlene Sternberg, marketing manager of Sensoria, an artificial intelligence sportswear manufacturer. “Both sectors are poised to take advantage of technological advances in artificial intelligence and increased automation to either improve their user experience or to alleviate impact from a consequential event.”

While fintech might be invading healthtech, healthtech has begun to infiltrate fintech products, too. For instance, B-secur, a fintech company based in Belfast, is marketing its biometric authentication system as a secure identification tool for a wide range of industries.

The solution, which uses ECG biometrics to determine a person’s identity, could have a big impact on finance, as far as making payments, financial transactions, data and identity more secure. It’s no coincidence that a main point of contact between health and fintech is privacy. “Both industries need to be concerned with privacy and security as they relate to the amount of data that is collected and disseminated,” Sternberg said.

While fintech and healthtech may not be due for a full merger, new partnerships show that both industries have a lot to gain from collaboration. “The main crossovers will come from how disruptive technologies can be utilized across multiple platforms,much like wearable technology and healthcare have converged today,” explained Sternberg. Add it to the trendwatch.


Photo credit: ** RCB ** via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Swipe for charity: How mobile apps are enabling a future of giving

mobile donation apps

Perhaps the most astounding facet of the global mobile technology market is the sheer speed with which it continues to grow. Whereas a century ago it took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million users, and later it took 14 years for television to reach the same sized audience, the mobile phone industry has reached more than 2 billion people in less than 10 years. Mobile internet use has grown from 50 million global users in 2010 to 4.4 billion today, a number that is expected to hit 6.4 billion by the end of the decade (of which 5.6 billion are expected to be smart phones and other mobile technologies).

According to the 2016 Global NGO Online Technology Report, published jointly by the Public Interest Registry and nonprofit Tech for Good organization, online donations continue to lead the philanthropy industry, with 77 percent of millennials, 66 percent of GenXers and 54 percent of Baby Boomers prefer to donate to charity online. And although the report also says that just eight percent of donors would currently prefer to use mobile donation apps, that number is certain to rise as millennial users – individuals who often have no email addresses and have no recollection of a pre-mobile era – mature and enter the workforce in the coming years.

Of course, the expansion of mobile technologies such as PayPal and microfinance loan platforms such as Kiva presents new challenges to traditional financial institutions, but they also present opportunities for individuals and non-profit organizations trying to capitalize on existing micro-finance and P2P platforms to streamline donations. As far back as 2013, mobile donations represented about a quarter of charity given in the United Kingdom, a number that is certain to have grown  Last August, Facebook introduced a Donate Now button for non-profit organizations; websites like microgiving.com provides a Kickstarter-like platform for private individuals and small organizations to raise cash from a large number of small donors.

The ability to appeal to small donors has also led a slew of philanthropic-minded entrepreneurs to focus on for-profit business models for the benefit of non-profit organizations. One, Charity Miles, is a simple mobile exercise app that uses GPS technology to track the user’s exercise, and the company makes a donation (25 cents a mile for walkers and runners, 10 cents for bikers) to a charity of the user’s choice. Donations are made by companies like Humana, Johnson & Johnson, Timex Sports and Kenneth Cole, and there are several dozen organizations to support.

For instance, Britain’s Commonpence is a donation platform using the London Oyster Card, contactless credit cards and NFC (near-field communication) smart phones to allow commuters to donate spare change left over from train and bus travel in the United Kingdom. The model is simple: Using the touch payment technology of credit cards and devices that use RFID (radio frequency identification), Commonpence will create donation panels, to be placed in Underground stations and at bus stops around the UK, advertising the charity or non-profit organization they support. Commuters can tap or swipe the panels with any supported payment method, and the the spare change that is left on their transportation cards will be donated to the advertised charity. In the initial stage, the company has created a prototype panel to benefit Prostate Cancer UK; future beneficiaries include the Leukemia and Lymphoma Research and Lifeboats organizations.

More traditional charities are also making use of technology to expand their ability to help. In Israel,  Colel Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish organization provides pre-paid debit cards to poverty-stricken families. In order to maximize effectiveness, the organization partnered with local supermarket chains and with IsraCard, the local operator of MasterCard, to create a smart card that is only valid to pay for “legitimate” purchases of food and household necessities, but not for “frivolous” items such as tobacco or alcohol.

“Our goal here is to ensure that people who have fallen into poverty will be treated with dignity, and given the tools to escape from their predicaments,” said Rabbi Mendy Blau, Israel Director of Colel Chabad.  “A credit card allows them to make their purchases without any sense of shame or being different and also gives us the proper way to channel charity and monitor that it is being used in ways that will really help the beneficiary.”

Chabad officials say a mobile app is “on the way”, but have not specified a release date as of yet.

Photo credit: OnlineTradingAcademy