Weight-related complications are claiming the lives of around 3,4-million people each year and many blame technology as it causes a decline in people’s physical activity. But, AMR SHADY says that the increase in health related mobile apps could help users lead a healthier lifestyle.
With weight-related complications claiming the lives of around 3.4 million adults annually, demand is rising for thousands of mobile applications used daily to track calories, activity levels and vital health signs such as heartrate and blood pressure.
“Helping consumers choose healthy diets” is this year’s theme of the World Consumer Rights Day. Marking Sunday March 15, the event aims at bringing into spotlight the dangers of unhealthy diets, focusing on consumers’ rights to healthy food. The population of obese people reached 600 million in 2014 to comprise 31 percent of the total 1.9 billion overweight adults, according to the World Health Organisation. Overeating poses more threats to health than eating poorly across the world; the only exception would be famine-hit regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa.
While many blame technology for such alarming statistics along with the considerable decline in people’s physical activity, the growing number of health and fitness mobile applications could help mobile users lead a healthier life. Yet another proof that disruptive mobile technologies can positively impact people’s lives; helping them avoid obesity health complications including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Data points derived from mobile app analytics signal that consumer health consciousness is undergoing massive transformation. A study published by the app analytics provider Flurry revealed that the first half of 2014 witnessed a “stunning” 62 percent increase in health and fitness app usage. The study also reported that there are over 6,800 apps under the health and fitness category on the App Store.
There are more than 3.6 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world today, and the number is expected to surge by 1 billion over the next five years to reach 4.6 billion by 2020, according to ‘The Mobile Economy: 2015’ report, issued by GSMA at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) held earlier this month.
People are more connected than ever before with access to massive amounts of data at a click of button. In their quest to shed weight and lead a healthy life, mobile users download apps that monitor their vitals, and track their eating and exercise habits. The integration of such apps with social media further empowers users as they connect with each other on this health-seeking journey.
“Friends can cheer each other on, like and share their achievements and even start competing against each other. This innovation has increased the viral distribution of these apps through the social networking channel,” says Flurry’s report which cites MapMyFitness as a “great example” of an app that is well-integrated with Facebook.
Maintaining health and losing weight is easier with support. Mobile apps that allow dieters to share their successes and failures with others via social networks have a higher chance of producing more successful results. The use of social media in weight loss and health management allows users to post their goals for everyone to see, adding the benefit of accountability to the journey.
Mobile app users can also keep a virtual diary that tracks what they eat and their level of activity.
There are plenty of great free apps that can help people get into shape and cut out foods they may not even realize are seriously unhealthy. The following figure (retrieved on March 11) shows the top 10 ranking free health and fitness apps on appfigures.com. MyFitnessPal app ranks first on the U.S. iPhone and Amazon app stores. The application tracks calories, keeps a food diary and has a database of over 5 million foods.
A recent study by the “Archives of Internal Medicine” suggests that those who use mobile apps to track their eating habits and count calories generally lose more weight than those who don’t. The proliferation and success of mobile health and fitness apps is paving the way for the fast adoption of wearable technologies that serve the same cause. The Apple Watch, recently introduced to the market, promises to provide consumers with a full picture of their daily activity. The watch’s Activity app promises to “help motivate you to sit less, move more, and get some exercise.”
Mobile and wearable technology offer great support to people who want to lose weight and stay fit. But when it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle, a commitment to eat better and healthier, is the first step towards creating a new, happier person.
* Amr Shady is the founder and chairman of TA telecom.
* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA
VoD cuts the cord in SA
Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.
That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.
The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.
Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.
Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”
The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.
“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”
New data rules raise business trust challenges
When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.
The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.
GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.
The fundamentals of trust
GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.
The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.
This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.
What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.
The risk of compliance
Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.
A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.
A three-step plan of action
So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:
Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.
Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.
Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.