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As health industry shifts, tech opportunities open

By RACHEL THOMPSON, Insights Director at GfK South Africa



With government striving to pass legislation to create a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme to serve all South Africans, the country’s health and wellness market is in flux. Along with the global trends reshaping the sector, this is a recipe for massive change and disruption that could have wide implications for consumer brands in every segment.

Our global longitudinal study, GfK Consumer Life* – which includes 1,000 South African respondents that are representative of the online population – pinpoints three major trends. These developments do not only affect health-related brands such as pharma, medical aid, private health and wellness companies. They also create threats and opportunities for brands in categories as diverse as consumer tech, food & beverages, entertainment and domestic appliances. 

Let’s take a closer look: 

1.      Seeking relief 

One of the trends we’re seeing among consumers in many parts of the world is rising anxiety, social stress and concern about safety and security. In South Africa, concerns about crime and worries about technology are helping to intensify feelings of insecurity among consumers, with 73% of our survey sample saying they are always concerned about their safety. This is up from 56% in 2017.

Consumers are seeking relief from the anxiety and stress they experience in their day to day lives. They are looking for products and services that make them feel safer and healthier – a trend that is apparent across all categories. People are looking for products that help them feel secure and in control at all times – for example, driver details, peer review and minute by minute control of the ride are major pluses of Uber.

Providing security can also be about transparency and simplicity. Monzo the digital bank based in the UK, offers security to consumers through its casual, easy-to understand approach to banking. Another symptom of the trend is the demand for premium services and products, with consumers seeking relief through pampering and indulgence (up 7% since 2017). 

The popularity of ‘hometainment’ is also partly related to this trend. Three quarters of South Africans say they enjoy spending time at home – the reasons for this include safety and the ability to make sophisticated premium entertainment choices. Between video and music streaming services, the proliferation of food delivery services, and more ecommerce options, this trend is likely to grow. 

Implication for brands: Consider how your product and service can address your customer’s need for safety and self-care. Are there ‘white space’ opportunities to address? For example, consider the rise of new subcategories such as non-alcoholic beer, cannabis oil and weighted blankets. Or can you make consumers feel more secure through clarity and transparency?

2.      Pivoting to prevention 

The growing preoccupation with personal wellness – along with the eternal desire to retain youthfulness and skyrocketing healthcare costs – means that people are becoming more proactive about managing their health. There is a shift from cure to prevention – around 60% of online South Africans exercise at least once a week (up from 48% in 2017) and 51% agree that they aim for prevention rather than treatment. 

Detection will also be an important element in health innovations. GfK Consumer Life research shows that consumers worldwide share a growing desire for proactive identification of threats such as allergens, contaminants, polluted air, and much more. New devices and services that do better jobs of identifying these threats to our health will become more of a “must have” in the future.

Implication for brands: Brands should look for new opportunities to address the focus on preventative healthcare and communicate the benefits to their customers in a clear manner. This is not limited to personal health products like probiotics or vitamins. For example, small domestic appliance manufacturers have seen a boom in demand for hot air fryers as connected South Africans embrace healthier eating habits. 

3.      Self-directed health 

As part of the wider consumer shift towards taking control over their lifestyles and the brands with which they interact, consumers are embracing ‘life logging’, and ‘health and fitness tracking’. South Africa’s Discovery is a global pioneer in this space, with many life and health insurers worldwide using its Vitality behavioural wellness programme to help people manage their own health better.

More and more people are using wearables and smartphones to track health and fitness metrics such as heart rate, calorie intake, steps taken, and more, all with the goal of better managing their own wellbeing. Some 19% of online South Africans own a smart watch and 20% use mobile devices to track their health. Programmes such as Vitality add incentives and a layer of gamification on top of this health data. 

Burnout is a word we hear more often as consumers feel the pressure to perform in an always-on environment. Consumers are turning to ways that they can transform themselves into super-humans, helping to drive growth of the superfoods and bio-hacking categories. 

Plus, knowledge, learning and creativity are now among South Africans’ top five values as reflected by our research.

As such, people are using online communities and other online resources to make better health choices – including brand and product selection.This shift of control from brands, retailers, and advertisers to customers is apparent across many other categories. This is due to not only how attitudes and personal values are shifting, but also the vast amount of information now available from our peers via social media, review sites, and more.

Implications for brands: Empower your customers to follow their own health journey, supporting them with personalised messages that help them make the right choices. Where appropriate, offer benefits and rewards related to self-quantification.

Seeking innovation 

Consumers are seeking health innovations and depending on brands to help them achieve their goals. Regardless of industry, understanding these trends more deeply can help brands leverage an extraordinary opportunity.

*GfK Consumer Life is a global data and insight service that provides a view on how consumers’ everyday lives are evolving. It provides access towhat people think, and what people do on a global, regional, local or micro level. 


LHI is coming to save your car from hazards

Local Hazard Information will give drivers advance warning of potential dangers lurking around the corner



There are many times when knowing what is around the corner could be useful. But for drivers that knowledge could be critical. Now, thanks to Ford’s new connected car technology, it is also a reality.

Local Hazard Information (LHI) marks a significant step on the journey towards a connected transport infrastructure by helping drivers prepare for and potentially avoid dangers on the road. When drivers ahead encounter sudden tailbacks, accidents or spilled loads, the driver behind – and possibly out of sight – is given advance warning. This could also apply to everything from freak hailstorms, to sudden flooding, or even landslides.

The triggers for the system come from what is happening in the cars ahead. It could be that airbags have been activated, hazard warning lights are flashing, or windscreen wipers are in operation. Previous traffic incident alert systems have relied on drivers to input information in order to generate alerts. LHI works autonomously, without the need for any driver interaction, to generate information and issue warnings.

Hazards are only displayed – via the dashboard display – if the incident is likely to impact on the driver’s journey. LHI is designed to be more beneficial to drivers than hazard information from current radio broadcasting systems, which often deliver notifications not relevant to them.

Already featuring as standard and free of charge for the first year on the new Ford Puma, LHI technology is being rolled out across more than 80 per cent of Ford’s passenger vehicle line-up by the end of this year. Crucially, the benefit will not be limited only to those travelling in Ford vehicles. Information sent can be used to alert drivers of other manufacturers’ vehicles, and vice-versa.

“What makes Local Hazard Information different is that it is the cars that are connected – via the Internet of Things. There is no reliance on third party apps. This is a significant step forward. Warnings are specific, relevant and tailored to try to help improve your specific journey.” Joerg Beyer, executive director, Engineering, Ford of Europe

How it works

Sensors monitor activities including emergency braking, fog lights and traction control to detect adverse weather or road conditions. Data from these activities is then computed to determine the hazard location and whether a traffic incident has occurred.

The vehicle automatically provides updates through a secure connection to “the cloud” using the Ford Pass Connect modem. Ford’s technology partner HERE Technologies operates the central cloud-based platform that collates information from multiple vehicle brands, governed by a business-to-business agreement.

The more cars are connected to the network, the greater the efficiency of the system. When many vehicles generate the same warning, others in the vicinity receive incident information from the cloud via the cellular network, enabling drivers to reduce speed or take appropriate action.

Additional information is sourced from public authority incident databases and traffic reports to provide drivers with further advance warnings including approaching vehicles driving on the wrong side of the carriageway, animals or people in the road ahead, and roadworks.

The on-board modem will be connected at the time of vehicle delivery. Customers may choose to opt in/opt out of certain data sharing.

Local Hazard Information data provided by HERE Technologies.

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Bundesliga plans to “revolutionise football viewing”



Germany’s Bundesliga football league has selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its official technology provider to deliver more in-depth insight into every live broadcast of Bundesliga games and enable personalised fan experiences. 

Bundesliga says it will use AWS artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), analytics, compute, database, and storage services to deliver real-time statistics to predict future plays and game outcomes. It will also use the technology to recommend personalised match footage across mobile, online, streaming, and television broadcasts.

Using AWS technology, Germany’s premier national football league will build new cloud-based services that automate processes, increase operational efficiency, and enhance the viewing experience for the league’s rapidly growing global fan base. By developing a new, next-generation statistics platform on AWS, using Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed service to build, train, and deploy ML models, Bundesliga will offer fans real-time predictions on when a goal is likely to be scored, identify potential goal-scoring opportunities, and highlight how teams are positioning and controlling the field, based on live data streams and historical data from over 10,000 Bundesliga games. Bundesliga also plans to leverage AWS ML services, such as Amazon Personalize, an ML service to create real-time and individualized recommendations, to offer fans personalized game footage, marketing promotions, and search results based on their favourite teams, players, or matches.

Using other AWS ML services, including Amazon Rekognition, an intelligent image and video analysis service, Bundesliga will build a cloud-based media archive that will automatically tag specific frames, from its more than 150,000 hours of video, with metadata such as game, jersey, player, team, and venue, so that the league can easily search historical footage and surface pivotal plays for in-game broadcasts, in more than 200 countries. This archive will enable Bundesliga to search across its entire history of football footage to provide a more enhanced viewing experience for fans and automate the current manual process of searching and tagging match highlights.

“We are extremely excited to be working alongside AWS to develop the next generation of football viewing experience,” said Christian Seifert, CEO of Bundesliga. “Innovation means challenging the status quo. Working closely with AWS, as one of the most innovative technology companies in the world, significantly enhances the investment we’ve made in innovation over the past two decades, all of which contributes to us being able to deliver a world-class football experience for our fans.”

“As the league with the highest average number of goals per game, and the highest stadium attendance globally, the Bundesliga is one of the most entertaining sports leagues in the world,” says Andy Isherwood, Vice President and Managing Director EMEA, Amazon Web Services, Inc. “We are thrilled to work with the Bundesliga and help them use cloud technology to give football fans around the world a more engaging match day experience and look forward to helping them leverage our deep portfolio of ML and AI services so they can deliver even greater insight into the world’s favourite game.”

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