Singapore bets on the Apple Watch to power nationwide health initiative

LumiHealth builds on Singapore's past success with digital health initiatives. — Picture courtesy of Apple
LumiHealth builds on Singapore's past success with digital health initiatives. — Picture courtesy of Apple

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — Singapore earned a spot on Apple's recent September keynote with an interesting collaboration. The country is soon launching the LumiHealth app that, paired with the Apple Watch, is aimed to encourage Singaporeans to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Why Apple?

Singapore had, two years earlier, put the word out that it was looking for proposals on improving the health of its population.

Apple's approach won out and the LumiHealth app came about via a partnership with Singapore's Health Promotion Board (HPB), with public health experts and physicians onboard to assist with its creation.

The app is just part of Singapore's Smart Nation initiative that aims to harness technology to further the nation's ambitions.

How does it work?

LumiHealth offers a personalised programme tailored, via Apple's algorithms, based on user-provided data.

The approach is similar to the one Apple uses on its Apple Watch, where device-wearers have daily goals to meet or more correctly, rings to close.

What the app offers in addition is a gamified experience; inside LimuHealth an intergalactic explorer character helps guide users through various tasks that will be tweaked according to their metrics such as age, weight and gender.

The aim of the game is to help the explorer avatar find his way home, and along the way, users can earn themselves rewards worth up to S$380 (RM1,157) over the two years that LumiHealth will run for.

These rewards can be redeemed from various retail partners such as Cold Storage, 7-Eleven and Watsons, among many others.

Keeping it private

Apple has emphasised the privacy aspect of the initiative; that users are free to opt-in to share their data with the app but opt out whenever they want.

The company also said in a statement that the user data is encrypted, with data collection limited to information aimed at helping LumiHealth better personalise the app to user needs.

As to where the data is stored, it will be in a “highly secure system” built to comply with Singapore's own security and data privacy laws.

Data from the app will also not be sold or shared for marketing purposes.

Locking it in

If there's one concern here it is how device dependent LumiHealth is. You need both the Apple Watch and LumiHealth app that both require an Apple iPhone.

This differs from its other partnership with Fitbit, the Live Healthy SG programme, that required a Fitbit — a wearable compatible with both Android phones and iPhones.

Yet both programmes did require separate purchases of the wearables though Fitbit did offer free Fitbits to users willing to sign up to the company's Fitbit Premium services.

Still it can be argued that Android users still have access to the Live Healthy SG programme as well as other initiatives running under the HPB's Healthy 365 initiative.

It will be interesting to see how the take-up will be once the app goes "live" (it is currently under pre-order as a free download) and if other countries follow suit with similar initiatives.

With the Apple Watch already the best-selling watch (not just smartwatch) in the world, Apple will have ready insight into further improving its wearable experience and for now, its position as the leading watch and health wearable is near-unassailable.

What's evident is Apple has firmly positioned itself in the healthcare technology sector, carving a niche for itself that goes beyond the consumer space.

What is certain is Malaysia could certainly use a few tips from its neighbour on encouraging its citizens to get moving, now whether that would include an Apple Watch or any other device, who's to say?

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