Fitbit: Big Data in the health and fitness arena

Fitbit: Big Data in the health and fitness arena

How Fitbit uses Big Data in practice

By tracking the user’s activity, exercise, calorie intake and sleep, Fitbit devices help users monitor their eating and activity habits, and, in turn, make better lifestyle choices. The data being gathered by Fitbit devices not only helps individuals become healthier – this valuable health-related data also has implications for healthcare professionals and insurance companies.

Fitbit users can access real-time information about their habits, and information is synced from the device to the user’s smartphone or computer, where a dashboard allows them to track their progress.

Even beyond the individual user, this sort of health data is incredibly useful. Fitbit aggregates health stats and data about fitness habits and shares it with strategic partners. Plus, with the user’s permission, personal, individual data can also be shared. For example, Microsoft’s HealthVault service allows users to upload and share their Fitbit data with health professionals. Data like this can potentially give doctors a very thorough picture of a patient’s overall health and habits.

Now, even insurance companies are starting to wise up to the value of this data. Insurance company John Hancock, for example, offers a discount to policyholders who wear a Fitbit device. These policyholders can share their Fitbit data in exchange for rewards linked to their physical activity levels and diet.


The technical details

Fitbit devices gather a range of structured data from users, including number of floors climbed, steps taken, distance walked/run, active minutes a day, calorie intake, calories burned and sleep patterns. Not much is known about Fitbit’s Big Data infrastructure, but a quick look at the company’s jobs page indicates it may be working with SQL database technology, Hadoop, Python and Java.


Ideas and insights you can steal

This case study shows how savvy companies are offering clear benefits (i.e. reduced insurance premiums or the ability to better monitor your health) in return for access to valuable personal data. Too many people give up their data freely (by downloading an app, for instance) without really thinking about it. Businesses capturing or using personal data should be very clear with their customers as to what data they are accessing and how they intend to use it. And, as this case shows, it’s even better if you can offer something in return for that data.

You can read more about how Fitbit is using Big Data to drive success in Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results.



Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.

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