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2020 Year in Review: Personalized Products and Services

Shriram Ramanathan, Ph.D., Research Director
March 1, 2021

Both the healthcare and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries have reached an inflection point. Healthcare costs have risen dramatically in the past few decades and are slowly getting to be out of reach for many consumers. At the same time, consumers are increasingly looking for more holistic solutions than just products. Digital technologies hold enormous potential to ease this tension. AI and IoT promise to transform healthcare from a provider-centric to a patient-centric model whereby consumers can get access to low-cost healthcare in the convenience of their homes. Likewise, sensing and connectivity are enabling a unique data layer on existing products, thereby allowing companies to offer personalized experiences and launch new business models.

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In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rapid acceleration in these trends. Overnight, physicians and hospitals have gone from seeing their patients in-person to seeing a majority of their patients virtually. This has led to an explosion in the use of telehealth solutions. Other related products, such as wearables and connected medical devices, are also seeing a sharp surge. With a significant decline in retail traffic, CPG companies have had to launch e-commerce, smartphone, and D2C channels almost overnight, which has now intensified competition. The battle is now on to use IoT and AI to understand consumer needs in order to offer products and sell them through channels that are stickier with consumers.

As we reflect on 2020, we look back at some of the most important developments that occurred in our digital health and future consumer coverage.

Decentralization  of healthcare (1)

  • Teladoc Health acquired Livongo Health for a whopping $18.5 billion, which allows Teladoc to bolster its more traditional video conferencing approach to telehealth with Livongo's remote monitoring and mHealth capabilities and thereby differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded telehealth space.

  • Pear Therapeutics obtained FDA approval for a digital therapeutic for chronic insomnia via both precertification and 510(k) preapproval. The 510(k) is a turning point in the approval process for digital therapeutics and opens the door for other similar products and solutions.

  • Singapore's A*STAR developed a point-of-care diagnostic that uses an extremely rapid amplification method to diagnose COVID-19 within five minutes. Unlike most other techniques, which require expensive machines to run and experts to carry out the tests, the kits are designed to be portable and simple to use.

  • Movano, a provider of a sleek and stylish noninvasive glucose monitoring solution, raised $10 million in bridge funding and moved out of stealth. The company is fully leveraging trends around decentralization and personalization in healthcare.

  • The U.S. Federal Communications Commission decided to provide $200 million to U.S. hospitals to bankroll telehealth equipment in the midst of COVID-19. However, hospitals are likely to continue using this equipment well after COVID-19 passes, thereby removing many of the infrastructural hurdles that have hindered the adoption of telehealth and speeding up the transition from a provider-centric to a patient-centric health system.

Increased focus on consumer wellness

  • Amazon launched a new wearable health tracker called Halo that competes with Apple and Fitbit. While the device itself is priced on par with Fitbit, users have to subscribe to an app to gain access to additional features.

  • MyAir began offering stress management nutrition bars with formulations that are personalized based on users' current physiological and psychological state. This is determined by analyzing data from online questionnaires completed by the users as well as data collected from wearable devices and smartwatches.

  • Fitbit launched a new product that allows for monitoring users' stress levels via temperature and electrodermal sensors. While measuring stress levels has been an elusive goal for years, Fitbit may be able to collect sufficient data through its device to develop a reliable digital biomarker for stress.

  • Apple introduced new health and fitness features in its watchOS 7 that will leverage the synergy between the Apple Watch and the iPhone to derive new insights on user wellness.

  • Caltech tested new wireless sweat sensors to quantify stress levels. The sensors use graphene-embedded porous structures coupled with cortisol antibody molecules and are therefore very sensitive and accurate.

  • Lululemon, maker of athletic apparel, acquired home fitness startup Mirror for $500 million. The company will likely use Mirror's workout solutions to improve consumer engagement, offer personalization, and tap into the growing home fitness market.

  • Google added a new feature to its Assistant whereby it offers personalized recommendations for restaurants and recipes based on users' search history and smart device data.

  • Pepsi launched a new IoT product called SodaStream Professional. This product uses consumers' preferences, drink history, water intake, and daily hydration goals to recommend drinks while also allowing them to customize flavors and carbonation levels.

  • Adidas unveiled a smart soccer insole that uses Google's Jacquard to sense and analyze users' movements, such as kicking power, running speed, and distance. Users can use this data from real-world soccer games toward rewards for EA's FIFA Mobile game.

Additionally, the Lux Digital Team curated the following "Analysts' Choice" for further reading on the personalized products and services storyline.

  • "Back in Business: Using Technology to Open During COVID-19." As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, companies are under tremendous pressure to reopen for business while keeping employees safe. In this report, we assess 23 technologies across seven metrics, including regulatory compliance, cost, and efficacy against the virus, to help businesses make informed decisions when reopening.

  • "Printed Electronics." Printed electronics are a manufacturing method to produce electronic devices via printing or coating methods. While the technology has failed to gain traction due to scalability and cost challenges, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about this space, especially as IoT and supporting technologies mature in parallel.

  • "Building Personalized Consumer Products Using AI and IoT." This report not only examines the most active CPG segments in adopting AI- and IoT-driven personalized products in terms of the key players, technology use cases, and value proposition but also identifies the typical types of collected data, personalized features, and enabling technologies in the products. It also presents a qualitative analysis of the degrees and types of personalization achieved at the product purchase and utilization stages.

  • "COVID-19 brings unprecedented opportunities to test electronic textiles." The pandemic has created an opportunity for technologies that can remotely screen, diagnose, monitor, and treat COVID-19. Developers of electronic textiles, such as Myant and Hexoskin, have designed smart garments that, in partnership with healthcare providers, measure biometrics like body temperature, cardiac activity, and respiration to triage and treat COVID-19 patients.

  • "Innovation Digest: The Lux Take on the Future of Digital Biomarkers." Digital biomarkers are biomarkers based on noninvasive and continuous data collected via devices like wearables and smartphones and analyzed using advanced analytics to extract previously invisible insights. In this report, we explore the readiness of digital biomarkers, a key component of digital health, and identify opportunities in this space.

This blog is part of the Lux Digital Team's Year in Review series examining the highlights and key developments in digital transformation in 2020. For an overview of the other storylines in Digital Transformation of Physical Industries, be sure to subscribe to our digital newsletter.

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