Sales of fitness bands, smartwatches and other sensor-enabled gadgets are less fit than anticipated this year. That’s actually a sign of maturation, however. The slowdown in demand hasn’t stopped large companies from putting biometrics at the center of emerging data-driven employee health initiatives. Category leader Fitbit, for one, has made sales for corporate wellness programs a top priority.
The latest evidence comes in the form of a partnership disclosed Tuesday morning by workforce benefits giant Mercer and startup Jiff.
The latter sells cloud software that uses employee data to recommend ways they can get the most out of existing healthcare benefits. The hope is to cut costs for both employer and employee in the process. Together, Jiff and Mercer will create an information portal, called Health Pathfinder by Mercer, intended to motivate healthier activity and diagnose an employee’s potential for diseases such as diabetes before the condition becomes chronic—and far more expensive to treat.
“We take digital information from anywhere we can get it to help an employee better navigate what is available,” Jiff CEO Derek Newell told me when I spoke with him several weeks ago.
Mercer’s lead executive for health management solutions, Cheryl Mealey, notes:
While there has been an explosion of health and well-being solutions in the past five years, employers are left wondering how to manage it all. By teaming up with Jiff, Mercer can enable clients to integrate their preferred benefit solutions, personalize workforce programs and incentives, motivate employees to engage with the solutions, and measure what works.
One of Jiff’s biggest priorities is insinuating its technology into existing human capital management programs. Its deal with the $4.2 billion benefits company certainly will put it in front of many more potential clients. That’s a huge boost when you consider the short-lived startup only has roughly three-dozen accounts today (including contracts in the final stages of negotiation).
Jiff’s revenue should cross into the double-digit millions this year, Newell said. The company recently hired three senior executives and elevated its focus on customer success and operations to address the needs of enterprise accounts. Its latest venture infusion, a $23.3 million Series C round led by Rosemark Capital, came in May.
Wondering whether this approach really works? Consider the example of Fortune 500 energy company Williams. Last year, it hired another software company tackling this problem, Limeade, to encourage more participation in its decade-old wellness program. So far, engagement has increased more than 20%.
TOP OF MIND
Looks like Apple has a case of Netflix envy. Hollywood trade publication Variety reports the tech giant wants to create original programming that lends more credibility to its streaming audio and (soon) video services. The development comes as Netflix parts ways with longtime digital-content partner Epix so it can prioritize its own creative projects. Meanwhile, Alibaba is getting cozy with Light Chaser Animation Studio, which could be China’s answer to Pixar. (Variety, Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Congratulations, Marissa Mayer! Yahoo’s CEO expects twin girls in December. That’s about the same time the company should complete the spin-off of its Alibaba stake. (Fortune)
Twitter’s latest perk for new mothers. While we’re on the topic of motherhood, the social media company just joined IBM in creating an employee benefit that makes it simpler to send breast milk home to babies during business trips. (Fortune)
Activists criticize Etsy’s tax strategy. The crafts marketplace uses an Irish subsidiary to minimize its liability. Americans for Tax Fairness want that to change. (Wall Street Journal)
Apple’s latest corporate sales partner: Cisco. A new alliance encourages the networking giant’s sales team to talk up iPhones and iPads. The two will also prioritize support for each other’s technologies. (Fortune)
Google tackles diabetes with French pharma giant. Expect smarter medical devices infused with better data analytics that improve disease management and treatment. (Fortune)
At Ashley Madison, bad publicity is good for business. The adultery site claims “hundreds of thousands” of new members in the wake of its hacking scandal. Then again, it’s difficult to trust claims from a company created primarily to encourage cheating. (Fortune)
Uber’s business case looks pretty compelling in China. Right now, Stockholm is its most profitable city. (Fox Business, Fortune)
VMware vows holy grail for cloud. The fall conference season kicks off this week with VMworld, where the virtualization pioneer showed off technology that makes it possible to transfer working computing jobs between private and public clouds. An analogy would be if a car company could move an automotive assembly line between one plant and another without shutting it down. The catch: the approach requires VMware software. Conspicuously absent at the conference is talk about the fate of the EMC federation. Hedge fund Elliott Management is still pushing for a breakup, as storage giant EMC struggles to rejuvenate growth.
BITS AND BYTES
Silicon Valley’s favorite presidential candidate? He isn’t Hillary Clinton, at least according to the fundraising numbers. (Re/code, Fortune)
GE names first-ever female vice chair. Beth Comstock, the company’s CMO, will head Business Innovations. She’s one of four executives who directly advise CEO Jeff Immelt. (Fortune)
Foxconn nixes Indonesian expansion plans. It didn’t see eye-to-eye with its potential landlord. (Reuters)
Why Israel is so dominant in cybersecurity? The same need for constant vigilance that compels every citizen to serve in the military. Plus, it turns out hackers and political action committees have something in common. (Fortune)
Qualcomm bakes security into mobile chips. The technology uses artificial intelligence to block malware before it infects your phone. (Fortune)
Expect much higher pricetag for next Apple TV. It could cost double the current model. (9to5Mac)
Google’s self-driving car reaches Austin. Its the first test site outside California. (Fortune)
Here’s a good reason not to jailbreak an iPhone or iPad. New malware that steals Apple account credentials. (Ars Technica)
Meet Klarna, Stripe’s latest rival. The Swedish mobile payments company just scored a big U.S. contract with Overstock. (Fortune)
Good news for LinkedIn members. The social network finally redesigned its antiquated message inbox. (Fortune)
Apple Music exec heads for France. Ian Rogers is now the chief digital officer for fashion brands including Louis Vuitton and Moet & Chandon. (New York Times)
Cloud software company Apttus just raised another $108 million. Its application, which integrates with the Salesforce CRM system, enables “quote to cash” management of contracts. Apttus boasts 70 companies in the Fortune 500 as clients. (TechCrunch)
MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS
PayPal makes money transfers more personal by Leena Rao
Who drew this? A computer … or Van Gogh? by Stacey Higginbotham
This new high-tech network is recording climate data across Alaska by Katie Fehrenbacher
Why Siemens is using old technology to solve modern shipping problems by David Z. Morris
Lockheed Martin just invested in this Silicon Valley trucking startup by Kirsten Korosec
Are digital health technologies really good for our health? by Christina Hernandez Sherwood
Meet the Martian Notifier, a smartwatch that talks back by Rick Broida
ONE MORE THING
This wearable technology doesn’t need Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It uses your body’s magnetic field to share data. (Fortune)