When Facebook launched in 2004, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was growing his brainchild from a college project into a social network with a primary goal of connecting people to one another. Today, this virtual Mecca allows people to connect to all kinds of information, including their own health. The company announced Wednesday its purchase of fitness-tracking app Moves, potentially making Facebook a hub for health.
Reports state that Moves will remain a standalone app, meaning that for now its data will be kept separate from Facebook data. Nonetheless, this marks Facebook’s entry into another lucrative market in the increasingly virtual landscape that continues to spider across the globe.
Moves tracks users’ moves by tracking all kinds of activities, including walking, biking, and running. Not only does the app generate information on exercise patterns, but it provides a snapshot of how a person gets around in general. Users can reflect on their fitness behaviors and transportation patterns at the end of the day and much more. In fact, Moves says that it can actually record up to 60 different preset activities.
Moves has been making moves since it arrived on the scene last year. Since Move’s maker ProtoGeo Oy launched the fitness tracker in January 2013, it has been downloaded on iPhones and Androids 4 million times. What makes Moves such a success? One reason it may be so popular among users is its simplicity. Other health data trackers like FitBit require an external gadget to work properly; Moves does not. As long as the phone is with the user, it is on and working.
The acquisition of this app is the most recent of several significant social media purchases Facebook has made in the past year alone. Like Moves tracks user lifestyles with impressive precision, Facebook tracks tech trends with clever, forward-thinking acquisitions. In the last few months alone, the social network giant has demonstrated its objective to keep pace with rapidly morphing tech trends, spending billions of dollars on mobile messenger WhatsApp and virtual reality developer Oculus.
According to comScore, January 2014 was the first time in history that Americans were accessing the internet on mobile devices more than on computers. Facebook’s receptivity to the internet market and user habits is paying off. Despite the astronomical cost of these platforms, they appear to be investments. Headlines are rolling in about the company’s report of a 72% revenue increase and tripling of profits within just one year.
Facebook may not be the only big dog out there poised to profit from these trends. Getting into the business of health data is noteworthy in a few ways, and social media is becoming the holy grail of communication and intervention in public health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a program called Healthy People, which publishes national health-promotion and disease-prevention goals. In Healthy People 2020, one of the goals is to increase the number of people accessing the internet and using mobile devices to access personal health management tools.
Health behavior apps are a good place to start from an individual and population perspective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention post some alarming figures obesity, about one of the nation’s most prominent public health issues. More than one in three U.S. adults are obese. This is not an issue of vanity, but rather one of cost. Obesity leads to lethal conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. In 2008, the estimated yearly medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion and a single person with obesity will pay over $1,000 more in medical bills than a healthy weight individual.
Information has yet to be released on how much Facebook spent to buy the fitness-tracking giant, but it seems promising that the benefits will outweigh costs for Facebook and Move app users.
By Erica Salcuni