Chances are, you either own one or you know someone who does—smartwatches, fitness trackers, or, as they’re commonly called, “wearables.” These devices can empower users by helping them better understand activity levels and make lifestyle changes that boost fitness and improve health. And they’re big business. According to CCS Insight, the wearables market will grow threefold by 2019, when it will be worth more than $25 billion.
It’s an industry in which South Africa‒based HealthQ is making its mark with its LifeQ platform. HealthQ’s team of engineers, scientists, and biologists are working together to “fundamentally impact human health through insight” by making wearables more accurate, according to LifeQ President and Cofounder Riaan Conradie.
The company’s bio-mathematical modelling technology is featured in TomTom’s SPARK range of devices, which are used by consumers to track, for example, the number of steps they take in a day or calories they’ve burned. In addition, these devices measure the user’s heart rate and respiratory rate, which is recorded through an optical sensor within the device, processed by LifeQ algorithms, and then analyzed in the LifeQ Cloud. The firm has also partnered with Garmin Health to deliver insights to companies such as health insurers, care providers, and corporate wellness providers, enabling these organizations to tailor their products and inspire people to adopt active, healthy lifestyles.
To attract global wearables manufacturers to use LifeQ technology in their devices, LifeQ needed the right IT infrastructure in place. It needed an infrastructure that would scale responsively when demand increased, but that was also reliable, secure, and allowed the LifeQ team to get ideas to market fast. And for that infrastructure, the company turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“There are a lot of exciting things happening in the digital-health-data analytics space,” says Conradie, “and it’s vital to move quickly to be part of that market. You need to get your ideas into action faster than other companies can. We chose AWS because it gave us the agility we needed. The tools were mature and easy to use, and they allowed us to focus on developing our product rather than IT.”
Using AWS had a direct impact on the speed with which LifeQ was able to develop its platform. “Instead of it taking, say, two years to get to market on our own infrastructure, it took our team of just five developers one year to get the LifeQ Cloud up and running,” says Herman Lintvelt, head of product at LifeQ. “We didn’t need a dedicated infrastructure team and we avoided the cost of setting up and managing a data center.”
Lintvelt uses AWS CodeDeploy as an example. “We’re all experienced software developers, and while we can write our own scripts, it’s so much easier to use AWS CodeDeploy,” says Lintvelt. “It’s a big reason we were able to move so fast.”
Dealing with sensitive data and partnering with large global organizations requires LifeQ to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards. “A friend of mine implemented his own cloud infrastructure and had to jump through a lot of hoops to gain HIPAA compliance,” says Lintvelt. “It took about a year. Using AWS, it’s simply a box-ticking exercise. It takes hardly any time at all.”
On other aspects of security, Lintvelt says AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles and groups allow tight control of LifeQ’s AWS resources and infrastructure. “IAM is a big differentiator for AWS,” says Lintvelt. “Other cloud-service providers couldn’t offer anywhere near the level of detail that we get with IAM profiles. Given the sensitivity of our data, it’s a service we simply cannot live without.”
LifeQ is aiming to reach more than one million users by the end of 2017. This is a big ambition that will direct a huge amount of data to the LifeQ platform. “Data from LifeQ-enabled devices is processed on the LifeQ Cloud, and each user generates about nine gigabytes of data a year,” says Lintvelt. “If we reach our growth target, we’re looking at about 9,000 terabytes of data being generated by the end of 2017. By using AWS, we’ve built a platform to handle millions of users. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this with our own infrastructure.”
Speed and 24/7 availability are vital. Wearables data is constantly being uploaded and needs to be processed quickly to adhere to service-level agreements that LifeQ has with its partners. “Despite constantly updating microservices, we maintain uptime of 99.9 percent. We use services such as Auto Scaling and Elastic Load Balancing to ensure wearables users across the globe can seamlessly access their data,” says Lintvelt.
The firm is keen to expand into different regions to make its infrastructure more robust and support customers in various countries. “We’re currently putting a lot of effort into automating all our processes,” says Lintvelt. “We can spin up an entire environment—that’s about four virtual private clouds, 36 subnets, 50 servers, and multiple other services—in a new region in about an hour. This is significant for our growth and our ability to make partnerships in different countries.”
Conradie believes LifeQ’s technology helps consumers live healthier lives. By giving individuals greater insight into their lifestyles through accurate data, they can make decisions that will improve their fitness levels and health. For LifeQ, delivering on its ambition to help millions of people more effectively pursue their health and fitness goals relies on strong relationships. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, which is why we work with great companies that are the best at what they do,” says Conradie. “So why build a wearable fitness device when there are brilliant ones out there, and why construct an infrastructure from scratch when AWS gives us the tools to do that faster and with better security?”
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