Fitbit wins deal with Singapore govt to partner in public health plan

Fitbit is working with Singapore's government to supply residents with free fitness trackers as part of the city's latest public health plan, according to a statement from the company.

Residents in the city will be able to pre-register in October to receive a Fitbit Inspire band for free if they sign up to pay for a year of the company's premium coaching service. The offer is based on the condition that users will spend 10 Singapore dollars (U.S.$ 7.23) per month.

Singapore, with a population of 5.6 million people, has the longest life expectancy anywhere in the world and some of the regions' highest-rated healthcare facilities. Singapore's citizens have a unique universal healthcare system which is highly regarded.

However, the local government has raised concerns about high rates of heart disease and diabetes affecting its rapidly-aging population.

The monthly subscription adds up to more than the band itself is worth upfront, but the offer demonstrates how Fitbit wants to veer away from selling hardware at a profit and move toward a subscription-based business model.

The San Francisco-based pioneer told reporters that the latest deal is "material" to its revenue projections for 2019. Meanwhile, CEO James Park said the fought off competitors including Apple for the tie-in.

Zee Yoong Kang, chief executive of Singapore's Health Promotion Board (HPB), said subscribers will receive personalized health advice and motivating message, which will encourage physical activity, better sleep quality and healthy eating among users.

"There were many bidders and some were significant international players," the Board remarked in a statement.

The project marks the first major integration of Fitbit smart wearables into a national public health program anywhere worldwide, the company said. Users will be prompted to consent to sharing their data with the local health organization.

"We think this program could reach up to 1 million people," Park said, adding that it can be seen as an example of how "the transformation that we have talked about in our business model is becoming real."

Kang confirmed: "We intend to work with industry innovators such as Fitbit on additional efforts to use technology to provide Singaporeans with personalized health advice and nudges, so that they can take control of their own health."

The deal is a boost for Fitbit, which has seen its shares sink in the past 2 years in the face of growing competition from Apple, Samsung Electronics and a raft of cheaper rivals.

The new public program is strictly optional, and is not guaranteed to see massive uptake, especially among consumer who might already have a more advanced smart wearable device than the entry-level Inspire HR. It might, however, serve as a valuable experiment to see how well activity trackers can serve government health strategies.

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