Welltok Health App to Offer Users the Cognitive Power of Watson

by   |   March 21, 2014 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

Vance Allen, Chief Technology Officer, Welltok

Vance Allen, Chief Technology Officer, Welltok

Living well goes beyond the regular checkup. A balanced diet, hitting the gym, and improving your sleep patterns are all part of a healthy lifestyle. But to navigate the myriad choices is enough to cause anyone stress. How to get a decent workout on a business trip? How to quit smoking? Where to even begin?

Welltok can help answer those questions. The Denver-based digital health optimization company, freshly infused with $22 million in investment capital that includes the IBM Watson Group’s first dip into its $100 million ecosystem-development piggybank, is working on its CaféWell Concierge application. Cafewell Concierge will use the power of IBM’s Watson to offer users a personalized wellness program that includes activities, information, and incentives.

Welltok’s Chief Technology Officer, Vance Allen, spoke with Data Informed about health, CaféWell Concierge, and working with Watson.

Data Informed: When did the conversation between IBM and Welltok begin?

Vance Allen: IBM had initially identified health as an area where they thought cognitive computing would provide a great deal of value. Since Welltok is a leading consumer health-driven platform, IBM thought they we would be a very good fit for what they are doing.

We started technical discussions with IBM at the end of last year, Q3. We started development last quarter.

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When will CaféWell Concierge be available?

Allen: We are in development of the solution now. We will offer the solution to consumers in the second half of this year. We are certainly hopeful that this will drive up overall satisfaction with the site. We’re really hoping to answer a category of questions that are hard to get answers to today.

Can you describe how CaféWell Concierge will work?

Allen: We are working with consumers who are managing their individual health. The key part of our mission is to organize an ecosystem of resources around health and wellness to help our customers get access to these resources.

We use CaféWell, which is our health optimization platform, to bring social and gaming and other technologies to drive engagement of the platform and drive consumers through different activities and behaviors.

[Through CaféWell Concierge], they will interface with Watson through our site. We’ll build an experience that’s very friendly for the consumer and very closely integrated with the existing CaféWell experience on the front end, but will include interaction with Watson on the back end.

How will CaféWell Concierge users experience Watson?

Allen: A typical question a consumer may have would be, “I’m interested in improving my health. What can I do today?” Watson would be able to understand some things about that user. It could determine that they are travelling, [and] that they’re in New York. That they have a friend who, coincidentally, is also travelling in New York and is also interested in participating in a fitness activity that’s going to happen in, say, Central Park. Watson would be able to gather all that information and direct that user to an activity that’s right in their neighborhood, even though they are on the road.

What excites you about the functionality Watson adds to the customer experience?

Allen: One thing we get from Watson is the ability for the consumer to have this interaction be a more natural dialogue. Instead of having to identify the right search terms in the site, they are simply able to ask Watson a question, from trying to understand their benefits to looking for a healthy activity in their neighborhood that they might participate in. Watson will be able to interpret that natural language and give them an answer that they can understand.

How do you see Watson’s capabilities impacting your mission?

Allen: The core of our mission is to help people have a better health and wellness experience. That reverberates with everybody on the team. They see Watson as a way to make that mission more successful.  Of course, the engineering team is very excited to work with technology that is as sophisticated as Watson.

How are you sharing support and technical responsibilities with IBM?

Allen: On the support side, Welltok will be responsible for all our interactions with both our clients and our users. We’ll work directly with IBM for support on any technology issues. We have a very good relationship with the IBM team, and they have very sophisticated cloud-hosting capabilities. So we’re not anticipating any difficulty.

Joshua Whitney Allen is the Editor of Insights Magazine, which provides comprehensive coverage of IBM solutions for analytics, mobile, social business, and cloud, plus solution-specific content on IBM software.

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