IoT-Assist – Corporate Health Management with Gamification

Nora Wolfsheim
Nora Wolfsheim
February 23rd, 2021

walkolution work and walk

Introduction to the research project

In the context of our research project on the topic of IoT (Internet of Things) and digital health management, we deal with the question of how to motivate people to increase health-promoting behavior at work and at home.

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and is done in collaboration with DFKI, DHfPG, eyeled, ThingOs, TUM ( Future Tu-Ingolstadt) and UDE.

In the 3 years of the research project, an IoT-Assist platform will be created to

  • enables interoperability between devices and services in the IoT and wearable area
  • make it possible to develop intelligent assistance systems in a simple and intuitive way
  • enable assistance systems to playfully support the achievement of individual health goals.

Another major component of the research project is the linking of the system to occupational health management (OHM).

As is often the case, the challenge here lies not only in the technical implementation, but above all in addressing and motivating the right target group.

In a user-centered design process, existing BGM approaches and assistance systems are analyzed for their potentials and shortcomings with regard to human-machine interaction, and the system’s target user groups are identified and described. This is where Centigrade comes into play. We support the research project with our know-how on user-centered design in the requirements analysis and later testing of the platform. We also contribute our experience in gamification and its motivating effect.


Target group definition and BGM

Occupational health management already plays a major role in many companies. This is hardly surprising when one considers that around half of all sickness notifications are due to musculoskeletal disorders and mental illnesses (source: BKK Dachverband 2015, p. 37). Both are topics that BGM deals with intensively and provides measures for prevention. Unfortunately, however, the offers are not yet equally well received by all people. Older target groups in particular are sometimes difficult to convince of the measures and are then prepared to transfer them to the private sphere.

In addition, we are investigating how adaptive BGM approaches can be developed that include not only company activities, but also a person’s entire everyday life. Here, the use of gamification shows great potential for successful implementation.

Sarah Staut from the German University of Prevention and Health Management in Saarbrücken formulated for us how this fits together.

Sarah Staut

Sarah Staut, University of Prevention and Health Management

“Why BGM? And then digital?! You hear these questions not too rarely in the corporate landscape. Whereas I ask myself: why doesn’t every company invest in a fully comprehensive company health management? After all, almost every employee has probably experienced back pain, stress and/or fatigue at work. Every company should be aware of the fact that this is precisely where occupational health management comes in and can help alleviate or even prevent illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders and mental illnesses. Apart from the reduction of risk factors, soft factors such as employee loyalty and increased motivation also play a role, which is why occupational health management, and digital occupational health management in particular, should be indispensable.

IoTAssist can help to reach employees both in companies and in their private lives and to impart health competence – and thus motivate even the most sedentary people to adopt a health-promoting lifestyle with the help of gamification!”

For our research project, we selected three very different target groups to reach with our platform.

First of all, we have the classic office workers who sit in front of their computers all day and definitely don’t move enough. Our persona Bernd thus corresponds to around 42% of adults in Germany who, according to the WHO report, move too little and are thus predestined for health consequences such as cardiovascular disease. In Bernd’s case, the focus is on the corporate context and how our platform can be put to good use there.

Persona Bernd Arnulfson

As a counterpart for the domestic application, we have chosen industrial shift workers. Our persona Claudia suffers from chronic back pain and the effects of altered sleep patterns.

Persona Claudia Mueller

The third target group we have chosen is managers – in our case from the IT industry. Our persona Manfred suffers from the consequences of permanent stress in the office.

Persona Manfred Gers

We want to develop a gamification concept for these target groups to motivate them in the long term to use our platform at home or in the office.


Gamification in the research project

But what does gamification actually mean and how can we bring it into the research project?

Sebastian Deterding describes gamification as “the application of game-typical elements in a non-game context”. Does this mean for us that it is enough to add a few achievements and our target groups will already behave healthier?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We want to ensure that users remain motivated in the long term and integrate healthier behavior into their daily lives. So first, a brief distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Gamification is often understood as an incentive. However, this incentive is merely an external trigger that is intended to get someone to perform an action. If this trigger is removed, the person will most likely not continue the action. The person was only extrinsically motivated.

Gamification, on the other hand, is about creating intrinsic motivation from such extrinsic motivation. To do this, a rational action (e.g., I need to exercise to get healthier) should be turned into an emotional action (I need to exercise because otherwise I will feel bad). Instead of having a focus on reward, the focus should be on progress. Progress, in turn, is clearly linked to a personal investment, so that in turn sets the next trigger point (self-efficacy), leading to loyalty. The person thinks “I’ve done so much now that has benefited me, now I’ll keep doing it.”

In order to be able to find the right gamification elements that can induce intrinsic motivation, you should first know which player types you are dealing with.

Which player types there are at all and what makes them tick will be described in the upcoming blog article by Nathalie Mini.

To find out which player types are relevant for our research project, we conducted a survey with almost 50 people, each of whom corresponded to one of our three target groups. With the exciting result that the philanthropist is very strongly represented in all three groups.

We describe an example of the concrete implementation in our research project in our upcoming article “Walk the Line”.


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