Wellness in, gamification out: employee wellness tracker Keas goes beyond games

By Richard Nieva , written on February 5, 2013

From The News Desk

Keas, a startup which gamefies employee wellness and compliance, today announced the launch of a new platform that adds more social elements to the service, can be accessed on iOS, and opens up Keas to third party web developers. Keas also announced a new CEO: Josh Stevens, an alum of AOL and, most recently, YouSendIt.

The San Francisco-based company licenses its platform to businesses, whose employees form teams and earn points for completing different challenges like meditating or walking to a meeting or taking a health quiz. Employees see updates across the company on a news feed. The company was started in 2008 by Adam Bosworth, a Microsoft and Google veteran.

But now, social games are finding it harder to gain the traction they once had, and when they do, their shelf lives are increasingly short. Gamification is out. Stevens recognizes the shift in the environment, and says that’s the reason the company has a multi-pronged approach. “The gaming is one of three pillars in our product strategy, which are content, community and competition,” he says. “Competition tends to be episodic. Not everyone wants it. And not all the time,” he says.

Those first two C’s are the focus of the new feature announced today, which the company calls the 360/365 Platform. At the most basic level, the user gets a more personalized employee profile, where he can set his own goals, like adhering to a certain diet.

The company is also opened its platform to allow outside developers build on top of it. It’s unclear just how open the platform will be for third parties to really get creative with the data because the company is mum for now, though it says it has some partner announcements to make.

Keas said it would be working with "quantified self" (the most ridiculously named of buzz phrases) device makers, publishers, and wellness app makers. Stevens said the service could work with those QS devices – he didn’t name names, but the Nike FuelBand and FitBit fall in the category. He also said the platform would integrate with fitness centers and cafeterias, so when an employee makes a healthy food choice, for example, he can automatically earn points.

And while the company is making an effort to remain relevant outside of games, it has nonetheless introduced a slew of new games through its partner MyBrainSolutions, which has created games to hone mental acuity and focus.

Detractors of a service like Keas have always been skeptical about how effective an app can be to actually change peoples’ behavior in the long term. Wearable devices have not really caught on, and only about one-fifth of people who track their weight do so using technology, according to research from a Pew Internet and American Life Project study. And from that report, Sarah Lacy argued last week that, for all the good the Web has done for us, one thing it doesn’t do so well is change us.

So how can Keas expect to be any different? Perhaps it helps to remember that it is essentially an office compliance tool for wellness. And if it makes that process even bearable – forget fun – maybe that’s enough. The company has raised a total of $17.5 million from firms like Ignition Partners and Atlas Venture, and has corporate customers like the Cheesecake Factory and British Telecom.

Still, if getting in shape were all fun and games, we'd all probably be a lot fitter.

[Image courtesy: lindsay.dee.bunny]