The Research Stage… Extended
Last week I chose the following news headline as creative stimulus for my rapid ideation project: Young US Women Feel Failed By Their Sex Education. Consequentially I spent time researching the sector known as FemTech, which encompasses the software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology to improve women’s health. I’ve noticed the growth of this sector in the past couple of years but hadn’t had the chance to delve into it. The term ‘FemTech’ was coined by Ida Tin, founder of leading cycle tracking app Clue. Ida started using the term in 2016 when she observed that there was an expanding category of technology serving the vast opportunities that exist for female health. (Tin, Ida. 2016).
My second creative stimulus for the project was an image of a key, which got me thinking about unlocking content, and alternatives to paywalls. I started exploring ideas around a platform linking FemTech startups to users to harness data. Considering ways in which users could unlock free educational content & first access to apps & products in exchange for their personal data. However at this point several questions came up for me:
– Is this market saturated, does a product like this exist already?
– Do FemTech startups have difficulty gathering user data to develop their products?
– Do the public trust startups to handle their data safely & sensitively?
I decided to let these ideas and questions percolate, and to further my research by delving deeper into the following: the ethics of using the public’s data for health research, current user testing software and data-backed FemTech products. My initial research and ideation process from last week can be read here.
Exploring data as currency
FemTech pioneers Clue are transparent about their use of data and have several articles detailing how they use their users’ data for good. “The reason why we think this is so important is that we have a data set of what people with cycles really experience—one so large and rich that no individual researcher could collect themselves”. (Tin, Ida. 2019) I conducted a small-scale survey of 10 women aged 25 – 40 based in the UK & Brazil. And found that 100% of participants said that they would give data about their health if they knew it would be contributing to research to help others.
For their 2018 Health & Wellness Futures Forum, The Future Laboratory created a speculative platform that enables people to explore the future of democratised data ownership, where consumers, not pharmaceutical companies, are in charge of their health data. The Future Laboratory’s speculation is that this exchange of personal data for benefits such as wellness brand partnerships and exclusive product rewards will be accepted by the public within the next 5 years. (Houghton, Livvy. 2018)
The power-shift from the status quo whereby businesses treat their users like products, to consumers’ harnessing their own data is on the horizon, with tech such as Ozone and female-founded Datacy at the forefont. Datacy is a tool that allows individuals to collect their browsing data, manage it, have it anonymized and aggregated with others and then sold. The end-user gets 85% of the resulting revenue, while Datacy takes 15%. (Wilhelm, Alex. 2021) They’re privacy-forward and empower the public to finally earn money from their data. They currently have a wait-list of 12k, eagerly awaiting the data currency revolution – yes that includes myself.
There’s a paradox here as we see increased distrust of big tech, “Never before have a handful of tech designers had such control over the way billions of us think, act, and live our lives.” (The Social Dilemma.2020) Unsurprisingly many people are hesitant or even fearful to hand over their personal data. In the US, 85% of consumers believe big tech has too much power and nearly six in 10 think social media has a negative impact on society. (Accountable Tech.2020)
It’s going to take time to move towards this data-for-good paradigm, organisations such as Social Good Brasil and The Data Literacy project are dedicated to educating people & businesses on harnessing data for good. With their guidance, people are gaining more understanding around how their data is used, and seeing that in the right hands their data is valuable and that it can be used for the benefit of themselves and society as a whole. The Future Laboratory agree, they envision that future interactions between consumer & brand will become monetised in the reverse – establishing a new currency for consumers. (Hawkins, Alex. 2020)
The applications of this seem almost utopian, the potential for emerging economies to deal in data and close the inequality gap is exciting. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the power imbalance in tech that exists today isn’t going to topple so easily. For audiences to trust brands with their data, especially sensitive information regarding health, brands will have to be radically honest and communicative with their audiences. As people are demanding more transparency from brands, and companies are more likely to reveal their inner workings to stay current, the brands who get intimate with their audiences from the outset are poised to succeed.
Clarification of research findings:
– Health and wellbeing data is essential to build an effective FemTech startup. (Tin, Ida. 2019)
– Most startups in the area create products based on personal needs or those of people close to them. (Smith, Jessica. 2018)
– 69% of women would feel more empowered if they knew more about their bodies. And 55% of the women state that they’re ‘on a quest’ to educate themselves about vaginal health. (Melore, Chris. 2021)
– The data as currency revolution is shifting towards consumer ownership.
– Brands need to be transparent about their data, clear on their values and intentions and backed up by research to succeed in the FemTech space.
– Close brand-to-audience relations is paramount to future success. Social media is making a move to more private, niche spaces. (Hawkins, Alex. 2020)
Check in for part 3 next week to see if my research makes it from concept to prototype…
TIN, Ida. 2016. ‘The Rise of A New Category: Femtech’. Clue [online]. Available at: https://helloclue.com/articles/culture/rise-new-category-femtech. [accessed 29th June 2019].
TIN, Ida. 2019. ‘The Journey of a Single Data Point’. Clue [online]. Available at: https://helloclue.com/articles/about-clue/the-journey-of-a-single-data-point. [accessed 29th June 2019].
SMITH, Jessica. 2018. ‘Transforming women’s personal care’. LSN Global, The Future Laboratory [online]. Available at: https://www-lsnglobal-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/big-ideas/article/22880/tania-boler-on-how-technology-is-transforming-women-s-personal-care. [accessed 29th June 2019].
HOUGHTON, Livvy. 2018. ‘Need to Know’. LSN Global, The Future Laboratory [online]. Available at: https://www-lsnglobal-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/news/article/22446/the-future-laboratory-unveils-certified-wellness. [accessed 29th June 2019].
MELORE, Chris. 2021. ‘12% of young women have never been to gynecologist, many prefer ‘Dr. Google’ instead’. Study Finds [online]. Available at: https://www.studyfinds.org/women-gynecologist-vaginal-health-google. [accessed 29th June 2021].
SOCIAL GOOD BRASIL. 2019. ‘Como desenvolver a mentalidade analítica em pessoas e organizações’. SGB Brasil [online] . Available at: https://socialgoodbrasil.org.br/2019/05/14/como-desenvolver-a-mentalidade-analitica-em-pessoas-e-organizacoes. [accessed 29th June 2019].
WILHELM, Alex. 2021. ‘Datacy raises 2.5m to help consumers monetize their own damn data’. Tech Crunch [online]. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2021/05/26/datacy-raises-2-4m-to-help-consumers-monetize-their-own-damn-data. [accessed 29th June 2019].
ACCOUNTABLE TECH. 2020. ‘New Polling Highlights America’s Views on Big Tech, Facebook Boycott, Mark Zuckerberg’. Accountable Tech [online]. Available at: https://accountabletech.org/media/polling. [accessed 29th June 2019].
1. Kama. 2020. LSN Global. Available at: https://www.lsnglobal.com/news/article/26289/this-sexual-wellness-practice-posits-pleasure-as-health
2. Clue. 2019. Illustration: Marta Pucci
3. Pantys. 2019. Farm + Panty’s campaign. Unnamed photographer
4. Elvie. 2018. Available at: Available at: https://www-lsnglobal-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/big-ideas/article/22880/tania-boler-on-how-technology-is-transforming-women-s-personal-care.