Wearable Technology Is Transforming Military Lives


Look down at your wrist. Are you wearing an Apple Watch? Or maybe a Fitbit?

By Archana Mehta

Or some other kind of device that’s currently tracking a vital statistic about you — your heart rate, number of steps, stress level, hours of sleep? These days, the possibilities of wearable technology are endless. And if like to analyze those statistics, the power in that data can be monumental.

From a wearable technology standpoint, we’re just getting started. According to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report, the wearable tech market will see shipments almost double by 2021.

But how do you take technology and all of the data it provides and create a meaningful impact on people’s lives?

FX Well, a company that focuses on optimizing organizational performance, wellness, and personal health within corporations, uses technology to change the lives of those in the military. The FX Well team piloted a program for the Indiana National Guard that issued Under Armour Bands – wearable fitness-tracking devices – to guardsmen and then paired individuals with coaches (both onsite and offsite) to improve health and wellness based on the data provided by the devices.

During initial conversations with the Indiana Army National Guard, FX Well learned that only 28 percent of guardsmen were passing the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), which consists of two minutes each of push-ups and sit-ups and a two-mile run. Guardsmen are required to take the APFT annually. Those who repeatedly fail the test can be involuntarily discharged. FX Well wanted not just to help more guardsmen pass the APFT but also to make a lasting impact on their health.

Simply giving an individual a device is only half the battle. To have a real effect, FX Well realized it had to surround the technology piece with meaningful support and training.

It’s unbelievable how technology paired with human interaction has the power to change lives. During the pilot program, guardsmen were expected to communicate with their coaches once a week via email. They also had to log four workouts a week, sleep an average of seven hours per night, weigh in once a week, and participate in three challenges meant to help them build healthy habits and create a sense of community.

Coaches could track each guardsman by looking at the data their band provided. They could then proactively reach out to individuals to help them adjust sleep and activity and work through any other challenges.

FX Well’s Virtual Training Program Manager says, “Data equals awareness equals action. We give each guardsman a fitness program geared toward passing their test, and we will use any of these tools — text, our Facebook coaching group, email — as frequently as we need to based on what they’re tracking, or their lack of communication, to engage them more.”

The results of FX Well’s pilot program with the Indiana National Guard were outstanding. Take a look at our article in the latest issue of BBB’s TRUSTED magazine, where we dive deeper into the program, results, and lasting impact.

Will there be a day when our clothes are “smart,” our shoes track all of our movements, and our technical clothing boosts our athletic performance? Absolutely. Maybe that’s too much connectedness, but if the results affect our lives and make us healthier, happier, and more productive individuals, maybe it’s not so bad?

Archana Mehta is the Founder and CEO of AM Strategies, a marketing and communications firm based in Washington, D.C. She has spent the last 15 years helping companies with everything from marketing strategies to content development to product launches. In her “spare” time, she enjoys taking her toddler twins on adventures around the country.