Similar to how computer vision has made a fundamental shift in how materials, products, and future generations will move about the earth, automation, and blockchain will transform the $4.5 trillion wellness industry.
The wellness industry is booming, yet several persistent problems present an enormous opportunity. One problem is how fragmented the market is, caused in part by its state of constant evolution. Such problems with the wellness industry make it difficult for customers to find the right products and services and for businesses to reach a wider audience.
Another issue is how expensive and inaccessible the industry is to many people. Many products and services are prohibitively expensive, and many people can’t afford to pay for the regular treatments or sessions they need.
Perhaps most problematic, there is a lot of confusion in the wellness industry. What constitutes “wellness”? Is it about eating healthy food, getting enough exercise or sleep, or practicing mindfulness? How do you know which approach is right for you? What does eating healthy look like for me? What is enough exercise, and how do you do it?
Enters automation. Instead of working with a person to guide you on your quest to improve yourself, imagine you consult with an automated coach that has a detailed knowledge of meditation, diet, kinesiology, and exercise, parsed down by user demographics, phenotypes, and real-life observations of progress and results. It learns by studying the latest science, practicing, and observing results over time. It knows what you should do, how to do it and will guide you each way.
With blockchain, your activity in the market presents an opportunity to be rewarded. In the distant future, automation will not be limited by general information it can collect and its own observations; it will learn from your purchasing habits, fuse sensor data to understand mobility and sleep patterns, and will be able to teach you how your lifestyle choices influence health and wellness.
To catch a glimpse of this future, we can start by studying where automation and blockchain have succeeded and failed in the wellness industry.
Blockchain is making a mark
Blockchain is a database that stores information electronically. It is a decentralized database, operating amongst nodes in a computer network where it keeps small amounts of encrypted data as hash codes saved in ‘blocks.’ If one character in the string of data that is encrypted is altered, the cryptographic hash will look completely different.
When a block is filled with transaction hashes, the collection of hashes is encrypted with another hash code that is saved in the subsequent block, creating an immutable chain linking past to present, hence the name blockchain.
Blockchain is best known for the advent of cryptocurrency, and it has powered the growth of aspiring currencies like Bitcoin. It seems everyone by now has heard of cryptocurrency and, at the same time, does not understand it. Anyone can set up a Coinbase account to buy Bitcoin, and 16% of Americans have traded cryptocurrency, which may seem like the path to mass adoption.
When you look at the technology’s intended use as a payment method, Bitcoin has hardly moved beyond an enthusiast market. What prevents coin holders from using cryptocurrency as a form of payment is that it requires discontinuous and risky behavior.
To use crypto as a currency, you first need to create a secure wallet with a randomly generated 24-word seed phrase, secure the seed and never tell anyone for risk of losing all of your money, exposing yourself to fraud and scams with no hope for recourse, and perhaps most dangerous, expose yourself to self-inflicted financial ruin: you forget your password and misplace your seed (or never writing your seed down in the first place)…
Cryptocurrency will become mainstream when a person can call a customer service line when they run into trouble, have wallet support, and have fraud insurance.
The transition to crypto will happen through decentralized applications, and when it occurs, most people won’t even know there was a transition.
Decentralized applications are here to stay
Before cryptocurrency is widely used for everyday transactions, gamers will play-to-earn. Play-to-earn games are integrated with decentralized applications (DApps). These DApps handle NFT and token transactions over a blockchain like Ethereum rather than a centralized cloud server.
DApps first made a splash with the invention of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are known for assigning ownership to meme art–but the technology provides an order of magnitude improvement in the world of collectibles by its ability to assign immutable ownership, prove authenticity, and automatically collect royalties on future sales to both digital and physical items.
Finance, supply chain, cloud computing, and gaming are among other sectors that will undergo transformation by Blockchain technologies like Ethereum, mainly, improvements of Ethereum, such as Solana, Cardono, Polkadot, and Ethereum 2.
The first sign of DApps moving past the enthusiast market is the consumer frenzy ignited over play-to-earn games in 2021. The number of crypto wallets related to gaming increased by 2,453% by Q3 of 2021, from 29,563 during the first week of 2021 to 754,000 wallets by the close of Q3. Giants like Ubisoft have caught wind and are rushing into the space to catch up with early movers like Dapper Labs, Gala Games, Decentraland, Animoka, Sky Mavis, and Gamejam.
The explosion of activity play-to-earn experience in 2021 hints at the potential for a similar trend with move-to-earn. The most popular play-to-earn game, Axie Infinity, requires participants to create a crypto wallet and make an investment of about $600 in NFTs to get started. The play-to-earn model is sending signals that consumers are delighted by having the power to own and trade in-game assets.
Axie’s impressive rewards have garnered plenty of free advertising as well. Pop star like Grimes went so far as to cast play-to-earn as a tool to redistribute wealth.
Moving-to-earn DApps offer value with a few differences when applying the model to wellness. Rewarding participants for movement is straight from the play-to-earn book and promise to motivate healthy activity in the process of rewarding tokens. In addition to this, participants can share their activity with friends without the need for a data broker, they can offer information to insurers to reduce healthcare premiums, or as movement data fuses with wider health monitoring data, participants can trade their data with businesses for recommendations on personalized services or supplements.
As companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta are investing billions to grab a piece of the $4.5 trillion wellness industry, it’s only a matter of time before move-to-earn breaks out in the wellness space, just as play-to-earn has begun to make its mark on the gaming industry.
What SweatCoin taught us about move-to-earn
SweatCoin shows the potential of move-to-earn. SweatCoin is a step-counting app that converts your movement into tokens that can be redeemed for small prizes like $5 gift cards to high-value rewards like the latest iPhone or $1,000 sent to your bank account directly from PayPal.
If you have not heard of SweatCoin and you are impressed by these rewards, It won’t surprise you that SweatCoin has brought in over 55 million users since it launched in 2016. It has consistently ranked in the top 10 wellness apps and briefly surpassed Whatsapp in downloads in the UK and US in 2018.
SweatCoin achieved this success with less than $10mm in venture funds while having a narrow set of features that targets a large market. SweatCoin does not have coaching, like what is provided by Nike Run Club or Daily Burn, it does not have social functionality like Strava or RunKeeper, and SweatCoin is not yet an actual cryptocurrency.
The novelty SweatCoin offers to the market is its program to reward coins for walking or running. Our team gave the app a try and found out that to earn enough coins to buy an iPhone, you would need to walk 6 miles a day, every day, for four years or the equivalent of about 10,000 miles of walking. The reason it takes so many steps to generate enough coin to get a big-ticket prize is that SweatCoin’s revenue is limited to what it can do with your data and sales it can generate by, for example, selling your data to advertisers.
What going “on-chain” can do
If SweatCoin went on a blockchain, the token could provide more significant rewards to its users. Trading SweatCoins could significantly boost token resale value and make using the app much more rewarding for participants.
STEPN and DOSE Coin are among a new breed of companies taking what SweatCoin has done, bringing it to the blockchain, gamifying exercise, and adding an element of Social Finance to the mix.
STEPN is a walking or running app, depending on how you use it, with the potential to shake up the landscape for the move-to-earn market. What’s exciting about STEPN is they make a painful and repetitive sport like running fun and rewarding.
To earn with STEPN, a participant needs to buy a pair of NFT running shoes. At the time of writing, you’ll need to transfer at least 3.6 Solana (SOL) or about $700 to buy a pair of NFT running shoes. STEPN has a shoe rental program that lets you lease out your shoes for other players to rent and earn without the upfront investment, but that feature is not available yet. The only way to participate in STEPN right now, during beta, is to buy a pair of NFT sneakers for about $700.
How does earning with STEPN work? Each pair of runners has an optimal movement speed and earning rate, among other attributes, that you can level up. A pair of shoes has energy that fully replenishes every 24 hours. When your shoes are charged and you run at the optimal speed, you earn Green Satoshi Tokens (GST).
STEPN running shoes have five different qualities. There are several differences amongst shoe qualities, but the most crucial difference is that the better the quality, the more coin you can earn.
If you have a “common” pair of NFT sneakers, you can expect to earn about 1 GST per minute with earnings at approximately 5 GST or $12 per day. Leveling up your sneakers and investing in two pairs of “uncommon” NFTs sneakers can boost profits to 40 GST per day or about $100. An “uncommon” pair of sneakers can run upwards of $2,500, and to earn the most, you want at least two pairs of sneakers, raising your investment in virtual shoes to $5,000.
“Uncommon” sneakers are the second least expensive shoe quality. “Rare” sneakers run at over $30,000, then there are “epic” and “legendary” qualities that we were unable to price.
Another move-to-earn cryptocurrency is called DOSE token. DOSE will be released at the end of 2022 and paired with several gamified fitness apps like Dustland Runner.
Dustland Runner is built by the same developers as Zombies Run and will have similar mechanics with the additional feature of earning DOSE token. It will allow participants to run through a virtual auditory world where they earn NFTs and tokens that can be used to upgrade a character.
SweatCoin’s explosive popularity and the high willingness to pay to participate in STEPN and Axie suggest that move-to-earn can be a compelling solution for motivating healthy behavior when joined with wellness products. If applied to movement coaching, calisthenics, and a personalized plan, move-to-earn could help people move past the difficult moments of building healthy habits, empowering the vast majority of people who struggle to improve their quality of life through healthy living.
Barriers to scalability
Buying NFTs might not be the biggest blocker to games that earn when compared to the challenges and risks of managing a crypto wallet. An NFTs is an investment that can be liquidated at any time, but creating a secure crypto wallet is a complex undertaking when you’re just trying to play a game.
Before Axie Infinity players can play, they need to set up a crypto wallet (generate a 24-word seed… etc.) and buy $600 worth of NFTs called Axies. Then a player can create an account, download the game, transfer crypto to their in-game account, and finally, play. STEPN has a similar process.
In a market where consumers are accustomed to clicking a few times before accessing new software, wallet management and security are huge barriers that will keep most people away. The tendency we have to avoid discontinuous behaviors is why online carts are abandoned 70% of the time in transactions that require more than one click compared to a one-click checkout.
If these products are going to expand beyond an enthusiast market, makers will need to work around systems that require users to learn and take actions that are discontinuous from their normal behavior; or they must integrate with technologies that automate and manage these actions for their customers.
Future of move-to-earn
People are increasingly interested in improving their health and wellbeing, and businesses respond with an ever-growing range of products and services.
STEPN is exciting because it radically amplifies the move-to-earn value proposition of SweatCoin by reducing the time it takes to earn $1,000 down from four years to one month.
For these high-margin move-to-earn products to revolutionize the wellness industry, they will need to create a path that skips the need to invest hours of study and purchase NFTs that can shoot well past $5,000.
Gamification may remain a defining element for niche move-to-earn products, it’s questionable whether the tendency of crypto entrepreneurs to gamify is correct and if these features can resonate with a broader market.
SweatCoin started a path that we can learn from. Fledging products like STEPN show plenty of room for growth in the move-to-earn market. Together with Axie, they suggest the limits of what consumers are willing to pay to get a piece of the crypto mining action is much more than anyone could have imagined.
The high willingness to pay suggests that when applied to healthy activities, move-to-earn can introduce motivation to move past barriers is compelling. The challenge for makers will be to package a move-to-earn product in a form that can extend beyond walking and running and into the realm of automated coaching.
Suppose wellness products that move onto the blockchain can continue to deliver such compelling rewards for healthy behavior. In that case, it’s really not a question of whether these technologies will enter the mainstream, but how and when.