Newton, MA — The readers and writers over at MobiHealthNews and elsewhere have been talking about Zeo shutting its doors. The company launched a sleep monitor in 2009. It featured a wireless-enabled headband that users wore at night and a bedside display alarm clock that gathered the data transmitted from the headband. Over the years, Zeo added more coaching features and synched with the iPhone, but the headband—that looks like a black elastic band with a Star Trek communicator in the middle of it —remained largely the same.

The device was a favorite of “Doctor of the Decade” Eric Topol – the gadget-savvy physician who’s used apps and tools to change how he practices and charges for medicine. The raters over at PC Magazine loved it. Regis Philbin famously wore it on air and used it at home to diagnose his own sleep challenges.

And, yet it failed. Commentators point to all sorts of reasons – investment capital, pricing strategy, health trends, etc. But, I wonder if the real reason is as simple as this: headgear isn’t any easier to pull off as an adult than it is as a kid. 

Who wants to go to bed wearing this?

Think of all the things that go on in America’s bedrooms at night – from relaxation to sex. None seem to go particularly well with a sweat band vice around the forehead. The challenge may not have been value proposition so much as design.

What the Brown University students who developed Zeo might have missed was the iExpectation. Or: how design has changed adoption.

iPhone, Nike+, fitbit and others showed us that tracking and monitoring could be elegant. That the devices could be intuitive and fun to use. Interacting with them could be something we looked forward to instead of merely tolerating.

Here are three companies that are using better design to earn adoption. They’re mastering the part of engagement that Zeo left behind:

Samsung: The much anticipated launch of its Galaxy S4 smartphone will likely come this Spring. The phone’s robust S Health app has a built-in pedometer, a thermometer that shows you current temps and humidity and lots of cool accessories. Users can add wristbands that track activity and vitals, bluetooth scales, heart monitors, and more. “The combination of sensors built within the device systematically and automatically monitors your health, surroundings and so much more to help improve your quality of life,” says Samsung.

HAPILabs: Can you innovate a fork? HAPIforks did. Here’s the big idea: eating too fast leads to poor digestion and poor weight control. HAPIfork is an electronic fork that alerts you with the help of indicator lights when you are eating too fast. Every time you bring food from your plate to your mouth with your fork, the action is called: a “fork serving”. It uses that data to measure how long it took at eat your meal, number of forks per minute and intervals between forks. It’s the opposite of an interruptive technology. It’s a simple tool that simply fits in your life.

Fitbit: Long a darling of the quantified self movement, Fitbit is only getting better. New and in-development models of its tracking device are a perfect fit for key audience segments that may not have been served by its pedometer-styler monitor. For example, the Fitbit Flex follows the lead of Nike Fuelband and Jawbone to create a more wearable tracker.

Posted by: Leigh Householder

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.