Ex-Google employees launch app to make you smarter about health, fitness

FILE - In this April 17, 2007 file photo, exhibitors work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated Google logo at the industrial fair Hannover Messe in Hanover, Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

SAN FRANCISCO: A group of former Google employees are betting they can boost the world's medical knowledge with a mobile IQ test.

Hi.Q, a free app for the Apple Inc iPhone and iPad launching on Monday, includes 10,000 questions across 300 topics, such as food allergies, childhood health, and portion control. After taking the test, users are given a breakdown of their expertise across certain health areas.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Munjal Shah, who sold his prior company to Google Inc in 2010, said early data show a strong correlation between health literacy and obesity. Shah's team is also tracking whether a person's health knowledge correlates with the rate of hospitalizations.

The Hi.Q team believes that Silicon Valley jumped too quickly into developing wearable devices to track fitness and wellbeing. A recent study from research firm Endeavour Partners found that one-third of people who owned a wearable stopped using it after six months.

Shah believes the first step to get more people engaged in their health on a daily basis should be "quantified knowledge."

"Wearables are ending up in a drawer, I believe that's because most people fundamentally lack the practical knowledge to stay healthy in the modern world," he added.

The company said 250,000 people have already used the app in its trial phase. According to Shah, 84 percent of those who opted to take the test were female. The most engaged users are mothers between the ages of 30 and 60.

Shah told Reuters he started kicking around ideas for a health startup after some first-hand experience with the current U.S. health system. After settling on health literacy, he recruited some fellow Google employees to join the team.

The app's founders are primarily drawn from the tech sector, rather than the medical field. To ensure accuracy, Shah said the questions have been carefully vetted by subject matter experts, such as a former orthopedic surgeon for the U.S. Olympic team.

The team is more focused on building the product rather than making money in the coming months, said Shah. He stressed that the company would not sell data on people's health knowledge to medical insurance providers.

The Mountain View, California based company has previously raised a small and undisclosed seed round of funding from Silicon Valley venture firms, including Greylock Partners, Menlo Ventures and Rock Health.





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