CAN TECH IMPROVE BEING HUMAN?
Technology is being used increasingly within buildings to create the perfect environment for humans. The latest intelligent buildings focus on improving the experience of work. The Bullitt Center in Seattle, for example, displays real-time measurements of indoor air quality, energy consumption and photovoltaic (solar) power production and the City of London will be home to the newest and smartest sky scraper in May 2019; with a biometric security entry system based on facial recognition, at-desk climate control and a building façade designed using the principles of Formula One aerodynamics.
The IBM Watson IOT centre in Munich collects hundreds of data streams from the building that help IBM understand the building and the people who work there. At the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center in California, the air conditioning can be set using a form of crowd-sourcing; workers use a gaming-style app to indicate whether they’re too hot or too cold, and the temperature is set accordingly in real time. Smart tech in hotels is still a long way from this level of response to personalisation.
“Technology is being used increasingly within buildings to create the perfect environment for humans.”
Meanwhile, biohackers are trying to improve what it means to be human.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Serge Faguet claims to have spent $200,000 on biohacking. He has a smart ring he wears one of his fingers to measure his sleep patterns; he uses a $6,000 pair of hearing aids that are designed to give him perfect hearing; and he has a monitor chip implanted on his body that continuously measures his glucose levels, sending data to his smartphone.
Other biohackers use embedded chips for purposes like connecting with websites, or even knowing which direction North is – an experiment that was intended to see if humans could match the capabilities of certain wild animals.
The relationship between technology and wellbeing is a complex one: for now, immersion in technology through apps like social media and excessive screen time is seen as a major source of stress; but in future technology will work behind the scenes to enhance our lives in so many ways. In short, wellbeing will be led and driven by tech, while defined by humanity.
Anni Hood, Chief Executive, Well Intelligence
WHY A HAIRCUT COULD BE GOOD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
It would be easy to dismiss beauty and grooming as having no place in more serious wellbeing circles. But pause for a moment, and it becomes clear that there is enormous value in the relationships between hairdressers or barbers and their clients when considering mental health issues.
Despite a significant decrease in male suicide over the last 30 years in the UK it remains the biggest killer of younger men. In the UK, the highest suicide rate is for men aged 45-49; in the Republic of Ireland it’s for the ages 25-34.
The stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health illness is diminishing but slowly. NHS investment has increased by £1.4 billion in the last three years. And support groups like Andy’s Man Club, which holds meet ups at 7pm every Monday night across the UK and wants to halve the male suicide rate, also have a key role to play.
Grass roots initiatives – intervention within communities, led by peers who recognise mental health as an issue – are proliferating and the barbering industry appears to be leading the charge. The Lions Barber Collective is an international collection of barbers who have joined up through ‘chair talk’ to be active in the prevention of suicide by providing an outlet for discussion.
“One barbers shop in Scotland calculated that its staff listen to the men in their chairs for up to 2000 hours a year.”
One barbers shop in Scotland calculated that its staff listen to the men in their chairs for up to 2000 hours a year; it even holds a dedicated monthly session for men to come along and speak openly about their mental health.
Grooming is a habitual part of both men’s and women’s lifestyles that means it is likely they see their barbers and hairdressers more often than their GP. So it makes eminent sense and is of enormous benefit that the trade takes an interest in mental health and is willing to help. And it’s equally important that in society at large, training in mental health first aid is accorded the same value as its physical equivalent.
Steve Dunne, Chairman, Well Intelligence
HOTELS ADOPTING WELLNESS BY STEALTH
The 22nd International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) took place last week in Berlin. Despite the wellness tourism sector now being widely recognised and quantified (valued at $639billion by the Global Wellness Institute) there was still demonstrably little explicit focus on this area of hospitality business.
Yes, there was a 5k run and some yoga sessions included in the daily (pre-conference start) programme for the first time; and there was one token panel that mentioned wellness. But more telling was the on- and off- stage conversation. When Alexi Khajavi (MD EMEA, and Chair of the hospitality and travel group at Questex) announced the inclusion of a wellbeing activity programme, he referred to it as ‘healthy lifestyle’.
Sebastian Bazin, CEO of Accor, talked about the company’s strategy and its new loyalty programme ALL. He said the transformation for Accor is over; that now is about culture shift and converting customers into the Accor lifestyle ecosystem that will go beyond the bricks and mortar of properties and the specifics of travel into communities. He talked about a profound shift in how people perceive their relationship with hotels; and the emotional connection he intends to create between Accor and its role in consumers’ lifestyle, enabling them to ‘Live Limitless’.
“The trend placed firmly in the spotlight was the growth in lifestyle brands and properties.”
The trend placed firmly in the spotlight was the growth in lifestyle brands and properties, still niche at 2% of the market, but growing fast. Tim Arthur’s keynote was about ‘being lovable’ – as a brand, a person, a service or a place; emotional connection, resonance, and helping people to ‘feel better’.
The terms ‘wellness’ and ‘wellbeing’, in short, were seldom used at the conference. But what was said was nevertheless significant: the nature of the commentary reflects a process of transition that could be seen as ‘wellness by stealth’. The narrative is shifting, be conscious of it.