E-commerce giant looks to tailor products to individual health needs
TOKYO — Rakuten has partnered with mattress maker Airweave, with plans to use the company’s customer sleep data for products and services tailored to the health needs of individual customers.
The Japanese virtual mall operator acquired a stake of over 10% in Airweave for about 1.2 billion yen ($10.8 million) through a private placement. Rakuten will send executives to the company.
Airweave operates a smartphone app that measures sleep quality. The smartphone placed next to the user’s pillow detects movements that are used to analyze his or her sleep patterns. The app also helps the user keep track of meals and drinks as well as other activities that affect sleep.
This is the first time Airwave has accepted an outside investment. The proceeds will go toward launching new businesses that leverage its app and the data collected from it. The company also is considering an eventual initial public offering.
Rakuten aims in the next few years to have a business model in place that recommends food, furniture and other products to customers based on data accumulated by the app. The e-commerce site operator also hopes to use the business to steer more customers toward its group life insurance policies. The company may link the service to customer purchase histories to better identify consumer needs as well.
The Airweave tie-up is Rakuten’s latest partnership in the health data field. Last month the company invested about 1.4 billion yen in Tokyo-based Genesis Healthcare, which offers genetic testing using saliva to identify genes linked to traits such as obesity. In July, Rakuten took a stake in Swiss health startup Dacadoo, which calculates a health score for individuals based on lifestyle and other factors.
Efforts to incorporate health data into businesses are gaining traction among manufacturers as well. Panasonic is developing a health monitoring system for the elderly using “internet of things” technology to analyze temperature changes and sleep patterns. Fujitsu, meanwhile, partnered with bedding maker Nishikawa Sangyo to develop a coin-shaped activity tracker that attaches to a person’s hip to gather exercise and sleep data. Users receive advice on ways to improve their sleep quality based on analysis of the data.