Accenture on why it is developing Freewheel, the first fitness tracker for wheelchair users

Accenture Interactive was recently awarded the Grand Prix at the at 10th anniversary Dadi Awards (19th October) for its unique wheelchair user fitness tracker (both the app and device) called Freewheel, which, as judge and executive creative director at StartJG, Patrick Baglee, said fulfilled “a clear need… to make a profound social impact”.

Following the win, The Drum caught up with Andrew Finlayson, a managing director at Accenture Interactive, to learn more about the disruptive project. He dubbed the win a “complete surprise”, claiming it “galvanised the team to think about more projects in this vein”.

He said the company recognised the growth in wearable fitness trackers. However, it wasn’t until a wheelchair- using employee pointed out that they’re demographic was underserved by the wearables market that the idea started to form.

Building upon widely available Internet of Things technology, Accenture’s research and development team worked on a prototype capable of capturing information useful to wheelchair users. Finlayson said that one of the most substantial development hurdles was creating an algorithm “that fused the biometric data of the chair user with another algorithm that took into account the physics of a body in motion in space”.

To do this, the device contains a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a barometer, Hall effect sensors and more to accurately map exertions and set benchmarks that can be compared and competed against after they’re synced up to a partnered smartphone or smartwatch via Bluetooth.

Furthermore, creating a universal wearable container capable of bonding with most wheelchairs was another design issue. Once development by in-house team Chaotic Moon is complete, the device will have numerous health, fitness and clinical applications.

On why the team honed in on the inclusive wearable, Finlayson, said: “The driving belief behind Freewheels’ creation was simply the chance to help positive change and the human experience. To create a project that was more than just a project, something that would be a benefit to society.

“More often than not technology for disabled individuals is extremely overpriced. In most cases needlessly. A major goal with freewheel was to make something that was no more expensive than an average wearable cost and retrofittable to any wheelchair.”

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John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

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