Interview with Benjamin Suhr – Climate & mHealth

By Jack Fisher, MSc Global Health Student, University of Copenhagen

During the IARU Sustainability Science Congress 2014, I attended the talk from the talented and articulate Benjamin Suhr, Business Development Manager at Mobile Identity. I contacted Benjamin through Twitter to initiate an interview to explore the experiences of an International Management and Marketing Copenhagen Business School (CBS) graduate within the innovative realm of mobile health and climate change.

Firstly, thank you very much for joining us Benjamin. Could you give a little bit of background about yourself and how you have come to your current position within Mobile Identity?

LinkedIn: Benjamin Suhr
LinkedIn: Benjamin Suhr

You are welcome! I graduated with a Masters degree from CBS. As part of my education I have been studying in Bangkok, Boston and Milan. Besides I have been working a year in Shanghai. During my last semester of the bachelor degree I applied for a position in Mobile Identity, since I wanted to get some experience from an SMC, enabling me to get more in-depth experience compared to a larger company. During the work experience I got while studying, I was also able to take on more tasks individually and therefore it was a natural step for me to continue in Mobile Identity after graduation due to my high interest in the industry.

For those who are not familiar with the company, could you describe what Mobile Identity aims to do and what sets it apart from its competitors?

Mobile Identity is developing solutions within social innovation and welfare technology. This includes digital solutions, and especially mobile solutions, within healthcare, climate and environment, and citizen services. We consist of a range of spin-off companies, which specialize within each of the fields, i.e. Mobile Fitness with healthcare and CO2-Guide with climate and environment.

In each of the specific markets, we are developing solutions where we partner with leading companies to create unique solutions to support the changes of current business environments. Due to our experience within mobile technology and intervention programs, combined with our industry knowledge, we are often able to position ourselves strongly compared to other companies. We are also able to tap into knowledge from one area and utilize it in another industry – this can often create some strong synergies.

So we have tried to transfer our value proposition from one industry to another in order to increase the scalability.

Mobile Identity has recently been nominated for the award iVækstPrisen 2014. Could you explain more about this prestige nomination?

The company, CO2-Guide, has been nominated for iVækstPrisen 2014 for the work within climate and environment. We have been nominated as 1 of 30 companies among 500 companies originally in the category Idealist. The price is awarded by Google, Deloitte, just to name a few. A jury have been going through the 500 nominees and we were fortune to make it through to the last 30, which we are very proud of!

You have mentioned within your talk at the IARU conference that you, through your work, have seen the positive use of mobile health (often referred to as mhealth or digital health) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Could you tell us a little about these products and how they have achieved this?

We have a spin-off company with University of Copenhagen since 2005, Mobile Fitness, with the stated purpose of developing scientific documented digital health programs. Mobile Fitness has developed programs within prevention of lifestyle diseases and patient support in 11 countries. This is mainly for pension/insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, governments and hospitals.

Due to our vision, we have been conducting many scientific studies from an early stage (2007 and onwards) where we have a lot of good results.

Moving on, more specifically, to the topic of your talk, how do you believe we can link climate change and mhealth?

I see that there are parallels in changing behavior, which we have been able to obtain in health and apply to climate. Many of the things that are a problem in health, are linked to the lack of personalized approach to each individual and their need. When trying to apply generic treatments for everyone, you will not be able to meet the demand of every individual. An example would be a group of type 2 diabetics. They will overall be offered the same treatment despite differences in age, gender, resources and other demographic factors. Often it is the same group who will be doing well while the “outliers” of patients will not stick to treatment and bear the highest costs. There is a necessity to personalize these offers and this can be done through digital programs to support compliance, retention and adherence. Based on a personal profile we can asses the “best” course for that patient.

Looking towards climate, private people also have many opportunities to change behavior, which can help lowering energy and resource consumption. The important part here is again that it is necessary to personalize the experience depending on their perception of climate. Some users are motivated by saving money, while others are motivated by the common good of the environment. However, here we can use many of the same mechanisms from health to personalize the experience for a user, and suddenly put them in the center of making the changes. Furthermore, the industries are structurally changing somewhat similarly in these years, by focus on the changes that end users can be making.

Flickr: Forum One
Flickr: Forum On

In the conference we have heard the importance for climate scientists and actors within the business sector to combine and work together. What are your experiences with this with Mobile Identity and has this been easy to achieve?

Mobile Identity is working very closely with researchers, both within health and climate. There is no doubt that industry and research need to be working closer together and at the same time find models that fit both parties. From an industry perspective, the biggest opportunity/threat can be time to market, where researchers sometimes need to spend several years in order to falsify their work. However, due to the technological development it will, in the future, be a necessity to test and falsify much faster.

Therefore, it can sometimes be difficult to find common ground, but once this happens it is often very beneficial for both parties – so industry and researchers are very dependent on each other, especially in climate (and health).

Finally where do you see the future of mhealth and the combination of climate and digital technology?

mHealth will be developing massively the next couple of years. Just look at the investments that are being made!

What might happen to mhealth is that the results might not live up to expectations on the short term, because many new companies have entered this market. Therefore, investments will flatten out and then when the right models and solutions are found, the industry will have its second boom. So it will definitely grow.

For climate much of the same evolution might happen. The tipping point will be if there are solutions that can handle the multiple different structures in each region or country. If these structures are not streamlined it might take 3-5 years before any large-scale solutions will be able to get a foothold globally.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with the University of Copenhagen, MSc Global Health Blog.

Flickr: Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
Flickr: Foundation for the National Institutes of Health

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