Are your employees lying about their daily step count? This tech can tell

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Employees are fudging their daily step count — and a new tool may be able to help.

Health tech company FIX Health’s walking challenge mobile app can now differentiate between steps employees input themselves and ones that comes from a wearable tracking device like a Fitbit or Garmin.

The company’s new step validation technology, called Tru Step, is meant to prevent users from cheating on walking challenges, says Mike Tinney, CEO and founder of FIX Health. Some employees use their smartphone to manually enter their daily step count on Apple Health and Google Fit, even if it’s not the number of steps they actually took.

“The possibility of users cheating by entering fake step counts in a competitive health challenge is one of the biggest problems for step challenges in general,” he says.

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Because many employers offer rewards or incentives for those who complete wellness programs and walking challenges, it may be in their best interest to look for ways to minimize cheating. This update will allow employers to limit or completely rule out steps that were manually input. The company also can track when and how rapidly the steps were taken, Tinney says.

“Every walking challenge struggles with this same issue,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many times it’s come up in sales calls.”

Tru Step will be available as part of the company’s mobile app, the Outbreak, which is themed after a zombie apocalypse. The Outbreak is a corporate health walking challenge that allows employees to compete against one another to defeat zombies. The number of steps workers take directly correlates to their ability to escape the zombies. The farther they go in the game, the more difficult the zombies are to overcome.

“Participants get really into the Outbreak,” Tinney says. “Users are highly engaged, so much so that it inspires some users to exaggerate their efforts, and manually enter more steps than they’re actually taking.”

Research shows that counting steps plays a role in keeping employees active. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of a moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.

See also: Fitbit offers new wearables to UnitedHealthcare participants

Measuring step counts in conjunction with goal setting and other behavioral approaches has been shown to increase overall physical activity, HHS says. Commercially available step trackers typically set consumers’ step goals at 10,000, but HHS says researchers have found the baseline number of steps is around 5,000.

Tinney says he thinks the new technology will give the company a competitive advantage in the behavioral health marketplace by making the program more legitimate. Cheating has been a problem in the past, and the company is hoping this update will be able to weed out those who are being dishonest.

“It’s a real pain point for everyone involved — the buyer, the participants and us,” he says.

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HR Technology Wellness programs Wellness apps Employee engagement Wearable technology