Medical Device and Healthcare

Singapore-ETH Centre LvL Up: A smartphone-based digital lifestyle coach

Zühlke supported the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) in bringing a new health and wellness app from prototype to launch.

  • As a research-focused organisation, SEC seeks technology expertise to build and scale a smartphone-based digital health app

  • Zühlke worked with SEC to transform v1.0 of the LvL UP app into an improved, user-friendly 2.0 app for market launch

  • Adopting an agile approach, the Zühlke team created, tested, and launched the product efficiently with an emphasis on collaboration and customer satisfaction

Building the next generation of mobile health interventions

To bring to life a more sustainable, liveable, and resilient future, the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) has dedicated itself to building solutions that address some of the globe’s most intractable challenges.

SEC was founded in 2010 as a joint venture by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF). Over 300 SEC researchers focus on delivering real-world answers to critical problems in urban sustainability, resilience, and health.

SEC’s Future Health Technologies programme is developing a smartphone-based, conversational agent-delivered health coaching intervention, based on its potential to initiate and maintain behavioural change. Using ETH Zurich’s MobileCoach, an open-source platform that uses a chatbot to create more interactive and engaging mobile health interventions, SEC began developing LvL UP: a chatbot-based holistic lifestyle smartphone app. LvL UP’s personalised approach and engaging features use a variety of techniques – chatbots, storytelling, just-in-time behavioural nudges, and gamification, among others – to deliver a holistic lifestyle coaching intervention, promoting behavioural change in its users and encouraging them to lead a healthier lifestyle. 

SEC’s core strength lies in research, so to build and scale a consumer app like LvL UP, they needed a partner with complementary skills in solution development. Zühlke’s expertise in agile digital experience design, development, and delivery was just what SEC needed to bring LvL UP to market.

Transformation from 1.0 to 2.0

SEC’s LvL UP team had already completed LvL Up version 1.0, underpinned by the MobileCoach platform. The next phase of the app needed to include a slate of new tools – Food Diary, Step Tracking, and Journaling Templates – that could work on top of the existing chatbot functionality of v1.0.

LvL UP 2.0 will be evaluated in a series of studies, including the“Happy Study” involving women with a history of gestational diabetes.

To fully grasp the intricacies of the existing application, the Zühlke team immersed themselves in SEC’s documentation and conducted technical handover sessions with the MobileCoach team in Switzerland. This allowed the team to understand the app’s past development, and plan out a roadmap for future efforts. 

stephan koch
' Apart from the technical handover sessions with the developers in Switzerland, we also actively engaged in using the app daily. This hands-on approach enriched our understanding, allowing us to make smarter, more informed choices. '
Stephan Koch
Project Manager

Accelerating development with transparency and collaboration

Understanding the importance of workload and resource prioritisation of this endeavour, Zühlke assigned a Project Manager to oversee the overall software development process. Beyond ensuring timely delivery and adherence to quality standards, the Project Manager was able to coordinate efforts across three different locations (Switzerland, Singapore, and Vietnam) – ensuring unity of purpose even across borders.

To apply structure across the whole development process, the Zühlke team adopted Jira, a collaboration and project management tool that was built from the ground up with agile methodology in mind.

Agile approach methodology leads to continuous development

The shift towards an agile methodology emphasised iterative development, continuous feedback, and adaptability to changing requirements. The project ran in two-week sprints allowing them to quickly iterate, test, troubleshoot, and repeat. The agile approach proved effective in swiftly addressing the UI/UX challenges that the team encountered in the initial stages. 

The sprints encouraged continuous improvement, pushing the team to constantly refine and update the app based on experience and user feedback. In particular, the team made use of daily, hands-on use of the app to pinpoint problems and iterate more informed solutions. As part of one sprint, the team brought in a UX consultant to look at the mobile app design, give helpful feedback and help the team optimise the user journey. 

Leong Hui Min
' Our collaboration with Singapore-​ETH Centre was very transparent and open. We have weekly check-ins to discuss potential issues, escalations and provide updates on the project’s progress, which contributed to timely problem resolution and ensuring successful project turnaround. '
Hui Min Leong
Lead Engagement Manager

Formulating a roadmap for development

The team worked with the client-side product owner to consolidate all requests into a single backlog. This consolidation allowed the Zühlke team to prioritise LvL UP feature requests based on the value of the outcome so that they could address the most critical items first.

It also helped the team formulate a feature roadmap that outlined the most important deliverables to work on in upcoming sprints. 

The team also continued leveraging on a cross-platform deployment strategy, building upon the foundation established in version 1.0 by SEC. This approach ensured that Lvl UP was compatible with both Apple (iOS) and Android operating systems, allowing a single codebase that could be effectively deployed across multiple platforms, streamlining the development process. 

As a result, the team could focus on enhancing LvL UP’s features and performance, ensuring a seamless and efficient user experience regardless of the device used.

Collaborative agile approach achieving on-time delivery

The Zühlke team took care to cultivate an environment that encouraged asynchronous collaboration between all stakeholders. Through weekly 15-minute check-ins with the client-side product owner, the team was able to be well-informed on the current project status as well as potential issues and escalations.

The product owner was also able to understand how the team’s time was allocated, differentiating between the time dedicated to developing the features in the spec sheet and the time they spent working on other enhancements and bug fixes.

Jacqueline Mair, Senior Scientist, Singapore-ETH Centre
' We wanted to build a scalable mobile health intervention that promotes holistic wellbeing and redefines how we support Singaporeans to lead a healthier lifestyle, and we needed an implementation partner to help us realise our ambition. '
Jacqueline Mair
Senior Scientist, Singapore-​ETH Centre
Lvl Up App Screenshots

The LvL UP app’s new version contained all the functionality directed at the outset of the project – Food Diary, Step Tracking, and New Journal Templates – working seamlessly with the automated chatbot that puts a human face to app-based mobile health interventions.

While results from the “Happy Study” are still pending, the completed app has already received global recognition beyond Singapore. SEC’s Future Health Technologies’ team won an intermedia-globe Silver Award at the 24th World Media Festival 2023 in Hamburg, Germany.

These are early days yet for smartphone-based health apps. Future versions will certainly improve on the concept of smartphone-based, personalised health interventions: incorporating data from future studies to deliver better functionality and more tangible results that better support Singapore's healthcare ecosystem.

Looking to bring your next bold idea to life? Discover product development experts who can guide you through every stage of the process, from ideation to launch. Learn more about Zühlke’s consulting services here.

Contact person for Singapore

Jim Lim

Managing Director Health Singapore

With more than 25 years of ICT industry experience, Jim brings a wealth of experience providing business and strategic advice to clients regionally. Having held various leadership positions across enterprises, Jim was also the founding CEO of Good Doctor Technology. Jim has worked with clients across multiple industry verticals, including healthcare and pharmaceutical. As Head of Health Industry Singapore, Jim will expand Zühlke’s healthcare expertise and offerings to healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in Singapore. 

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