“Coercive tech” takes the role of drill sergeant in getting people to change behaviors.


Behavior modification is the promise behind wearables like Fitbit and Internet of Things-powered devices like smart toothbrushes. Now, we’re seeing a crop of products in this category that get assertive in the bid to push users toward self-improvement. “Coercive tech” takes the role of drill sergeant in getting people to change behaviors. Notes Fortune, “The next wave of connected devices shame, shock and guilt you into good behavior.”

Most notably, Pavlok is an activity- and sleep-tracking wristband that delivers a small electric shock, among other punishments, when wearers don’t make progress toward goals like waking up earlier or even learning a new language. The founders of Pavlok, which ships next year, claim they have “discovered the science behind willpower and habits.” To improve posture, LumoBack is a smart belt that produces a “gentle buzz” when the wearer slouches, while digital health startup Darma is touting a sensor-embedded seat cushion that vibrates to remind users to stand up from time to time and to use better posture. More whimsically, a bookmark developed by Penguin in Brazil sends a tweet if it’s been too long since the reader has cracked a particular tome.

All this is in line with Outsourcing Self-Control, one of our 10 Trends for 2011—the idea that people will increasingly look to third parties to help them exercise self-discipline; more brands will thus assume the role of regulator, creating products, tools or other services that prevent consumers from acting on impulse, using anything from a nudge to a more assertive shove.

Image credit: Pavlok