IBM launches new mobile app to help US veterans transition back to civilian life

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Computer hardware company IBM on 28 August launched a new mobile app in partnership with the US Veterans Affairs Department (VA) to help veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists “understand and strengthen their mental fitness, social connections, and overall well-being”.

The app – which was developed by by IBM iX and the VA, and embedded with technology from mental health and fitness platform Total Brain – is called GRIT or “Get Results in Transition”, and will feature a digital assistant and AI chatbot, scientific assessments, and job-matching and employment.

It is the “first branded digital solution” dedicated to helping those “live under considerable stress and/or are going through a significant life transition like leaving the military to re-enter civilian life”, IBM said.

GRIT is allegedly completely confidential and secure, and uses personalized data to create a detailed profile of an individual, which – when coupled with artificial intelligence – enables the app to “glean unique insights” and get to know each user “personally”.

The app is intended to provide service members and veterans with “useful insights and tools to aid them in monitoring their mental health, building emotional and cognitive capacities and resilience, finding the right jobs and housing opportunities, enhancing their social connections for support, etc”.

GRIT is the result of a long-standing collaboration between IBM and the VA looking at how technology might “contribute to solutions for veterans transitioning out of service”.

Initially, VA clinicians, mobility experts and veterans joined IBM in a series of design thinking workshops to explore ideas about to address the need for resources and assistance, which led to a prototype and additional feedback and research.

GRIT was then re-tailored to help users “gain personal insights into their emotional well-being, provide resources to improve their individual situations, and serve as a mechanism to address social determinants that greatly impact . . . well-being”.

As part of a five-month contract awarded in June, IBM is facilitating a field test for the app that will engage veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists to use it in a real-life setting in order to evaluate the user experience and GRIT’s usefulness, and provide feedback for improvements.

Partners for the field test – which is set to end in November when IBM’s contract concludes – include Total Brain, Burning Glass and collaboration with organizations including Easter Seals, the Wounded Warrior ProjectAmerican Warrior Partnership and the National Guard.

Using the results of the field test, IBM intends to develop a “comprehensive plan” for the full launch of GRIY, which is planned as the “first instantiation” of a bigger platform called “THRIVE360° of Mental Fitness”, which IBM said it intends to deploy with other communities in similar situations.

“This is a historic public-private partnership with the VA — one that helps veterans bridge the gap when they are transitioning out of service and at their most vulnerable,” Kathleen Urbine, partner, emerging technology and mobile lead, IBM Services, said in a statement.

“Our partnership with Total Brain has been crucial in supporting the mental health and fitness aspect of this tool and we look forward to continuing this important work,” she added.

Total Brain’s CEO, Louis Gagnon, said that the company was “thrilled to partner with IBM” to develop “easy-to-use, ubiquitous and adaptive technology that recognizes the importance of both individual and social determinants” to address the health and wellbeing of veterans.

“The very concept of well-being is a holistic one; hence, its improvement must come from a holistic solution. Furthermore, we cannot think of a more deserving community,” he added.

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