Mopo power bank
Affordable solar power is gradually conquering the energy markets in Sierra Leone. In a country where over 80% of the population does not have electricity access, the demand is growing fast. New technologies can increase clean energy access for communities, reduce carbon emissions, and preserve our shared environment. The lack of suitable finance is the main reason why clean energy solutions are not spreading fast enough. Contributing to SDG7, clean energy for all, Cordaid Investment Management partnered with Mobile Power (MOPO), an enterprise offering energy products accessible to the most vulnerable and impoverished communities. Being the first lender to MOPO in Sierra Leone, Cordaid Investment Management hopes to further unlock the solar power potential in Sub-Saharan Africa and catalyze change in the sector. Follow the inspiring conversation about the future of solar energy and MOPO’s ambition to become the biggest company in Sierra Leone with Luke Burras, Chief Operating Officer and one of the company’s founders.
Why did you choose to do business in Sierra Leone?
Sierra Leone is an exciting market for entrepreneurs. We’re enthusiastic about learning and solving some difficulties. A few weeks before I had been to Sierra Leone for the first time, I was visiting California where I thought to myself: wouldn’t it have been amazing to live in California during the pioneer times of the gold rush where everything was possible? Getting off the plane in Freetown in Sierra Leone, I had the exact same feeling. Sierra Leone is a frontier place, there’s not much infrastructure, no well-developed banking sector, but here, the pioneering spirit is alive and well.
On the other hand, if we were trying to launch this innovative business in the Netherlands, we would face more scepticism and competition. Sierra Leone has untapped potential for expanding business fast. Within a few weeks, you can start a business. In a couple of years, you can be across the whole country. MOPO is now in every major town in Sierra Leone. We have tens of thousands of customers that are renting from us every day. Within a couple of years, we could be the biggest energy company in Sierra Leone. We wouldn’t be able to do the same in the Netherlands with only a few million pounds. But in Sierra Leone, very quickly, you can begin to be transformative.
What inspired and motivated you to go into the clean energy sector?
One of my favorite things about this business is that I get to work with friends, with whom we have a common dream. Ultimately, we all love Africa and want to see it develop. Our technology development started out in 2013 as a part-time thing; we all were working different jobs back then. By 2017, we launched our first full pilot in Sierra Leone, and it went really well. The company’s growth has been very steep since then and we have launched into lots of other nations.
So back in 2013, when we looked at the Sub-Saharan African energy market, we saw the colossal opportunity for a billion people who don’t have access to power. These people are spending an incredible amount of money on a tiny amount of energy. The development agencies would call it a problem but we saw an opportunity to access the market for a billion people. How many markets like this are there in the world? A billion people wanting for a solution, and very little competition.
What does the energy market look like nowadays?
With only 18% of households connected to the grid, most Sierra Leoneans depend on petrol-powered stations for charging their mobile phones. These stations rely on highly unreliable, often dangerous, and polluting petrol generators and make little profit after fuel and maintenance costs
Apart from being detrimental to the environment, those old-fashioned energy types are costly. For example, around 15% of household income is spent on lighting, most of the time replacing disposable batteries. Sierra Leoneans spend 5-10% of household income on mobile phone battery charging alone.
MOPO solar-charged batteries provide cheaper and easier available energy: solar battery provides enough energy for households to charge mobile phones and power lighting, fans, TVs, and other household appliances. As a result, MOPO customers spend 75% less when compared to charging phones on generators or using disposable batteries for lighting.
How does MOPO’s solar battery rental work?
MOPO offers low-cost and flexible access to clean energy by renting out rechargeable solar batteries on a pay-per-use basis. Their solar hubs are located in off-grid areas and are run by local agents, having communities’ trust. The MOPO model enables even the lowest income families to access affordable green energy. The positive impact on Sierra Leoneans and the environment is enormous: MOPO has provided access to energy for over 100,000 people, helped avoid 3,000 tonnes of CO2, and created many quality jobs for the local populations, especially women and youth.
Could you tell me about the sustainable mobility solutions MOPO is developing?
We test our new products in Sierra Leone. So at the moment, we’re developing battery swap stations for electric motorbikes and tuk-tuks. We have e-motorbikes ridden by Sierra Leonean commercial taxi riders who promote e-mobility whilst reducing their costs. We should have a few hundred of those soon. We estimate that this business will be roughly 10x times the size of the current one, mainly because this sustainable solution will reduce transport costs for drivers.
A few weeks back, the fuel price in Sierra Leone went up 35% overnight. This happens regularly as the oil price fluctuations make it really hard to have reliable fuel in an economy such as Sierra Leone. Besides, if you’re a motorbike rider in Sub-Saharan Africa, you often don’t own a vehicle but lease from someone who does. Conditions are often precarious: for six days, you pay the bike owner, then only on the 7th day you can ride it for yourself. In these conditions, the riders can barely make a living never mind growing a business. So that’s why we use lease-to-own for the bike scheme, which allows riders to own the bike after leasing it. This way, we’re enabling riders’ to build their own financial future.
What are your plans for MOPO?
We aim to have multiple layers of business. Our household energy product is the first step, and it is rapidly scaling across Sub-Saharan Africa. But now we are giving people e-mobility and generator replacement. Our data-driven customer platform allows us to have a customer relationship that lasts years. So we’re really excited about future ideas like bringing long term customers into the global banking systems, access to credit for businesses, grid extension…the list goes on.
In turn, this will boost the country’s economy. African entrepreneurs are the most innovative business people on the planet. Entrepreneurship is often inherent due to circumstances, people have to work hard and innovate to figure out a way to earn a living in a challenging and uncertain environment. So I’m really excited about the way we have been able to foster entrepreneurship, businesses, and services that will allow our Agents and ultimately the country to build itself.
Lastly, how did the investment of Cordaid Investment Management contribute to the development of your enterprise?
The major challenge in Sierra Leone is access to growth capital. There are few adequate credit markets. We are a strong company with a track record across the continent, and nevertheless, Cordaid Investment Management was the only financial provider who agreed to invest in the Sierra Leone subsidiary. Without suitable finance, it’s hard to grow fast.
Besides, we believe in using local capital to build local businesses. That means we can put local risks with people who understand the Sierra Leonean market. Partnering with CIM allowed us to have local, on-the-ground lending. CIM team understands the local context better than anyone and might be the only investor who can help localize the entire business in Sierra Leone.
About the investment
MOPO piloted solar-powered battery rentals in Sierra Leone in 2017 and has been rapidly growing and showed that their business model has enormous potential to scale up. Now MOPO hubs operate in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, and The Gambia. The company has already built a vibrant customer base in Sierra Leone, but there are still many communities with energy needs. That’s why Cordaid Investment Management provided working capital to organize new MOPO hubs, putting 6,000 new solar batteries in operations. As a result, (and along with other funding) around 212 jobs will be created in four years.
Investing in MOPO SL offered CIM a unique opportunity to be their first lender and to claim a niche as one of the leading lenders in the green energy sector. I believe that CIM’s investment in Mobile Power will help stimulate local economic growth and light up rural communities. As over 80% of Mobile Power’s agents are young people in rural areas, this investment aligns with our mandate to create jobs for rural youth, concludes Archibald Shodeke, Investment Manager in Sierra Leone.
ARDOVA’s Move Into Clean Energy, MA Raise Earnings Expectation
ARDOVA Plc, a downstream oil sector player, gets a buy rating from equity analysts at CardinalStone Partners Limited after the company’s recent strategic move into a full-fledged energy business.
As well, the decision to close an acquisition deal with Enyo in the second half of 2021 also swings analysts’ mood in a positive direction as there are indications that CardinalStone would bet largest on the ticker.
In its equity note on the ticker, analysts said they retained their buy recommendation as the investment firm’s medium to long term outlook for ARDOVA remains positive.
Analysis of the company’s book indicated that the positive feeling was however driven by recent moves to diversify the business away from the highly regulated PMS market, analysts said they retain deregulation as an upside risk.
“We have updated our forecasts for the financial year 2021 and revised our target price to N19.20”, analysts at CardinalStone Securities told Investors in a report.
Citing the PPPRA template released in March 2021, analysts said petrol was supposed to be sold at a pump price Band of N209.61 – N212.61/litre, representing about a 30.0% premium to the current market price of N162.00/litre.
“Given that crude oil price has raced to about 65.91/barrel and the Naira has weakened to about N411.67/, PMS should be trading around N227.00/litre, suggesting a N65 subsidy per litre or monthly support of N114 billion, assuming daily PMS consumption of 58.4 million litres.
“This computation implies a potential annual subsidy outlay of about N1.4 trillion or about 18.3% of Nigeria’s 2021 budgeted revenue”, CardinalStone said.
The potential impact on household consumption costs has led several stakeholders to wail against outright subsidy removal. Bloomberg reports reveal that Nigeria is unlikely to phase out subsidies until the protracted negotiations with its organised labour are completed.
What is clear is that the federal government has committed to a three-way plan to cushion the impact of a potential switch to complete deregulation on the populace.
CardinalStone expressed the view that subsidy cost is getting heavier. Noting that delay in implementing deregulation of PMS in Nigeria may be explained by the government’s concerns over surging inflation, its impact on the cost and standard of living, and the potential backlash from the populace.
For ARDOVA, analysts said imminent business combination and partnerships are likely to be the critical drivers of profit after tax in 2021. In January 2021, ARDOVA announced that it was in discussions to acquire one of its competitors in the downstream oil sector – Enyo Retail Supply Limited (ENYO).
ARDOVA’s Move Into Clean Energy, MA Raise Earnings Expectation
By its business profile, Enyo is a technologically driven player and currently operates over 90 stations across Nigeria, attending to over 100,000 retail customers daily across 15 states of the country. Analysts believe that the imminent combination is set to increase ARDOVA’s retail outlets by about 20% to 555 from 465 previously.
“The acquisition will cement ARDOVA as the market leader in the marketing and distribution of PMS in the country”, CardinalStone stated.
According to ARDOVA, the deal will be financed with a mix of equity and debt, with the related completion timeline set at second half of 2021. The firm also started re-venturing into previous business areas to diversify its operating earnings from concentration in the regulated PMS market
Revitalising the renewable business
Recall that before the ARDOVA takeover by the new management, the company had a “Solar System” business line which analysts said was contributing around 0.5% to group turnover at its peak.
However, after the takeover, the business was discontinued because its market penetration was low, and it was facing intense competition in the space.
Now, ARDOVA has made a re-entry into the renewable energy industry in Q4-2020, penning a partnership with Mobile Power UK to establish a Battery as a Service (BaaS) solution company (Mobile Power Limited) in Nigeria.
“ARDOVA Plc. will hold a 35.0% stake in the new company”, CardinalStone said in a report made available to its clients.
“Unlike existing renewable energy services specialising in the sale and installation of solar panels and battery packs, Mobile Power (MoPo) will provide a pay-per-charge rental model to supply Smart battery packs at a price affordable to low-income households”.
In their explanation, analysts at CardinalStone explained that MoPo will have hubs where battery packs will be recharged and leased onto consumers.
“Even though the jury is still out on the likelihood of success of the segment, the critical state of power supply, particularly in a low-income neighbourhood, suggests that there may be some opportunities to tap into with this venture”, the investment firm added.
In 2020, ARDOVA invested about N50.9 million into Mobile Power. Representing 1% of its capital expenditure, ARDOVA Plc. invested N50.9 million in mobile power in the financial year 2020, CardinalStone revealed.
Also, the company announced its entry into the marketing and distribution of LPG in Q4-2020, following in the steps of another major marketer – MOBIL, which resumed its LPG business in 2018 after previously exiting the segment 20 years before.
Analysts said ARDOVA has completed a 600MT tank station in Kano and has revealed that plans are underway to construct an LPG storage facility.
The construction of the 20,000MT LPG storage facility in Ijora, Lagos, commenced in Q4-2020, and it is billed to be completed in 18 to 24 months.
Analysts said the facility would enable the company to benefit from the government’s imminent autogas drive, targeted at providing an alternative to PMS for motor vehicles. In addition, ARDOVA could also provide Storage as a Service (SaaS) for other LPG operators and generate throughput income.
Other strategic partnerships
ARDOVA launched a haulage and transport subsidiary, Axles and Cartage Limited, to have better end-to-end control efficiency of the supply chain of its most important products (PMS, AGO, ATK and LPG).
It was noted the firm also struck a partnership with Shell Trading International Limited, enabling it to become the sole distributor for Shell Lubricant branded products in Nigeria.
“We project earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) margin higher at 3.4% in 2020 compare to 2.9% in 2019, owing to projected higher contribution from relatively margin accretive business lines – AGO, ATK, Lubes, and LPG.
“Our margin projection is also aided by expectations of sustained optimisation of core assets, as seen in the financial year 2020”, CardinalStone said.
In addition to the rollout of margin accretive Ardova Clean Energy hubs across the country, the firm is expected to complete the upgrade and revamp of its Lube Operating Blending Plant and Bitumen Plant.
Overall, CardinalStone Securities Limited estimated a 4.2% year-on-year growth in after-tax earnings, despite a projected 35.8% increase in interest expense.
“We expect ARDOVA to draw down N20 billion from its planned N60 billion borrowing programme in the second half of 2021”, analysts said.
After considering development in the downstream oil sector and ARDOVA specific earnings profile, CardinalStone Securities maintained buy rating on the company’s stock.
“Our medium to long term outlook for ARDOVA remains positive, driven by recent moves to diversify the business away from the highly regulated PMS market (we retain deregulation as an upside risk).
“We have updated our forecasts for 2021 and revised our target price to N19.20”, CardinalStone stated.
ARDOVA’s Move Into Clean Energy, MA Raise Earnings Expectation
Best Wireless Power Banks for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus: Quickly Charge Your Phone
Finally, wireless charging has entered the Apple’s eco-system and Apple launched its three new iPhones with wireless charging facility. We got to see awesome devices such as the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
Each of these devices packs in so much power that you will want to use them all day. This obviously takes a toll on the battery life of your iPhone. To smartly charge your devices, check this list of the best wireless Power Banks for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.
But the real magic lies in Qi standard of wireless charging; the external chargers may look like a tiny paperweight but they are robustly built to supply strong wireless charging current. Without further ado, explore this range of wireless power banks for iPhone given below.
Best Wireless Power Banks for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
Table of Contents
#1. AngelioX Power bank for iPhone
Much like the previous one, this Phone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus Wireless Charging Power Bank also comes with an 8000mAh battery. The power bank also offers a wireless and wired mode for charging your device.
While using the Qi wireless charging method, you can get your device charged up at 1.4 times the speed as with regular wireless enabled charging. For wired charging purposes, you have a dual USB port as well as QC 2.0 enabled USB port.
#2. CVIDA Wireless Power Bank
Coming up next, we have CVIDA Wireless Power Bank – one of the finest Wireless Portable Charger for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.
Besides its compatibility with QI wireless charging, Qualcomm QC3.0 with 3 USB ports making it a great choice for not only your iPhone, but other devices around the house.
The power bank is made using premium quality ABS material which is used to shield a grade an 18650 Li-ion battery inside. It is certified to be safe and secure, and auto detects devices to provide optimized current flow.
#3. Mopo Wireless Power Bank
The Mopo Power bank for your iPhones is QI enabled and has a battery backup of about 12000mAh. Also for wired charging necessities, there are 2 USB outputs.
The USB outputs can auto-detect the optimal charging speed and deliver charge accordingly. However, do note that the maximum output through the USB ports caps at 2.1A.
It is super safe to use and applies control measure to protect devices from overcharging, discharging short circuit and all other things you can be worried about.
#4. MUSTTRUE Portable Power Bank
The Musttrue power bank uses the all-new WPC Qi wireless charging technology which manages to deliver about 1A to 2A charge to your iPhone. There are no USB charging outputs, but the base is big enough to let you charge two devices at once.
The battery backup with this unit caps at 9000mAh. Another thing worth mentioning is that this phone also implements all the necessary safety precautions to prevent damage to your phone and is certified safe to use by FCC, CE, and RoHS.
And if for some reason, you decide that you don’t like the unit, then the company also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
#5. MobilePal Wireless Charging Power Bank
And now for the next Wireless Charging External Battery Pack for iPhone, we have the MobilePal Wireless Charging Power Bank.
You will be happy to know, that the device embodies a patented design language for being the slimmest wireless power bank with 10000mAh capacity.
The power bank, however, is not limited to wireless charging alone and does allow for micro-USB and lightning cables. It also supports pass-through charging for situations when the power bank itself is out of juice. You can also use the backup charger as a LED flashlight if you want.
#6. Cloele High Capacity Portable Power Bank
Cloele Wireless Portable Power Bank for iPhone comes with a sleek design and a 12000 mAh capacity battery. It comes with Qi-enabled wireless charging as well as two Smart USB ports which can automatically detect the optimal charging speed of your device and also keep it safe from unwanted situations.
Wireless charging speeds caps at 1A but through the USB port, you can expect up to 2.1A. Also, to reduce the amount of clumsiness, the device comes with a 3 in 1 cable which does the job for lightning, micro USB and Type C cables, all in one.
#7. YGIVO Qi Power Bank
The YGIVO Qi Power Bank offers multi-level convenience with the support of four different ways of charging, – wireless charging, Dual Smart USB charging, Micro USB input and Type C input. Also, high level security measures are also adopted, and the charge is approved by FCC, CE, and RoHS.
Basically, this is a two-way charger which supports wireless as well as wired charging. Using QI, you will get about 5V 1A outputs, and with Dual Smart USB, charging can go up to 5V 2.1A. And lastly, the power bank has a battery capacity of 10000mAh.
#8. ZONV Qi Wireless Power Bank
Design wise, the ZONV power bank implements a smooth matte surface on a compact built along with a LED display to monitor the remaining battery.
And as far as charging is concerned, you will get Qi wireless charging mode, as well as USB type C and Micro USB input with the device.
Wireless charging speeds go up to 1A whereas wired speeds are high as 2.1A. However, the battery capacity on the device is a little low and gives you a capacity of 8000mAh.
#9. WICHA Wireless Portable Power Bank
Starting off our list of the best Wireless Power Bank for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, we have the WICHA power bank.
It comes with a battery backup of 10000mAh and is compatible with QI wireless charging. There are also 2 USB ports just in case you need some wired functionality.
Design-wise, it has a very thin and light build. There is a LED battery indicator to show you how much more juice the power bank can still deliver. Also, if you are caught in a dark place, it also doubles as a flashlight.
#10. HSEOK Portable Wireless Charger Power Bank
And now, to end our list of the Best Wireless Power Bank for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus we have the HSEOK Portable Wireless Charger 7000mAh Power Bank.
It comes with a battery capacity of 7000mAh and provides wireless as well as wired charging options. The USB port automatically detects the phone and delivers charging speed and voltage optimised for your specific iPhone.
Overall safety precautions of the power bank are also top notch, and will safeguard all your devices from any charging accidents.
Which among the best wireless power banks for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are you going to buy? Share your feedback with us on. and Google Plus.
Gamified physical activation of young men – a Multidisciplinary Population-Based Randomized Controlled Trial (MOPO study)
Inactive and unhealthy lifestyles are common among adolescent men. The planned intervention examines the effectiveness of an interactive, gamified activation method, based on tailored health information, peer networks and participation, on physical activity, health and wellbeing in young men. We hypothesize that following the intervention the physical activation group will have an improved physical activity, as well as self-determined and measured health compared with the controls.
Conscription-aged men (18 years) attending compulsory annual call-ups for military service in the city of Oulu in Finland (n = 1500) will be randomized to a 6-months intervention (n = 640) or a control group (n = 640) during the fall 2013. A questionnaire on health, health behaviour, diet and wellbeing is administered in the beginning and end of the intervention. In addition, anthropometric measures (height, weight and waist circumference), body composition, grip strength, heart rate variability and aerobic fitness will be measured. The activation group utilizes an online gamified activation method in combination with communal youth services, objective physical activity measurement, social networking, tailored health information and exercise programs according to baseline activity level and the readiness of changes of each individual. Daily physical activity of the participants is monitored in both the activation and control groups. The activation service rewards improvements in physical activity or reductions in sedentary behaviour. The performance and completion of the military service of the participants will also be followed.
The study will provide new information of physical activity, health and health behaviour of young men. Furthermore, a novel model including methods for increasing physical activity among young people is developed and its effects tested through an intervention. This unique gamified service for activating young men can provide a translational model for community use. It can also be utilized as such or tailored to other selected populations or age groups.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01376986
Particularly in industrialised wealthy societies physical inactivity causes 1.9 million deaths per year  because of its several adverse health effects . Physical activity provides important health benefits already in adolescence, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, improved physical fitness, as well as reduced body fatness and favourable cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk profiles . Positive health effects of a physically active lifestyle among youth are tracked to adulthood, such as lesser amount of adult obesity [4, 5]. Sedentary behaviour and physical activity have also been shown to persist and track from youth into adulthood [5, 6]. Despite the known benefits of physical activity on health and future life opportunities, recent evidence consistently demonstrates that a majority of adolescents do not meet current physical activity and public health recommendations of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate or vigorous intensity activity on at least five days per week [3, 7, 8]. In fact, even less than 10% of the 16–19 years old meet these recommendations . Obesity has become more common while physical fitness has deteriorated markedly. The change in weight has been Rapid where the average weight of male adolescents has increased by more than six kilos over a period of 13 years . At the same time, physical performance has declined dramatically [11, 12].
Recent evidence underlines the importance of focusing on the balance of light-intensity activities and sedentary behaviours due to the deleterious effects of sitting on health and wellbeing . A meta-analysis showed a dose–response relation between increased sedentary behaviour and unfavourable health outcomes in children and youth . Furthermore, a reduction in any type of sedentary time is associated with lower health risk in youth. Daily TV viewing in excess of 2 hours is associated with diminished physical and psychosocial health, and a lowered sedentary time reduces body mass index . Physical inactivity has also been associated with an increased likelihood of having several emotional and behavioural problems among boys [15–17]. Hence, an early intervention promoting physical activity and decreasing sedentary behaviour at young age may prevent any future adverse health outcomes.
At present it is not known what the most appropriate method for promoting physical activity among young men is. This would require knowledge and understanding of factors related to deciding to engage in or abstain from physical activity. Interventions to promote physical activity have typically involved teaching individuals the skills to change their activity behaviour, providing knowledge about the goals or opportunities of physical activity, or creating a more physically active environment. In adolescents, multicomponent interventions including school, family and communal elements seem to be most beneficial, yet studies outside the school setting are called for [18, 19]. Tailored health communication has proved to be an effective method in promoting healthy behaviours [20, 21], but has not been utilized in activation interventions among youth. Innovative approaches taking into account the context of changing youth cultures and trajectories are needed.
In research of behaviour and behaviour change understanding and analysing the phenomena in its socio-cultural setting is essential . Qualitative research methods allow observing the phenomena multifaceted and in the actual context . Thus the socially constructing cultural meanings such as values, attitudes and motives, which direct the actual health behaviour, can be incorporated to the study of the physical activity and activation of young men. Both cultural studies of health and technology are recognised fields of research [24, 25], but the combination of these in studies which aims at activation of certain populations through intervention are just emerging.
There is indicative evidence that information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Internet and mobile phones can be more effective than other methods for carrying out physical activity interventions among young people . The technology allows a possibility to distribute tailored feedback to a wide range of people and settings in a low cost manner [18, 27]. One effective way to convey health information and affect health behaviour could be through games [28, 29]. Recent RCT trials show successful interventions  and improved health-related behaviour [31, 32] through the use of games. Recently, a study showed that using a 3D fantasy game for the treatment of depressive symptoms among adolescents was as effective as conventional counselling and significantly reduced depression, anxiety and hopelessness, and improved quality of life . It seems that the inherent orientation towards playing together transfers from other areas of life into computer games. Social skills are needed, or must be developed, in order to succeed in most of the multi-player games. The social bonding can be so strong that it becomes one of the most important motivating factors for playing the games . This might also apply in the context of physical activation when utilizing a game technology. In this study gamification means the process of increasing user engagement and participation by integrating game mechanics into other youth oriented services, such as communal services, networking and distribution of health information .
The overall aim of the study is to provide new evidence-based knowledge for promoting health and wellbeing in young men. The purpose is to set up a multidisciplinary approach for assessing the effectiveness of 1) an interactive, gamified activation method, based on peer networks and participation, on physical activity, aerobic fitness and relationship towards physical activity in young men 2) the gamified activation on physical health, with special emphasis on weight and related factors, and on mental and social health and wellbeing.
The hypotheses are that by the end of the intervention the men in the activation group: 1) are physically more active and fit, and 2) their self-determined and measured health is better and there are fewer obese subjects compared to the control group.
The study design is a parallel-group randomized controlled trial consisting of an intervention and a control group of young men. The protocol has been registered to the clinical trials register (NCT01376986, ClinicalTrials.gov). The study consists of collection of cross-sectional questionnaire and measurement data at the annual call-ups during the fall 2013 followed by a randomized controlled 6-month physical activity intervention. In addition, the subjects’ entry into military service and its course will be followed (Figure 1).
The statement in favour of the study has been received from the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District ethical committee (ETTM123/2009). All the involved organisations have provided permission for conducting the study. All subjects will receive both oral and written information and will be requested for a written consent of their participation. The provided information describes the project and its benefits and possible inconvenience or risks to the subjects, as well as their right to refuse or withdraw from the study without any effects on their future health care or military service. The study is conducted according to Declaration of Helsinki. The subjects’ personal data will be protected using number codes. The collected information will only be used by the research group. The transfer and protection of data will be monitored throughout the project, particularly in interactive web-based and mobile device networks.
In Finland military or civil service is mandatory for all male citizens and annually all 18-year old men are called for service in call-ups. Hence, the entire age cohort attends the call ups except those whose physical or mental health or psychological capacities do not allow independent living. In the call-ups fitness for service is determined based on an interview and a prior medical examination conducted less than six months ago. Conscripts are either assigned or exempted from military service, or ordered to attend a new examination at a later call-up.
The total population of eligible participants include all conscription aged men attending the call-ups in the Oulu area (approximately 1500 annually) in northern Finland.
The primary outcome variable is the change in the time spent in physical activity of different intensities (sedentary, light, moderate and vigorous). The aim is to lower the proportion of inactive men by one third in the intervention group with no change in the control group. At baseline, the estimated number of inactive men is 212 (27.6%, data from the 2009 call-ups). With study power of 80% and significance level of 5%, the calculated sample size is [(27.6 × (100–27.6) 18.5 × (100–18.5)]/[(27.6-18.5) 2 ] × 7.9 = 335 persons/group.
The gamified ICT platform for promoting physical activation
The gamified ICT platform forms the basis for different applications. Contrary to previous solutions, subjects do not exercise while playing the game, but their daily activity and exercise is monitored and rewarded in the gamified service. The gamified platform combines several modules: 1) a virtual coach, i.e. avatar for each participant, 2) a game based on participation of peer groups, and achievements supported by rewards from increased physical activity or reduced sedentary behavior 3) possibility for social networking between peers 4) input on physical activity recordings and feedback, 5) communal youth services for supporting coping and an active lifestyle (e.g. through exercise and social counselling), 6) exercise instructions and personal objectives for long-term fitness improvement based on baseline measurements and activity recordings, 7) tailored information content related to health and wellbeing based on a participant’s readiness for changing his exercise behaviour. This readiness is evaluated using a modification of Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model of behaviour change [38, 39].
The exercise programs provided by professionals will include instructions to physical activity, aerobic and muscle fitness improvement and weight management. Long-term fitness estimation will be provided. The given health information will be evidence-based.
The 6-month intervention will commence at the call-ups (Figure 1). The activation group utilises the abovementioned online gamified activation platform service, whereas the subjects in the control group will continue their normal lives. All subjects will carry a physical activity monitor and the activity data are saved in a database. The control subjects will use blinded monitors which will not provide any feedback for the participants. The questionnaires and measurements will be repeated at the end of the intervention (6 months). The trial protocol and gamified activation service will be pilot tested in 2012 with a smaller sample.
After the intervention the subjects’ entry into military service will be followed up for a period from 18 to 30 months depending on the initiation and length (6–12 months) of service. The course of the service period will be monitored by the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) which routinely collects data on health and performance of all conscripts attending service. The group assignment will be blinded to the FDF until the end of military service. Examinations measuring aerobic (Cooper. 12 minute running test)  and muscle fitness tests  are performed when entering service and repeated after its completion. These data will be collected from approximately 70% of the men due to the estimated exemption. This will provide additional information about the impact of the intervention and show the long-term effectiveness of the method aimed at promoting physical activity. It also demonstrates how the activation intervention affects the onset and completion of military service.
The questionnaires and physiological measurements have been tested in the annual call-ups in the Oulu area during 2009–2011. Overall, the response rate to the questionnaire has been at or above 62% (2009 N = 770, 73%, 2010: N = 622, 62%, 2011 N = 825, 65%), and 59% or more (59%, 61%, and 72%, respectively) have participated to the measurements.
Main and secondary outcome measures
The main outcome measure is self-determined and objectively measured physical activity. Daily physical activity will be followed using a wrist-worn physical activity monitor, Polar Active (Polar Electro Ltd, Finland) [41–46]. This recorder utilizes frequency and regularity of hand movements adjusted for body parameters and a high agreement with energy expenditure has been observed . The device measures physical activity continuously as metabolic equivalents (MET) per 30 s and as time spent at five different zones (very easy, easy, moderate, vigorous, vigorous), as well as sleep onset and duration. Self-determined physical activity level will be enquired according to questions widely used in health studies .
The type of physical activity (sitting/standing, walking, running, cycling and driving) will be tracked using a smartphone with triaxial accelerometers [48–50]. The recognition is based on different features of the acceleration signal and classification is done using knn (k nearest neighbours) and QDA (quadratic discriminant analysis) classifiers. The software has a real-time recognition accuracy of 95% when the phone is in the of the subject’s trousers .
The secondary outcome is the proportion of overweight and obese boys.
The following cross-sectional questionnaire data will be collected during the military call-ups: 1) health survey consisting of questions related to health behaviour, diet, sleep, psychosocial and socioeconomic factors, quality of life, depressive symptoms (Raitasalo’s modification of the short form of the Beck Depression Inventory [51, 52], and substance abuse; 2) amount of physical activity  and sitting time, self-rated physical fitness, 3) relationship to physical activity: a questionnaire focusing on physical activity or lack thereof, and the underlying motives, 4) information behaviour and practices in relation to the stages of change of the transtheoretical model [38, 39], the use of media, games and technology.
Ethnographic and interview data
Participant observation and subject interviews are conducted in several phases. Firstly, the objective is to understand specific values, motivations and cultural meanings in general in youth culture which affect adolescent’s health behaviour . Secondly, an in-depth description is constructed based on their experiences and opinions of the intervention in order to improve the methods further [54, 55]. In this way the ethnographic work also provides feedback between the target group and service developers.
Height will be measured with a ruler. Waist circumference will be measured midway between the lowest rib and the iliac crest. Body composition (fat mass, fat free mass, percentage body fat), BMI and weight will be assessed by bioelectrical impedance assessments (DSM-BIA; direct segmental multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis). For this purpose InBody 720 Body composition analysis (Biospace Co., Ltd., Seoul, Korea) will be used. The accuracy of measurement is high in comparison to e.g. the dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) method  and practical in large epidemiological studies with limited time for examining each subject . Bilateral grip strength of both hands will be measured using a dynamometer (Saehan, SAEHAN Corporation, Korea). During the examination, the subjects stand with their legs apart and elbow at 90° angle, and grip the instrument with maximum strength.
Aerobic fitness will be evaluated using a fitness test (Polar Fitness Test Polar Electro, Finland) conducted while resting comfortably during ca. 5 minutes. The Polar Fitness Test predicts maximal oxygen uptake (ml/min/kg) from the resting heart rate, heart rate variability, gender, age, height, body weight and self-assessed physical activity . Heart rate variability (R-R intervals) will be measured from 255 heart beats (3–5 min) with a sampling frequency of 1000 Hz . During the military service, all conscripts undergo muscle fitness tests  performed twice by the FDF. Aerobic fitness with Cooper’s 12-minute running test  will be performed at the beginning and end of the military service.
Descriptive analyses will be performed utilising the results of the questionnaires and measurements. Absolute and percentage changes from baseline will be calculated for continuous variables. The paired samples t test will be used to compare means of the within group change from baseline, and the t test for independent samples will be used to compare means between the treatment and the control group. The analysis of variance for repeated measures will be used to analyse the intra-group-by-time-effect and the group-by-time interaction and to adjust for possible confounding factors over the study period. The changes in activity and weight during the trial and follow-up will also be examined by multiple linear regression analyses with generalized estimation equations (GEE) to account for correlations between repeated measurements. Association between the response and explanatory factors in the aggregated data will first be analysed using cross tabulation and the Pearson product–moment correlations. Multiple linear and logistic regression analysis using all variables associated with activity level and weight in univariate analyses will be performed to evaluate the determinants of change within the exercise group and the pooled groups. Data will be analysed using both intention to treat and per protocol basis.
The results of this study will provide evidence on the effectiveness of the online gamified activation service for increasing the activity and reducing inactivity in young men. This is the first study to combine a gamified service with objective continuous measurement of physical activity in daily life; i.e. also when the subject is not using the service. The study also provides novel information on the health status, physical fitness, motivational factors and profiles of physically active and inactive young men. This information can be utilized in future development of tailored gamified services. Promotion of physical activity at young age provides an early intervention for preventing any future adverse health effects. Hence, the produced physical activation method has broad public health significance.
The developed new model of gamification used for promoting physical activity will provide a new approach for reaching young people. Tailored health messages are delivered based on applying the transtheoretical model that is augmented with the concept of information behaviour to identify the participants’ stages of exercise behaviour change. This study will explore new possibilities to direct the health behaviour of young men without many times ineffective and provoking top-down coercive health instructing, which may have opposite effects that was intended among adolescents . For finding new, affecting, and at same time entertaining and socially acceptable means for adolescents, their active participation to the development process is essential. The produced gamified platform may exert other positive social effects which may directly or indirectly improve health and wellbeing.
There are challenges in this trial. Firstly, the young men form a challenging target group that has not been widely studied. Furthermore, the most inactive young men may not be willing to participate to the study resulting in selection bias. Based on our previous pilot study, this will not likely affect the main results since the main characteristics of the participants and non-participants did not differ. Secondly, in previous studies compliance to wear physical activity monitors has been low. Although the Internet is a promising medium to deliver behaviour change programs, previous research have shown low exposure rates to web-based interventions . The increased use of smartphones may change this due improved access to internet from almost anywhere. As a strength of our study, the target group is actively involved in the design of the gamified activation service and its social elements to provide appealing contents. Online social features have reduced attrition from health behaviour change interventions, especially in populations with low social support . Tailored health messages will be delivered based on an application of the transtheoretical model. The degree of message tailoring may influence engagement to the intervention program, which is associated with positive health behaviour change .
In conclusion, the planned multidisciplinary co-operation aims to produce information of health and factors affecting health behavior in young men. This information will be utilized for the development of new methods for physical activation of young people. The development work is conducted in co-operation with the participants and utilizing important elements of youth culture. If successful, this unique intervention to activate young men can provide a translational model for community use. Also, if proven effective, the produced physical activation method can be utilized as such or tailored to other selected populations or age groups.
Direct segmental multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis