Amazon continues health push with Fitbit-like device

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is expanding its healthcare offering into wearables.

The technology titan is introducing Amazon Halo, a service that combines a suite of AI-powered health features with the new Amazon Halo app and Amazon Halo Band wearable device. The Halo Band uses multiple advanced sensors to provide personal health information from the user that Halo then processes to deliver insights.

Amazon has been making inroads into the healthcare space. Recent examples include enabling Michigan-based health insurer Priority Health to open a branded Amazon storefront and a pilot to open neighborhood health centers for its U.S. warehouse employees and their families.

Amazon Halo Band doesn’t have a screen or constant notifications. The small sensor capsule delivers data, and includes an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones, an LED indicator light, and a button to turn the microphones on or off, among other functions. The device is water-resistant.

Specific user data, which is tracked, includes activity (intensity and duration of movement beyond steps), sleep, body fat percentage, and tone of voice to determine social and emotional well-being. In addition, there is the Amazon Halo Labs feature, which offer science-backed challenges, experiments, and workouts that allow customers to discover what works best for them specifically, so they can build healthier habits. Labs are provided by Amazon as well as from branded partners such as Orangetheory Fitness, Russell Wilson, and WW.

According to Amazon, multiple layers of privacy and security are built into the service to keep data safe and in customers’ control. Health data is encrypted in transit and in the cloud, and customers can download or delete their data at any time directly from the app. Body scan images are automatically deleted from the cloud after processing, so only the customer sees them. Tone is enabled by creating a personal voice profile, after which it begins capturing short samples of speech and providing insights and daily recaps. Speech samples are always analyzed locally on the customer’s phone and automatically deleted after processing so nobody, not even the customer, ever hears them.

Amazon has collaborated with several health and wellness companies to enable customers to connect their Amazon Halo account to third-party programs. Account linking occurs via the explicit opt-in of the Amazon Halo customer and they can opt back out any time directly from the Halo app. For example, members of both WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and Amazon Halo can choose to link their accounts to share Halo Activity information, which the WW app translates to FitPoints. 

Customers in the U.S. can request early access to Amazon Halo starting Thursday, Aug. 27. Through the early access period, Amazon Halo will be available for a special price of $64.99 including six months of Halo membership (regular price: $99.99). The membership automatically renews for $3.99 per month after the initial six months. The membership unlocks access to all Amazon Halo features. Non-members will have access to the basics, including steps, sleep time, and heart rate.

“Despite the rise in digital health services and devices over the last decade, we have not seen a corresponding improvement in population health in the U.S.,” said Dr. Maulik Majmudar, principal medical officer, Amazon Halo. “We are using Amazon’s deep expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning to offer customers a new way to discover, adopt, and maintain personalized wellness habits. Health is much more than just the number of steps you take in a day or how many hours you sleep. Amazon Halo combines the latest medical science, highly accurate data via the Halo Band sensors, and cutting-edge artificial intelligence to offer a more comprehensive approach to improving your health and wellness.”

The Amazon Halo app is available on iOS and Android.