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Amazon’s healthcare ambitions have a new target: your home

A cheap wearable? A robot for seniors? A home assistant that can automatically call for help? Amazon is staking a claim on healthcare at home.

Amazon’s healthcare ambitions have a new target: your home
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Amazon has big healthcare ambitions. On Tuesday, the company announced a series of updates and products that reveal more about how it envisions its place in helping you manage your health at home. Like its signature marketplace, Amazon is trying to establish its health-related offerings as indispensable. The main way it’s doing that is by providing services that are integral to your everyday healthcare routines.

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The company made three major announcements in this regard: an update to its Halo wearable, a new subscription service for independent seniors, and a roaming home robot with similar monitoring capabilities for aging adults.

A wearable update

Amazon announced a new version of its wrist wearable called the Halo View. Unlike its predecessor, the View has a screen. It displays health metrics including heart rate, skin temperature, and blood oxygen levels. In addition to a screen, Amazon is rolling out a whole array of fitness content to go along with its wearable. Where previously it had a curated selection of workouts, now it has hundreds of video classes. The Halo View also features workouts from popular fitness apps like Orangetheory and Sweat.

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The wearable has a nutrition component as well. Halo Nutrition will offer 500 recipes for an array of diets including keto, Mediterranean, Nordic, paleo, vegan, and vegetarian when it launches in January 2022. Of course, Amazon offers a way to order ingredients for its recipes directly through Whole Foods.

Amazon has also lowered the price to $80 for the Halo View (as compared with $100 for the original). Its forthcoming nutrition and fitness programs will be $4 per month. Halo View will come with a full year of membership.

When Amazon first launched a wrist wearable a year ago, a screenless band felt like a fresh approach. This launch shows that it’s competing very directly with both Apple Watch and Fitbit. Like Apple, it’s building out a menu of health-related activities that anyone can access—including older users.

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Moving into senior care

Most of Amazon’s health launches focus on senior care. Alexa Together, a new $19-per-month subscription service, provides users with 24/7 access to an emergency help line they can summon with the sound of their voice.

The new subscription is an extension of Care Hub, a free service Amazon launched last year on the Alexa platform. Care Hub connects to fall detection and other monitoring devices and proactively sends family members updates. With the launch early next year of Alexa Together will come the ability to notify multiple people involved with an individual’s care. It also has a remote-assist feature, so that family members can easily provide tech support for their older family member by helping them set up personal reminders, enable hands-free calling, and link up their favorite music service. Current Care Hub customers will get a free year of Alexa Together. There’s also a six-month free trial for new users.

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Finally, Amazon announced one more senior-focused product: Astro. The mobile robot provides an array of surveillance features, as Fast Company editor Harry McCracken points out in his review. But the ability to check on aging family members may prove one of its most salient services.

“You could use the Astro smartphone app to instruct a robot at your parents’ home to find your father, or to look for him on a regular schedule—such as first thing in the morning—and report back,” writes McCracken. The robot works with Alexa Together, enabling it to make emergency phone calls or contact a caregiver. But the robot is also testing out nurse-like features. Through a collaboration with a company called Omron, which makes health-monitoring devices, Astro will be able to remind people to check their blood pressure.

These updates are important in the wider context of Amazon’s healthcare endeavors. The company recently announced that it would be taking its employee telehealth program Amazon Care nationwide. It also has a prescription drug-delivery engine called Amazon Pharmacy and Pillpack, which not only delivers medications, but organizes daily drug regimens. While Amazon Care isn’t available to everyone yet, and Amazon Pharmacy has yet to take off in a meaningful way, Amazon has made it clear it wants to build the future of care at home—and it starts with seniors.

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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