Amazon launches wearable wellness to compete with Fitbit and Apple Watch

• On Thursday, Amazon stepped into the crowded laptop industry with the launch of an app for wristbands and smartphones.

• The so-called halo band is equipped with sensors, including an accelerometer, temperature sensor, heart rate monitor, and two microphones, although it does not have a screen. New features include tracking a user’s emotional state by listening to their tone of voice and using a three-dimensional representation of a user’s body to track their body fat percentage.

• This is a remarkable development for Amazon as space is already dominated by the major player’s Apple Watch and Fitbit. The latter is currently under review for a $ 2.1 billion acquisition by Google. Fitbit stock was down slightly on the news before trading but had rallied by late morning.

Gartner estimates that the market for handheld devices could reach $ 52 billion this year. Some payers and employers hope the devices can help lower health care costs, although the evidence that wearable devices are effective in boosting health and wellness is fragile at best.

In recent years, Amazon has bolstered its presence in the multi-billion dollar healthcare industry through its cost-cutting efforts at Haven, the Amazon Care virtual nursing pilot, and the adoption of the PillPack prescription delivery platform. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant already makes some wearable devices, including smart glasses and wireless headphones. But with Thursday’s announcement, Amazon is throwing its considerable weight into space.

The device and app have similar functionality to other conventional wellness trackers, including tracking sleep duration and quality, and awarding points for training. Suddenly, during prolonged rest periods, users can lose points and move away from the step-based model of Apple and Fitbit devices.

And unlike other offerings on the market, Amazon can measure body fat percentage, a more specific measure of health than body mass index or weight, which is often a complicated and expensive measure. The device allows users to take a series of photos of their own body with the smartphone camera and uses a niche branch of artificial intelligence and machine learning to collect information from images and map the user’s body in 3D.

Halo also uses machine learning to analyze the energy and positivity of a user’s voice and gain insight into her emotional state and communication skills. The skill is more accurate for Anglo-Americans, but improves other accents and dialects, Amazon said.

Tech giants have constantly found themselves in trouble spotting mismanagement and leveraging consumer health data. According to Amazon, all health data Halo collects is encrypted in transit and in the cloud, and consumers can delete the data. Both body scan images and voice clips are automatically deleted after processing.

Amazon stores anonymous consumer health data but agrees never to sell the data to third parties or to correlate it with other data stored by Amazon, in accordance with a data protection whitepaper. For example, the company cannot recommend products on Amazon Prime based on health data.

Halo also includes challenges and workouts on the app from Amazon and other brands, including the American Heart Association, the Headspace Therapy app, and the academic medical giant Mayo Clinic. The app can also be integrated with other third-party programs, including the John Hancock Wellness Program, a Boston-based payer. John Hancock, the first life insurer to incorporate Halo, has a similar program with the Apple Watch.

Amazon Halo is also integrated with software from EHR giant Cerner to help users share health data such as body fat percentage, activity, and sleep data with their physicians directly from DSE. Sharp HealthCare, a San Diego provider and customer of Cerner, will be the first health care system to implement Halo in a medical setting.

The Amazon Halo group and 6-month app subscription are selling for $ 64.99 Early Access which will eventually drop to $ 99.99.