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Amazon takes aim at Fitbit and Apple with new Halo health tracker 

Amazon has just joined the battle of the fitness trackers.

The firm unveiled a sensor fitted wristband called Halo that pairs with an AI-powered companion app to provide insights into the user’s overall wellness.

The device detects emotion by analyzing speech, monitors sleep through heart rate and tracks activity based on the intensity and duration of movement. 

Amazon has been leading the the e-commerce market for years, but now wants a piece of the fitness tracker gold mine that is set to be a $50 billion market this year.

However, the market has become crowded by the Apple Watch, which held 29.3 percent share in the first quarter of 2020, and a number of Fitbit devices.

Amazon has dipped its toes in the wearable market before with its wireless headphones and Alexa-powered glasses, but Halo is the firm’s chance to enter the every-growing healthcare space.

Dr. Maulik Majmudar, Principal Medical Officer, Amazon Halo, said: ‘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 US.’

‘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.’

The Halo band is available for pre-purchase in the US at $99.99 and the subscription service (which is required for Halo’s more advanced features) costs $3.99 per month.

Halo resembles more of a Fitbit than an Apple Watch with just a band and a sensor housing capsule along the inside. 

The capsule is what brings the device together, as it holds a range of sensors that gathers accurate information about the wear that are calculated into insights about their health.

There is 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.  

Also unlike Apple, which pushes users to close rings, Halo is based on a point system to motivate wearers.

The technology sets a 150 point weekly goal and users gain a point for different tasks such as running walking or playing their favorite sport. 

But points can also be eliminated if the wearer sits too long. 

Amazon’s Melissa Cha, a vice president at Halo, told CNBC the company is already well rounded when it comes to machine learning and computer vision, but the healthcare market was somewhat unknown territory.

‘We did a global search to find the best experts,’ she said. 

‘We found cardiologists, fitness experts, and people who had spent their careers researching sleep and wellness.’

Amazon Halo Band is also water resistant, allowing wears to swim and shower without removing the device,  and is equipped with a battery that lasts for seven days on a single charge – and it only needs 90 minutes to reach full power. 

‘Health is much more than just the number of steps you take in a day or how many hours you sleep,’ said Majmudar.

‘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.’

Users can scan a 3D image of their body using their smartphone camera into the app, allowing them to track weightless and muscle growth.

However, Amazon is positioning Halo as a true fitness tracker due to the lack of screen, allowing users to put more focus on their health without being distracted by other notifications.

Along with activity, sleep, body fat and tone monitoring, the system includes a suite of ‘labs’ developed by Amazon partners.

The firm says these are science-backed challenges, experiments and workouts that help users find what works best for them, allowing them to stick to a route and build healthier habits.

Amazon has come under fire in the past for its Alex smart assistant, as some claim the device invades users’ privacy, but the firm has stressed that is not the case with Halo.

The company said it is committed to not using customer’s insights to sell health-related products, but will use Halo to help improve their lives.

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