IMC Newsdesk

Amazon Halo combines AI and sensors for wellness insights

  • September 15, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Amazon’s Halo service combines AI-powered health features that provide actionable insights into wellness via an app using a wrist wearable with multiple sensors.

The Halo service can help users improve their individual health and wellness.

“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 USA,” said Maulik Majmudar, principal medical officer for 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 personalised 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 Halo Band is purpose-built to focus on health and wellness. It doesn’t have a screen or constant notifications. The small sensor capsule delivers accurate data, and includes an accelerometer, temperature sensor, heart rate monitor, two microphones, LED indicator light, and a button to turn the microphones on or off.

It is water resistant for all-day wear and it shouldn’t snag or irritate at night. The battery lasts up to seven days and fully charges in under 90 minutes. Users can choose from three fabric band colours at purchase, with fabric and silicone sport accessory bands available in 15 additional colours.

The app is a suite of five core features designed to give a understanding of health and wellness, and the tools to take action to make measurable improvements:

  • Activity: Informed by American Heart Association physical activity guidelines and medical research, Halo awards points based on the intensity and duration of movement, not just the number of steps taken. For example, users will earn points for walking, but will earn more points for running. Medical guidelines also advise that a sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact health, so Halo deducts one activity point for every hour over eight hours of sedentary time in a day, outside of sleep. A baseline goal of 150 activity points is set and measured weekly.
  • Sleep: The health benefits of consistently good, sufficient sleep are well documented, as are the potential negative health impacts of not enough or consistently poor sleep. Halo uses motion, heart rate and temperature to measure time asleep and time awake; time spent in the various phases of sleep including deep, light and REM; and skin temperature while sleeping. The sensors in the band allow for continuous sleep monitoring, so users get detailed information without having to charge the band every day. In the morning, Halo delivers a sleep score out of 100, any deviation from baseline sleep temperature, and a hypnogram showing time spent in each sleep phase.
  • Body: Medical research has shown for years that body fat percentage is a better measure of overall health than just weight or body mass index (BMI), but the tools that measure body fat percentage can be expensive or difficult to access. Using computer vision and machine learning, Halo lets users measure their body fat percentage from their home, making this information easily accessible. The body fat measurement is as accurate as methods a doctor would use, and nearly twice as accurate as at-home smart scales.
  • Tone: The globally accepted definition of health includes not just physical but also social and emotional well-being. The tone feature uses machine learning to analyse energy and positivity in a user’s voice so they can better understand how they may sound to others, helping improve their communication and relationships. For example, tone results may reveal that a difficult work call leads to less positivity in communication with a user’s family, an indication of the impact of stress on emotional well-being.
  • Labs: Halo Labs are science-backed challenges, experiments and workouts that allow users to discover what works best for them so they can build healthier habits. For example, some might discover that cutting out afternoon caffeine improves their sleep quality, or that a certain type of at-home workout is more effective than others. Users can choose from labs created by Halo experts, as well as brands and personalities they already know, including 8fit, Aaptiv, American Heart Association, Exhale On Demand, Harvard Health Publishing, Headspace, Julian Treasure, Lifesum, Mayo Clinic, Openfit, Orangetheory Fitness, P.Volve, Russell Wilson, Relax Melodies, Sweat and Weight Watchers. Additional content from more providers will be added regularly.

“The American Heart Association is excited about technology that focuses on new and interesting ways for people to improve their cardiovascular health, quality of life and healthy life years,” said Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association. “We’re thrilled to see companies like Amazon innovating in this space. The association is committed to helping people live longer, healthier lives, both physically and mentally. The first step is knowing your current status, and features like body composition are important advances. Through our Center for Health Technology & Innovation, we are pleased to provide our evidence-based science as part of this, which we believe has the potential to drive behaviour change towards healthier lives.”

Multiple layers of privacy and security are built into the service to keep data safe and in users’ control. Health data are encrypted in transit and in the cloud, and users 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 user 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 analysed locally on the user’s phone and automatically deleted after processing.

Amazon has collaborated with health and wellness companies to enable users to connect their Halo account to third party programmes. Account linking occurs via the explicit opt-in of the Halo user and they can opt back out any time directly from the Halo app.

Members of Weight Watchers and Halo can choose to link their accounts to share Halo Activity information, which the Weight Watchers app translates to FitPoints. Halo members also have access to all of WW’s labs any time in the Halo app. Weight Watchers will offer a variety of promotions, including the ability to get a free Halo Band and six months of membership as part of signing up for a new WW membership.

“WW is committed to inspiring healthy habits for real life and we are continuously looking for ways to enhance the WW ecosystem,” said Mindy Grossman, CEO of Weight Watchers. “The Amazon Halo body composition tool is an important complement to weight measurement, and we are thrilled our members will have access to this information on a regular basis from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. WW members who previewed the body feature said it was highly motivating in their journey and we are excited to offer WW members a more comprehensive understanding of their wellness through Amazon Halo.”

Halo will be the featured complimentary wearable for the John Hancock Vitality wellness programme, including three years of Halo membership. Vitality members can choose to link their Halo Band to their account to earn Vitality Points for the things they do to try to live longer, healthier lives.

“At John Hancock, we are committed to helping our customers live longer, healthier lives,” said Brooks Tingle, CEO of John Hancock Insurance. “We know Amazon shares this goal and are excited to integrate with Amazon Halo and continue to transform the role our industry plays in our customers’ lives. This strategic endeavour allows us to offer our customers the latest in insights-driven personal health technology that can help them improve their overall wellness. We believe these enhancements will have a positive impact for our customers.”

Halo is integrated into Cerner products so consumers can share health information with their care teams and directly into their electronic health record (EHR). Halo members will be able to share their body fat percentage with participating care providers as well as activity and sleep data with Cerner consumer well-being programmes. Sharp HealthCare is the first Cerner client to benefit from this collaboration.

“For more than 40 years, Cerner has ushered in health care’s digital age by moving medical data from paper to electronic health records,” said Brent Shafer, CEO of Cerner. “Now we are seeking breakthrough innovation focused on making the health care experience more seamless and insightful. Integrating the revolutionary body fat percentage measurement from Amazon Halo directly into the EHR provides physicians an actionable and previously hard to obtain health metric without the need for a doctor’s visit or costly technology. We believe our collaboration with Amazon Halo has the potential to improve the health of individuals and populations, reduce health care costs, and increase satisfaction for consumers and clinicians alike.”

Customers in the USA can request early access to Halo. Through the early access period, Halo will be available for $65 including six months of Halo membership; regular price is $100. The membership automatically renews for $4 per month after the initial six months. The membership unlocks access to all Halo features; non-members will have access to the basics, including steps, sleep time and heart rate.

Users can choose from three colour combinations for their Halo Band: a black fabric band with an onyx sensor capsule; a blush fabric band with a rose gold sensor capsule; or a winter fabric band with a silver sensor capsule. Fabric accessory bands are available for the early access price of $20 each. Six additional fabric colour options are denim, hummingbird, mint edge, olive, unicorn and volcano.

Customers can purchase sport accessory bands for the early access price of $16 each, with nine colour options available: ash, black, dark mint, domino, lavender, pink slate, seafoam, sunset and white.

The Halo app is available on iOS and Android.