Amazon’s Halo Wearable Tracks More Than Fitness

Amazon’s products and services have become a regular part of everyday life for many. From its online marketplace, to household technology, to entertainment, it is hard to find an industry Amazon hasn’t entered. Yet, Amazon has expanded its offerings once again with its foray into the fitness tracking market with the introduction of Halo.

Described on its website as “a suite of five core features designed to give customers a comprehensive understanding of their health and wellness,” Halo’s offerings hinge on these 5 objectives: activity, sleep, body, tone, and labs. “Activity” and “sleep” are standard categories across fitness trackers. “Activity” tracks movement based on a point system, so wearers can shoot for a baseline of 150 points per week to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. “Sleep” monitors heartrate and temperature to provide insight into how long and how well the wearer is sleeping. “Body” uses computer vision and machine learning to measure and track body fat, which is a more advanced offering than most fitness trackers provide. “Labs” develops suggested workouts and experiments based on the data gathered.

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The “Tone” feature, however, has caused some to question just how deep into our lives Halo will delve. Claiming to analyze the user’s tone of voice to help improve their relationships and communication, Amazon hopes this feature will serve as a tool to help people improve their “social and emotional well-being.” To many, may seem like a way for Amazon to gain permission to listen to conversations and gather more data, whether that be to finely hone their targeted ads, or for other purposes.

Amazon has answered such claims by stating that users have the option to turn off the device’s microphone at any time. Halo also deletes voice samples after they have been analyzed, so recordings are not stored on the device or in the cloud.

For now, Halo is in its early access stage, with a wider release set for an undisclosed date. The device will cost just under $100 when it is fully released, with a 33% discount for those who sign up for early access.  To access many of the wearable’s features, users will also need to pay $3.99 per month for a membership after a free six month introductory period that comes with the purchase of the device.

Companies like OrangeTheory and Weight Watchers are partnering up with Amazon to make their apps compatible with the new device, but so far Google and Apple have been excluded from such invitations. Amazon has also integrated with Cerner to allow consumers to share information directly to their electronic health record.

The implications for advanced health monitoring, amid potential privacy concerns, have certainly sparked interest in consumers. From sleep analysis to full-body scans to voice tracking, Amazon’s Halo is an intriguing addition to the wearable tech market.