Amazon has officially launched Alexa Together, a subscription-based service helping caregivers provide remote support to elderly loved ones, the tech giant said Tuesday.
First announced in late September, the service uses Amazon’s range of Echo devices with new features like fall detection and 24/7 emergency assistance supporting the health and wellbeing of older users.
Family members can choose to receive notifications through the Alexa app when their loved one uses their device for the first time each day and will be contacted along with emergency services if the user calls for help.
The service also offers fall detection integrated with third-party devices from Assistive Technology Service and Vayyar Care. If the person falls in range of the device, the Echo will call urgent response and notify a family member.
While only one family member can currently link their device to receive alerts from their loved one through Alexa Together, Amazon said it plans to allow up to 10 people to provide remote support.
The offering builds upon the previously available Alexa Care Hub, which was free for anyone to use.
Some tools, like features that allow family members to “drop in” on their loved ones, will still be free, but most are now bundled with the new tools into Alexa Together for $20 a month, or $199 a year.
Previous Care Hub users can get a full-year free trial of Alexa Together, while all others are offered a six-month free trial.
Alexa Together also enables remote assist features, allowing family members to do things like set reminders and create shopping lists, along with all the original Alexa features like playing music and reading the news aloud.
Currently, the service is only available in the U.S.
Amazon notes that the “ambient computing” design of its Echo products is meant to be intuitive, which can be especially beneficial for elderly users.
“The magic of ambient computing is that it just works,” Liron Torres, global leader of Alexa Smart Properties, told Fierce Healthcare in an October interview. “You don’t have to learn new technology or new devices.”
Amazon also started leveraging Alexa-enabled devices in hospitals and senior living facilities earlier this year.
Patients using the devices can get access to entertainment while also asking for things that they need, requests that get sent directly to their care team members.
Several health systems including Cedars-Sinai, who piloted the use of Amazon Alexa devices in over 100 patient rooms in 2019, have signed on to deploy the devices across select facilities.
Several other healthcare and tech companies have ramped up the development of health-focused speech recognition tools.
Microsoft announced plans in April to acquire speech recognition and healthcare AI company Nuance for a whopping $19.7 billion. The deal is set to close by the end of the year or early 2022.