Competing with Apple and Fitbit, Amazon launches health wearable that tracks activity, body fat, emotions

Amazon is looking to get a slice of the health wearables market with its new Amazon Halo fitness tracker.

It marks the first wearable device launched by the tech giant as it takes on a market dominated by the Apple Watch and Fitbit. It's a market estimated to be worth around $52 billion, according to Gartner.

Along with the Halo wristband, Amazon also launched a subscription service and smartphone app.

Amazon's wearable has some familiar capabilities such as activity and sleep tracking but also offers new features such as tools to measure body fat and tone of voice as an indicator of overall well-being.

The new health wearable ties into Amazon's broader strategy to capture a part of the $3.5 trillion healthcare industry, which started in 2018 with its acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack.

The tech company also sparked rampant speculation when it teamed up with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway on a healthcare venture they've dubbed Haven. Although there has been speculation about the future of Haven after an exodus of top executives including CEO Atul Gawande, M.D., and Chief Technology Officer Serkan Kutan, among others.

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Amazon has also made moves to tackle employee healthcare through primary care models.

Last September, Amazon announced the pilot of a virtual health service benefit for employees and their families in the Seattle region called Amazon Care. The tech giant recently teamed up with buzzy tech-enabled primary care group Crossover Health to launch health centers near its fulfillment centers and operations facilities. 

The tech company is leveraging its "deep expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning" to offer customers a new way to discover, adopt and maintain personalized wellness habits, according to Maulik Majmudar, M.D., principal medical officer at Amazon Halo.

"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 U.S." he said in a statement. “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.”

Unlike smartwatches and fitness trackers, Amazon Halo doesn’t have a screen or constant notifications, the company said.

The small sensor capsule includes an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones and an LED indicator light.

The wearable also integrates with Cerner's technology. Consumers can share their health information, such as activity, sleep, bloody fat percentage and other wellness data, with their care teams and directly into their electronic health record, according to the health IT company.

Historically, these types of data have been siloed or difficult to obtain. Wearable technology, such as the Amazon Halo, can help achieve greater interoperability across healthcare when integrated directly into a patient’s EHR, Cerner said.

Sharp HealthCare is the first health system to implement Amazon Halo in the healthcare setting.

“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," said Brent Shafer, chairman and CEO at Cerner, in a statement.

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The Amazon Halo device and app were designed to focus on five core health and wellness areas—activity, sleep, body, voice tone and labs.

For activity, Amazon Halo awards points based on the intensity and duration of movement, not just the number of steps taken. The wearable also deducts one activity point for every hour over eight hours of sedentary time in a day, outside of sleep.

Amazon uses new innovations in computer vision and machine learning to enable users to measure their body fat percentage.

The tone feature listens to the user’s voice throughout the day and analyzes that information to present a picture of their emotional state. For instance, the device analyzes energy and positivity in a user's voice. 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, Amazon said.

The company also developed Amazon Halo Labs, science-backed challenges, experiments and workouts to help users build healthier habits. The Labs feature includes programs developed by partner organizations such as Aaptiv, the American Heart Association, Headspace, Mayo Clinic and WW (formerly Weight Watchers).

RELATED: Amazon teams with Crossover Health to pilot employee health centers

“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. We’re thrilled to see companies like Amazon innovating in this space,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association, in a statement.

Halo will also serve as the complimentary wearable for life insurance provider John Hancock through a strategic collaboration with its Vitality digital wellness program

Amazon said it prioritized privacy when developing the device and app. Multiple layers of privacy and security are built into the service to keep data safe and in customers’ control, the company said.

The subscription for Amazon Halo will start at $65 for the first six months ($100 once the early access deal is over) and then $3.99 a month after that.