CNBC: Amazon Adds Virtual Assistant Feature to Encourage Aging in Place

New technology which allows older Americans to age in place in their own homes more easily is key to the proliferation of older citizens remaining in their homes of choice, and a ubiquitous digital assistant platform is adding a new feature which will allow certain family members to further assist their loved ones with staying at home for longer.

Multinational retail giant Amazon launched its “Echo” series of smart devices in 2014, and with it their digital artificial intelligence-powered assistant, “Alexa.” Alexa is available on devices including smart speakers, displays, alarm clocks and more, and recently Amazon announced a new feature specifically designed to help seniors remain at home, according to CNBC.

“[Amazon says] it has been hearing from customers for years about using Alexa’s voice assistant to monitor aging relatives, who are increasingly looking to stay in their residences rather than move to a nursing home,” the article reads. “The shift has created a more than $30 billion market for assistive technology, according to the Consumer Technology Association.”

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The new feature for the smart assistant, called “Care Hub,” allows a caregiver to link their own Amazon account to that of a senior’s. If that senior accepts the invitation to connect, then the caregiver can send specific alerts — illustrated in a recent advertisement as a reminder to take a medication, for instance — and can view a high-level summary of some of the senior’s activities, including certain lights being used.

By saying “Alexa, call for help,” the sender can immediately send a push notification to the caregiver’s mobile device, allowing them to take appropriate action as soon as they learn something is wrong.

“Once that connection is established, the care recipient doesn’t need to do anything and can go about their day as normal,” said Toni Reid, vice president of Alexa Experiences and Echo Devices at Amazon to CNBC. “What the caregiver gets is some peace of mind.”

Amazon has reportedly been looking for a way into the aging market for some time, at one point in 2018 exploring a potential partnership with senior advocacy group AARP. While the initial forays into the space through its line of smart devices is small, company officials indicated that additional avenues into the market are being explored.

Amazon’s Alexa platform, and other similar products like Google’s “Google Assistant” and Apple’s “Siri” are very popular, but not without controversy. The devices tied to each assistant are always connected to the internet and always listening for the “trigger word” that engages their assistant functions, for instance.

While the tech companies behind these products have made public-facing statements about taking new measures to protect users’ privacy, the federal government recently cited the privacy practices of Google as a portion of its recent antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant.

Read the article about Alexa Care Hub at CNBC.

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