Amazon's announcement of more robust offerings have the potential to significantly alter the home care industry
Amazon’s announcement of Alexa Together this week is sure to cause ripples in the voice enabled care sector, similar to the Whole Foods acquisition’s impact on the grocery industry. When Care Hub was announced in November 2020, it seemed like an exploratory effort, but this announce is much more robust and has the potential to significantly alter the home care industry at a time when SNF at Home, HomeSpitals and Moving Health Home are increasingly part of our Senior Care discussions.
Earlier this year Steve Moran, Publisher of Senior Living Foresight, posed the question: "What should be the first technology to put in a home to help a senior live comfortably and with purpose"" In response, I sent him this AgeTech stack pyramid (image below) with video communication as the first technology we need to deploy and subsequently build from that base of a solid communication capability.
Three years ago, when the Echo Show was released with the first two-way video capability, I installed one at my parents’ home in India and one in my kitchen. The daily morning coffee check-ins were a godsent in staying current with their lives staving off the distance induced guilt. As you can see from the picture below, we were part of the home nurse visits. The easy, voice enabled video communication with a far field microphone (can talk from the sofa 5 feet away) was the foundation on which we could build a care support capability.
The tech support experience to create an alarm for the daily blood glucose check or water consumption reminders was a real challenge across 10,000 miles. So, when I saw the Remote Assist feature of Alexa Together, I was excited. This alone would be a game changer for us boomers supporting their parents and family members.
Alexa Together – The Evolution of the Alexa Care Hub
When the Alexa Care Hub was release in November of 2020, it seemed like a promising start with many useful features like automated alerts, voice-based call for help and two-way chat through the Alexa app. The glaring gap was tech support – how can I help my parent add features or make changes from hundreds of miles away? Changes are always needed as you learn from use. It was a free service, but I couldn’t see changing the behavior of my parents and in-laws for the feature set it offered. The care hub will now be replaced with a paid service which is much more comprehensive – Alexa Together which will be available by the end of this year. This service will be priced at $19.99/month or $199/year (the free Care Hub option goes away in 2022). You only need one subscription for the caregiver or receiver.
ALEXA TOGETHER FEATURE SET
Custom Alerts / Activity Feed – Daily alerts of Alexa /Smart Home use or Inactivity
Fall Detection – Links with Vayyar Home (Ambient Sensing) and SkyAngelCare (Pendant)
Care Circle Support (Family and Caregivers) – Upgrade from CareHub which only allowed a one to one support relationship.
Set Up Assist – You can configure / add senior’s Wi-Fi network before you send it along to make it plug and play.
Remote Assist – Remotely set up reminders, shopping lists, alarms etc.
24/7 Response – Urgent Response team + caregiver team can be reached by saying “ Alexa, call for help.”
This announcement must cause “indigestion” amongst many of the startups building caregiving and aging@home enabler solutions based on Alexa. Many of the solution providers will have to adapt their solutions to leverage Alexa together and drop some of their features that compete with capabilities like Care Circle Support. The announcement seems to indicate that Amazon will stay away from developing sensors and other care related hardware and instead vet solutions like Vayyar and SkyAngelCare (I confess, I had not heard of SkyAngelCare before this announcement).
Here are some other Alexa announcements that we need to pay attention to:
The Amazon Astro : This is an Echo Show on wheels with intelligence to enable “ Follow Me” and “Find Mom” ( because it has facial recognition features). It can also self-charge. If the home is a single level structure, I can see this becoming a useful companion. I thought that Amazon was going to enable some of these features on the Ring Home Cam Drone but have to wait and see what the future brings for that technology. The cost of this unit, at $999 reflects the early stage of the product.
One of the critiques I have heard is that the low height of this product may present a trip hazard for seniors and that the carry capacity is low, as opposed to the Temi robot.
The Amazon Halo Band and Halo View, Amazon Care Service, (PillPak) Amazon Digital Pharmacy are all elements of a solution where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Alexa Enabled TV announcements could be leveraged for tele-visits as a camera capability gets added (I am speculating) and the integrated Alexa Together could become the total TeleHealth solution for Aging@Home.
This is a comprehensive broadside on Healthcare for the older adult.
What Amazon is missing today is a Medication Management solution like Hero or Pria/Pillo. They may address this with a strategic deal that provides PillPak cartridges to one or many of the available dispensing solutions or create one if they fail to develop a standard solution for cartridges.
Looking at the AgeTech stack above and the list of announcements, Amazon is incredibly close to covering technology framework for the first three layers of the stack. Digital Therapeutics is an area that is under intense discussion across the industry with organizations like DiMe taking the lead. More to follow as I try out the solutions!
Ravi Bala is a SeniorTrade Advisory Board Member and Aging@Home Technology Evangelist. He specializes in go to market strategy and product market fit for technologies that enable Aging@Home. His focus is on enterprise scale deployment and growth. He strives daily to redefine “Aging” as “Engaged Active Living with Purpose”.