Amazon Halo Isn’t Just Monitoring Your Health—It’s Judging You

It also rewards and deducts points for physical activity, or lack thereof

Amazon has a new health and wellness offering that taps into a lot of customer data. Amazon
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Good news for anyone sad to see Amazon’s body-scanning Echo Look device retire earlier this year: The ecommerce giant has a new body-scanning technology as part of an overall wellness program.

The Amazon Halo includes a wearable device, the Halo Band, as well as an app and related services to help maximize users’ health and wellness. As of Aug. 27, U.S. customers can request early access for the band and a six-month membership for $64.99 (regularly $99.99).

The screen-free, water-resistant band has “multiple advanced sensors” including an accelerometer, a temperature sensor and a heart rate monitor. Amazon suggests users never remove it as “the comfortable fit means it won’t snag or irritate at night.”

Meanwhile, the accompanying app provides a “comprehensive understanding of [users’] health and wellness.” It uses physical activity guidelines from the American Heart Association and “the latest medical research” to award points based on movement. Users receive more points for intensity and duration, so running nets more points than walking, for example. The goal is 150 activity points per week. A warning for coach potatoes: It deducts one point for every hour beyond eight hours of sedentary time per day outside of sleep because “a sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact health.”

The device also uses motion, heart rate and temperature to assess sleep and deliver a morning sleep score out of 100.

In addition, Halo measures body fat percentage “using new innovations in computer vision and machine learning,” which Amazon claims is as accurate as methods a doctor uses and nearly twice as accurate as smart scales.

To figure out body fat percentage, Halo taps into users’ smartphone cameras to generate a 3-D model of their body, and an algorithm creates a slider that shows how a body could change as it gains or loses fat.

And then there are the guided programs, like “science-backed challenges, experiments and workouts” through Halo Labs. Customers can choose from programs created by Amazon, as well as brands like the American Heart Association, Headspace, Mayo Clinic, Orangetheory Fitness and WW. Halo Labs also offers personalized advice, such as cutting out caffeine in the afternoon to improve sleep quality.

Beyond physical health, Halo includes a feature called Tone, which uses machine learning to “analyze energy and positivity in a customer’s voice so they can better understand how they may sound to others, helping improve their communication and relationships.” Users start by creating a voice profile, “after which [Tone] begins capturing short samples of speech and providing insights and daily recaps.”

In a statement, Halo’s principal medical officer Maulik Majmudar said the rise in digital health services and devices in the past decade have not led to an improvement in the health of the U.S. population.

“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,” he added.

Amazon said it has built “multiple layers of privacy and security” into the service, including encryption, and customers can download or delete their data at any time from the app.

Amazon claims body scans are automatically deleted from the cloud after processing. Thereafter, the images and resulting 3-D body model are stored locally on users’ phones. Amazon also said speech samples are “always analyzed locally on the customer’s phone and automatically deleted after processing—nobody, not even the customer, ever hears them.”

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.