The company said 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 shift has created a more than $30 billion market for assistive technology, according to the Consumer Technology Association.
As of Wednesday, customers with an Alexa voice assistant can link their account to an aging loved one’s Alexa account. If the family member accepts the invitation, their caregiver can send alerts and view their relative’s activity feed. That feed is more of a high-level summary that includes basic information such as lights being used in the home rather than a way to spy on parents.
There’s also an emergency contact feature where the loved one can simply say “Alexa, call for help.” Alexa will then send an immediate push notification to the caregiver.
“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. “What the caregiver gets is some peace of mind.”
Amazon has been looking into the aging space for years, at one point discussing a potential collaboration with AARP, a lobbying group that represents the interests of people over 50. Reid acknowledged that it’s “day one” for Amazon moving into the space, and that there’s a lot more the company can do to help seniors age in place.
Reid said the company has been working on the product for about 18 months, but it has taken on a new importance given that so many people are staying at home with Covid-19 and unable to see their relatives in person. The company has been beta testing the product with Amazon employees and their own loved ones in the past few months, before opening it up to its broader population of users.