Amazon Offers Alexa Access to Halo Fitness Band Data 6 Months After Launch
Amazon Halo wearers can ask Alexa for the latest data collected by the fitness band six months after it debuted with no connection to the voice assistant at all. The opt-in feature lets Halo owners pull up activity scores and other information formerly limited to the wearable on any Alexa-enabled devices.
Getting Alexa to tell Halo owners their numbers requires choosing to activate the connection from the Halo Android or iOS app. Keeping it off by default is likely aimed at appeasing those concerned about privacy when it comes to their health information. Once approved, any Echo smart speaker or other device logged into the same Amazon account as the Halo can tell the user their activity score, sleep habits, body composition, or anything else analyzed by the Halo. To further protect privacy, Alexa won’t store any conversation about Halo data in its history. And, the Halo data can be keyed to an additional PIN, so that only the actual user and not just anyone awakening Alexa on their devices can find out what their fitness band has recorded. The user has to use the PIN every time they ask a new question about their Halo data unless they adjust it so that the data is accessible for five minutes after giving the PIN. Amazon even issued a white paper on all of the new privacy features for Halo data.
“With Halo, customers can trust that their health data is protected and in their control,” Amazon wrote in the privacy paper. “We’ve built strict protection mechanisms for customers’ most sensitive data, like Body and Tone, by storing it locally on the customer’s phone by default, when possible, and deleting it after it’s processed. In doing so, we ensure that Tone speech samples are never accessed and body scan images are only viewed by the customer—we do not use either dataset for improving our machine learning algorithms.”
Halo combines sensors on the Halo Band device with advanced artificial intelligence to generate insights into a wearer’s health with an accuracy that Amazon says is comparable to a doctor. Halo gathers and analyzes health metrics to report on activity levels, and time spent in different stages of sleep, among other health metrics. Halo includes a feature called Body that applies Amazon’s computer vision technology to wellness by guiding users into taking photos that it combines into a three-dimensional body model for measuring body fat percentage. The app includes a slider to adjust the body fat percentage and show the user how their body shape might change in turn.
The two microphones on the device don’t allow access to Alexa but are instead used for the Tone feature, which analyzes the sound of a wearer’s voice, reporting how they might sound to others. Tone measures voice speed, pitch, rhythm, and intensity to build a picture of a wearer’s mood as others might infer it. Once set up, Tone runs in the background, randomly recording short bits of you talking for irregular updates. Tone can also be activated manually, recording up to half an hour, and providing real-time analysis. Amazon suggests that it would be useful for practicing speeches and related activities. Regardless of its new Alexa options, only current owners of the Halo will be able to test it out. The $100 fitness band, which includes six months of the $4 a month membership necessary to use its features, is currently unavailable on Amazon’s website and there’s no date listed for it to return.