Amazon today announced the official launch of the Alexa Together subscription service, aimed at families caring for elderly members who are still living independently but need extra support. The feature, first introduced at the company’s fall 2021 event, expands on Amazon’s existing product Alexa Care Hub and packages it as a $19.99 per month or $199 per year subscription service.
Alexa Care Hub was the company’s first attempt at turning Alexa devices in the home into a tool for caring for aging family members. That service included a set of features that would allow family members to keep an eye on older parents and other loved ones — with their permission — and could be altered to certain activities, like if the family member had called out for help, for example.
Alexa Together expands on the Care Hub feature set to combine access to an emergency helpline, fall detection response features, a remote assist option that allows family members to manage settings on the elderly person’s device and an activity feed for family members that notifies them when their loved one is active — engaging with Alexa or other smart home devices, or notified when there’s been a lag in that usual activity.
The features are designed to be used in an opt-in consented environment, where both parties must complete the sign-up process together to enable these features.
Once configured, the system allows the elderly person to say “Alexa, call for help,” if they’re ever in need of emergency assistance. A trained agent on the other end will then be able to dispatch the police, the fire department or an ambulance to their location, much like what’s possible with some home security systems. However, the Alexa Together system can also work with third-party devices from Assistive Technology Service (ATS) and Vayyar to detect if the customer may be in need of emergency assistance from a fall and proactively help.
Vayyar Care is a wall-mounted sensor that is able to identify when a fall has happened, while SkyAngelCare by ATS is a fall-detection pendant that aging customers wear around their neck. Both can detect a fall — the latter if the customer presses a help button on their pendant. Amazon says more device makers will be added to Alexa Together in time.
The Remote Assist set of features allows a family member to manage various settings on the elderly member’s device. This includes setting reminders, adding contacts for calls and messages, adding and checking things off a shopping list, or linking a music service. This enables the family member to provide IT assistance, instead of requiring the elderly member having to call Amazon for help.
The activity feed will send alerts to family members to let them know their aging loved one has started their day and had their first interaction with Alexa or other connected smart home devices. This is an imperfect system in terms of serving as a proxy for knowing if the family member is doing okay, as it assumes they’ll engage with Alexa regularly. But the feed will send alerts if there’s been no activity, which could remind a family member to reach out to their loved one and make sure everything is okay.
The subscription service is offering an expansive six-month free trial to allow customers to determine if the solution is a good fit for them. And existing Alexa Care Hub customers will also now receive a free year of Alexa Together starting today until December 7, 2022.
In the future, Amazon says it will roll out the ability for Alexa Together to support multiple caregivers, including family, friends and even neighbors, among other features.
Amazon has been increasing its investment in using Alexa to care for the elderly and infirm. In addition to Care Hub and Alexa Together, the company this fall also announced it was bringing Alexa to hospitals and senior living centers, like Atria and Eskaton living centers and hospitals including Cedars-Sinai, BayCare and Houston Methodist. The company also said it would work with partners who can tap into Alexa Smart Properties tools and APIs that allow them to develop specialized solutions for the elderly care market, including K4Connect, Lifeline Senior Living, Aiva and Vocera. To make these solutions possible, Amazon has been working to make Alexa’s medical skills HIPAA-compliant and built out a healthcare team to navigate other HIPAA regulations.
But while many of those existing elderly care solutions are designed to be sold in a business-to-business (B2B) environment, the Alexa Care Hub and now Alexa Together services target the consumer market with a subscription offering.
Alexa Together works with supported Alexa devices, like the Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show, and is available either as an add-on service or in a device bundle.