Amazon’s Alexa Together launches today offering more elder care features – The Verge
First announced at Amazon’s fall hardware event, Alexa Together is officially launching today, Tuesday, December 7th. A new subscription service that expands on the existing Alexa Care Hub, Alexa Together is designed to offer a minimally invasive way to use Amazon’s voice assistant and associated Echo speakers to both assist and keep tabs on an elderly loved one or other person who requires a caregiver.
Almost since Alexa launched, industrious families have found ways to make the artificially intelligent assistant help them when it comes to looking after a remote loved one. Electronically “dropping in” on an elderly family member to check on them and sharing Alexa accounts so that they can see their activity have been simple — if inelegant — ways to know that your family member is okay; especially helpful if they aren’t always good at answering a phone call. But the system wasn’t designed for that use case, making it somewhat invasive for the person who’s being “monitored.”
First with Care Hub and now with Alexa Together, Amazon has developed new features based on how its customers shoe-horned the Alexa assistant into these use cases. The result is a product that could make the process of remotely caring for an elderly loved one easier and ultimately more helpful.
Alexa Together notifies caregivers about their loved ones’ activities.
The new service costs $19.99 a month or $199 per year, and it replaces the existing — free — Care Hub service. For that new fee, customers get a professional monitoring service and some more proactive features. There is a six-month free trial available and all Care Hub customers get a free year of Alexa Together.
The two most notable features arriving with Alexa Together are Urgent Response and a fall detection capability. This adds 24/7 hands-free access to a professional emergency helpline, allowing the user to say “Alexa, call for help,” to an Echo speaker and be connected with an agent. The agent can then request the dispatch of police, the fire department, or an ambulance, and Alexa also sends a notification to the designated caregiver.
Fall detection requires third-party hardware — currently it works with devices from Assistive Technology Services (ATS) and Vayyar. Vayyar Care costs $250 and is a wall-mounted device from the makers of Vayyar Home. It’s exclusively for Alexa Together (although Vayyar makes a standalone product, too) and uses sensors and radio waves to detect falls. ATS’s SkyAngelCare is a fall-detection pendant that communicates over Wi-Fi to Alexa.
Both devices can be set to alert Alexa to ask the user if they want to call Urgent Response, a more proactive approach than waiting for the user to ask for help. Unlike similar devices on the market today, there are no ongoing subscription fees to use these, beyond the Alexa Together fee.
The activity feed and alerts from Care Hub are now part of Alexa Together. This lets a caregiver know that the person is up and going about their day by providing an alert in the Alexa app once the person being monitored first interacts with Alexa. It works with …….
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