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Amazon Gets Into Health Tracking, Challenging Apple, Fitbit

Jackie Davalos and Matt Day
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. introduced a wearable fitness gadget called the Halo Band, entering the market for health monitoring devices dominated by Apple Inc. and Fitbit Inc.

The wrist band uses what Amazon describes as artificial intelligence software to monitor a range of personal wellness metrics, from physical activity to sleep and even mood. The device’s features include 3D scans for body fat and voice-tone detection to analyze emotion. The related Halo service will come with an app, and users will be able to connect their accounts to third-party programs to further monitor weight and health.

Amazon started a gadget business with its Kindle e-readers more than a decade ago. Today the company is among the largest sellers of consumer electronics in the U.S., led by Echo smart speakers and Fire TV streaming devices. Much of that unit’s activity in recent years has been geared toward expanding the domain of Alexa, the voice software that powers the Echo.

But the company was widely expected to enter the wearable devices category, a market that researcher Gartner estimated would rack up $52 billion in sales in 2020, primarily smartwatches. Bloomberg reported last year that Amazon was working on a wearable device capable of recognizing human emotions.

“Despite the rise in digital health services and devices over the last decade, we have not seen a corresponding improvement in population health in the U.S.” said Maulik Majmudar, Principal Medical Officer for Amazon Halo, in a statement. Majmudar said Amazon seeks to use its expertise in software designed to detect and analyze patterns to help people learn and maintain better habits.

The company is offering invite-only early access to the Halo beginning Thursday with an introductory price of $64.99 that includes six months of the service for free. Insurer John Hancock, a unit of Manulife Financial Corp., said on Thursday that it would let customers link Amazon Halo data to a wellness program geared toward rewarding customers for healthier habits.

Fitbit’s shares slipped slightly after the announcement. They were little changed at $6.43 at 10:45 a.m. in New York.

Amazon in recent years has launched new devices at press events held in September. With the Covid-19 pandemic making many in-person events impossible, Amazon hasn’t announced plans for a similar showcase this year.

(Updates with context on Amazon device unit, starting in third paragraph.)

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