The Amazon Halo Features The Tracking Tools You Need
The new Amazon Halo features many of the health factors you want to track in order to improve your heath and fitness. It’s competitively priced and worthy of your consideration.
On August 27, 2020, Amazon introduced the brand new Amazon Halo, a new feature-rich tracking device and service designed to help people improve their health and well being.
The Amazon Halo features these assessment tools:
- Body fat,
- Voice analytics, and
- Personalized “lab” results.
There’s the old adage in business productivity circles that says:
Plan the work and then work the plan.
In the health and fitness context, what the Amazon Halo features is an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones, and an LED indicator light that can monitor your activity, sleep, body fat and voice tone.
Based on this feedback, you can plan how to improve your fitness and health and then “work the plan”, getting real-time results along the way.
The Amazon Halo’s Features
In their press release, Amazon says that the Halo features “a suite of five core functions aimed at giving users a comprehensive understanding of their health and wellness—and the tools to take action to make measurable improvements.”
Here’s some detail about the Halo’s features.
Amazon Halo awards activity points based on the intensity and duration of movement, not just the number of steps/stride taken when walking/running. This point system is based on American Heart Association physical activity guidelines and the latest medical research, says Amazon.
For example, users will earn points for walking, but will earn more points for running. That’s on the positive end of the spectrum. On the negative end, you’ll get spanked for couch surfing. I’m referring to the one activity point deduction the Halo features for every hour you’re sedentary outside the span of time allotted for sleep (eight hours).
Medical guidelines advise that a sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact health, so Amazon Halo deducts one activity point for every hour over eight hours of sedentary time in a day, outside of sleep. A baseline goal of 150 activity points is set and measured weekly.
I’ve documented the major health benefits of consistently good, restorative sleep. The list of negative health impacts of insufficiently good quality sleep is long.
Halo features motion, heart rate and temperature to measure:
- Time asleep and time awake;
- Time spent in the various phases of sleep including deep, light, and REM sleep; and
- Skin temperature while sleeping – when core body temperature is low at night time, skin temperature is high, which correlates to optimal sleep .
After wearing it during the night, in the morning Amazon Halo provides the following sleep info:
- A sleep score out of 100;
- Deviations from baseline sleep temperature; and
- A hypnogram showing time spent in each sleep phase. (This is a graph that represents the stages of sleep as a function of time.)
As I wrote in some detail in Just Exactly How Fat Are You Anyway? :
What would you do to find out what percent of your body is fat? Archimedes came up with a pretty infallible test. Most of the rest are proxies, pretenders at best. In this post, I examine how worthless the BMI measure is for many, and what the military has to say on the matter. Check out the equations, BMI widget and charts.
Medical research backs me up that body fat percentage is a better measure of overall health than just weight or body mass index (BMI) alone . The problem is that the tools that measure body fat percentage can be expensive or difficult to access (although the military algorithms you can use that I cover in the “How Fat” post are pretty accurate.)
The Halo features new innovations in computer vision and machine learning that Amazon claims lets users of the device measure their body fat percentage from the comfort and privacy of their own home, which I might add is probably a necessary thing since in order to use this feature you must take pictures of yourself pretty much naked.
The pic assessments must be run by some pretty trick software given that Amazon says that this Halo feature is as accurate as methods doctors would use, and nearly twice as accurate as leading at-home smart scales.
This Halo feature better be good enough to overcome the propensity most of us have to protect our near-nude photos. Addressing this, Amazon promises that finished body scans stay on your phone and won’t be shared with anybody, including the company, unless you opt into that.
According to Amazon, “the images are processed in the cloud, but encrypted in transit and processed within seconds, after which they’re automatically deleted from Amazon’s systems and databases. All scan images are fully deleted within 12 hours. The scan images aren’t viewed by anyone at Amazon and aren’t used for machine learning optimizations.”
Frankly, this for me is the least interesting Halo of the Halo features.
The Tone feature uses machine learning to analyze energy and positivity in a users’ voices so that they can better understand how they may sound to others, thereby helping improve their communication and relationships.
The value of this Halo feature is supported, says Amazon, by the globally accepted definition of health that includes not just physical, but also social and emotional well-being.
For example, Tone results may reveal that a difficult work call leads to less positivity in communication with a customer’s family, an indication of the impact of stress on emotional well-being.
Tone may be a useful monitor of social and emotional well-being, but I have no interest in Amazon listening to my conversations, and then evaluating my mental/emotional state. That’s my mother’s job!
That said, apparently only your voice tones are recorded, not what you’re saying, and tone samples are encrypted and stored only on a wearer’s phone (shared from the band via Bluetooth with the encrypted key), are deleted after analysis and won’t be shared to the cloud or used to build machine-learning models.
Amazon Halo “Labs” are science-backed challenges, experiments, and workouts that allow users to discover what works best for them specifically, so they can build healthier habits.
As an example, a user might discover that cutting out afternoon caffeine improves sleep quality, or that a certain type of at-home workout is more effective than others.
A user can choose from labs created by Amazon Halo experts, as well as brands and personalities they already know.
As described by CNET, this Amazon Halo feature looks similar to what’s on Fitbit’s Premium service. Halo offers many multiweek health and fitness goals to opt into, and partners with a variety of services offered by OrangeTheory, Weight Watchers, etc:
American Heart Association
Exhale On Demand
Harvard Health Publishing
SWEAT WW (weight watchers)
Currently, Halo does not link with Apple’s HealthKit or Google’s Fit App which puts it at a disadvantage with people who are already invested in either for health tracking.
The Amazon Halo Band
Unlike smartwatches and fitness trackers, Amazon Halo Band doesn’t have a screen or constant notifications. Somehow Amazon pitches this as a good thing, because the band is less distracting bereft of a screen, they say.
The band itself looks a lot like a screenless Fitbit tracker, but with a few different elements: It has temperature sensing, , and a microphone that continually scans a wearer’s voice to determine emotional tone, as noted.
The small sensor capsule positioned inside the band against your skin delivers highly accurate data, and includes:
- an accelerometer
- A temperature sensor
- A heart rate monitor
- Two microphones
- An LED indicator light
- A button to turn the microphones on or off, among other goodies.
Other features of the Amazon Halo Band:
- Water resistant
- Comfortable fit — won’t snag or irritate at night
- Battery life up to seven days and fully charges in under 90 minutes. Customers can choose from Multiple fabric band colors
- Available on iOS and Android
Early Access and A Price Incentive
Customers in the U.S. can request early access to Amazon Halo.
I applied for early access on Amazon’s website:
That was three days ago, and I have yet to learn if I’m on the early access wait list.
During the early access period, Amazon Halo will be available for $64.99 including six months of Halo membership (regular price: $99.99). The membership automatically renews for $3.99 per month after the initial 6 months. The membership unlocks access to all Amazon Halo features; non-members will have access to the basics, including steps, sleep time, and heart rate.
If I do get the chance to buy Amazon Halo at a discount, will I do so?
Well, I’ve been looking for an affordable health tracker for some time now. I wanted one that can accurately track proxies for fitness, such as heart rate and accelerometer, and sleep. That the Halo offers the body fat measurement as well is a bonus, given that I don’t trust the accuracy of my body fat scale.
That said, I don’t see the advantage of not having a screen on the band. Unless you hold your phone during exercise, you won’t see real-time measurements.
Let’s see if I’m included in the early access pricing. I’ll make my decision then.
If you’re interested in the Amazon Halo, I suggest you quickly get on the “early access” list in order to capture the discount price.