Senior Age Tech: Amazon Offers Care Hub For Elderly Parents
Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, can answer questions about the weather, or how to know when a turkey is done, or how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon.
What’s more, the interactive device responds to commands such as, “Alexa, preheat the oven,” or “Alexa, tell me a joke.” Now, with Amazon’s roll out of Care Hub, users can ask, “Alexa, what is my mother doing?”
Care Hub is a new venture for Amazon’s artificially intelligent Alexa that lets family members check on their aging loved ones from a distance. The free feature in the Alexa mobile app is designed for seniors who live independently in their own homes or an assistant living facility. The device is already being used in senior living centers and other facilities by way of third-party providers.
For this to work, older adults must have Alexa and agree to allow a designated family member to receive general information about their activities. Only one person at a time can use Care Hub to connect with their loved one.
The two Care Hub parties must establish a connection between their Alexa accounts through an invitation set-up process. The two accounts link to an Amazon Echo smart speaker or display which connects to Alexa.
Staying connected to family and having a “voice” that responds to requests may be just what some older adults need, especially those who are in self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic or whose senior residence managers are not allowing visitors.
Care Hub and Privacy
While a family member can check on a loved one, Care Hub will not provide specific information on the older adult’s activity feed. For example, when seniors play music, their children will not see which song they played or what they asked Alexa, they will only see they used “Entertainment,” according to Amazon. All activity is displayed by category.
Older adults can take control of their privacy, too. For instance, they can use Alexa’s privacy settings or go in the Alexa app to view, hear, and delete any of their voice recordings. Seniors can delete their recordings by saying, “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today.”
Using Care Hub in an Emergency
Seniors can use Care Hub in emergencies by asking Alexa to call for help. The voice assistant will call, text, or send a notification to the phone of a designated emergency contact, which could be an adult child or caregiver who can then call their loved one, or drop in through Care Hub, or dial 9-1-1.
A relative who may be connected to Care Hub, but is not the designated emergency contact, can still get an Alexa app notification when there is an emergency.
Alexa Connects With Other Smart Devices
Adult children, caregivers, or staff at a senior facility can show seniors how to integrate Alexa into their daily routines. And, once seniors get comfortable with the device, Alexa can provide a variety of support, such as setting up medication reminders on a command, such as: “Alexa, remind me to take my pills.”
Alexa can also link to compatible smart home devices, such as smart lights that the voice assistant can turn on with a command, such as “Alexa, turn on the lights.” In this way, seniors will not have to get up to turn on the lights.
The activities prompted by other smart devices connected to Alexa can add more signals into the activity feed. As an example, Amazon suggests setting up contact sensors on a medicine cabinet to receive a signal in the activity feed when the cabinet opens. However, those monitoring seniors will not see what they were doing in the medicine cabinet. The activity could indicate that they went to the medicine cabinet to get their medication when their Alexa reminder went off.
A smart doorbell can also add to the activity feed. For example, activity detected at the front door of a home that has a smart doorbell with a motion sensor, can feed into the alerts the same way as a motion sensor inside the home.
Alexa now has the capability of inferring requests customers make but do not directly express, according to Amazon artificial intelligence researchers, Anjishnu Kumar and Anand Rathi. For instance, if a user asks, “How long does it take to steep tea?”, the latent goal could be setting a timer for steeping a cup of tea.
With the new capability, Alexa might answer that question, “Five minutes is a good place to start,” then follow up by asking, “Would you like me to set a timer for five minutes?” This means that Amazon customers can take advantage of Alexa’s “sophisticated conversational experiences.”
“Amazon’s goal for Alexa is that customers should find interacting with her as natural as interacting with another human being,” Kumar and Rathi wrote in a blog post.