Alexa and Aging: more on voice as THE interface for “SmartAging”

 Amazon Alexa & services it can trigger!

Amazon Echo & services it can trigger!

I predict every elderly person will soon have a personal home assistant, ready to respond to their every command.

However, that home health aide may not be human, but sit on the kitchen counter, and look suspiciously like Amazon’s breakthough IoT device, The Echo.

The late Mark Weiser, “the father of the Internet of Things,” famously predicted that “the best computer is a quiet, invisible servant,” and that’s certainly the potential with Echo, or the just announced Google Assistant (how sexy is that name? I like the fact it’s so impersonal. Let’s you fire one voice “assistant” and hire another without becoming personally attached, LOL), or the much-rumored Apple version, which might also include a camera (disclaimer: while I work part-time at an Apple Store, I ain’t privy to any inside dope, no way, no how).

That’s particularly the case when it comes to seniors, and my SmartAging vision of an IoT-based future for them combining Quantified Self health monitoring devices that can motivate seniors to improve their fitness levels, and smart home devices that can make it easier to manage their homes as they age, to avoid costly and soul-deadening institutionalization (or, even better, combining the two, as with one of my favorite IFTTT “recipes,”  programming your Jawbone to wake you gently at the best time in your sleep cycle, AND gradually turn on your Hue lights. How better for a senior — or anyone — to start their day on a positive note (OK, I know what you’re thinking: better turn on the coffee maker automatically!).

      KidsMD for Amazon Alexa

What really got me thinking about the advantages of a voice-activated future for seniors was a recent story about a similar app for the other end of the age spectrum, developed by our Children’s Hospital, for Alexa: KidsMD. What better for a harried mom or dad, with his or her hands full, AND a sick child to boot, than to simply ask for advice on temperature, fever and the like? That got me thinking that the same would apply to seniors as well, needing advice with some of the unwanted aspects of aging (I could mention here an example from a senior I care for, but that would be most unpleasant…). As I’ve said before, this would be helpful under any circumstances, but when the person needing help is a frail, tech-averse senior, it would be superb if s/he only had to speak a simple command or request to get needed help, or advice on something such as the proper amount of an over-the-counter drug to take.

There are tons of other life-improving reasons for such an approach for seniors, including:

Of course, and I can’t emphasize this enough, especially since seniors are already victims of so many scamming tricks, because these counter-top devices are always on, listening to you,  and because much of their possible use could be for reporting confidential health or financial data, privacy and security MUST be THE top priority in designing any kind of voice-activated app or device for seniors. Think of them as the canaries in the coal mine in this regard: protecting vulnerable seniors’ privacy and security should be the acid test of all voice-activated apps and devices for people of all ages.

Having said all that, as I noted in a piece last week about what a stunning combination of services Amazon has put together to become the dominant player in the retail IoT sector, one of those offerings is the $100 million Alexa fund to fuel advances in the voice-activated arena.  I’m ready to put their money where my mouth is  (LOL) in this regard, to design voice-activated devices and services for seniors.  If you’d like to partner, E-mail me!!

Amazon Leads IoT With Comprehensive Services, Platform & Devices!

Several months ago I predicted that Amazon’s Echo might become the IoT’s killer device, primarily because it is voice activated. It appears that prediction is coming true, which should give the entire consumer IoT a boost because Amazon is also providing a soup-to-nuts approach of devices, platform, and storage meeting a wide range of IoT needs, which puts a real emphasis on customer ease of use.

 Amazon Flywheel

Amazon Flywheel

Even more exciting from my perspective, is that part of that success may be due to something I was unaware of that fits beautifully with my “circular enterprise ” vision of the IoT: Jeff Bezos’ back-of-the-envelope sketch when he founded the behemoth, of what he called the “Amazon Flywheel,” It’s as good an illustration as I can think of regarding my vision of circular organizations and strategy — not to mention their profitability!

Even the WSJ got on board with an article about Amazon in regard to the IoT, although it focused solely on Echo and its voice app, Alexa, and ignored the all-important mechanics that it also provides.

 Amazon IoT Button

Amazon IoT Button

The latest step in fleshing out the ecosystem was the announcement earlier this month of the AWS IoT Button, modeled on its highly successful DASH button, which allows ordering more than 100 different consumer products from Amazon by simply pressing the button (the “button” is also now also available in virtual form as a software service, so that a number of products, such as a Whirlpool smart washing machine, will determine that the owner is running low on detergent, and automatically send an alert to her phone. A simple touch on the phone triggers a refill order from Amazon). The 1st edition IoT button sold out instantly!

It joins a comprehensive, and growing, package of IoT devices and services from Amazon that I suspect will quickly make it the platform of choice for the consumer IoT:

You get the idea: this is a conplete solution, from platform to cloud storage to devices to highly-personal (voice) interface.


 

And there’s that matter of the Amazon Flywheel that I mentioned previously.  I came across it in researching this post, in a blog post by John Rossman in which he referred to the Flywheel as “a long-tested systems dynamic view of Amazon’s core retail and marketplace business” (music to my ears: it was exposure to Jay Forrester & Peter Senge’s work on systems dynamics that first got me interested in cyclical processes, back in the late ’80s). He explains how this continuous loop leads to dynamic growth, especially in Amazon’s infrastructure offerings:

“When thinking through an IoT solution, what is most obvious is the end device.  But this is the classic “tip of the iceberg” in creating an end-to-end solutions.  The IoT Value Chain is defined by devices, connectivity, big data, algorithms, actions, and connection to the rest of the enterprise.  As more and more IoT Devices get introduced, a greater amount of data (both big and small) is generated. This data, once integrated with algorithms create a greater overall customer IoT impact generating more demand for more devices. All of these devices and services can be hosted on AWS and utilize their infrastructure capabilities leading to greater growth of the infrastructure. At this point, the loop looks familiar: infrastructure growth leads to lower costs, which means more services and companies rely on the infrastructure locking into a cycle of higher customer impact.  Amazon Web Services has several existing IoT enabling products include AWS Redshift, AWS Kinesis, AWS Machine Learning and recent acquisition of 2lemetry show that the big bet for Amazon is not in creating devices for its retail business, but in providing cloud infrastructure and software to thousands of companies needing to build IoT devices and capabilities.  This is the AWS IoT flywheel and the real business in IoT for Amazon.”

Yeah, but the bucks that it will get from Dash orders and from Echo ain’t shabby either. Keep up that cyclical thinking, Mr. Bezos!

 

PS: this also makes me more and more confident that Echo and Alexis can be the key to the robust “SmartAging” approach that I visualize because its use of voice will help seniors, especially the tech-averse, manage their health AND their homes and allow them to age in place healthily! Gonna have to get me some partners to go after Alexa Fund backing…

Blogarama - Government Blogs

#IoT saving the Amazon

Posted on 31st January 2013 in environmental, Internet of Things

As a passionate environmentalist who’s always looking for economical win-win solutions to thorny environmental issues, this one caught my eye!

Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors blogged recently about a great example of the IoT making a real difference, in this case in the Amazon (disclaimer: Chris is my co-organizer for a forthcoming Meetup for IoT people in New England, and he’s built me into a number of new business proposals), where two firms, Cargo Tracck  and Gemalto, teamed up to catch thieves who had switched from their former clear-cutting to more selective processes aimed at only high value trees:

“M2M modules optimized to operate in austere network and harsh physical environments in protected regions of the Amazon.  Devices are attached to trees.  A number of mechanisms are embedded in the devices to notify authorities when a tree from a protected/ managed region is harvested.  The solution operates in near-real-time, and has back-end services that have enabled authorities to more quickly apprehend poachers, keep the contraband off the market, and provide layers and layers of economic and quality of life benefits to a number of stakeholders.”

This reminds me of the project of creating a trillion-sensor  “central nervous system for the planet” including the rainforests that HP proposed several years ago as part of its CeNSE project but has not been willing to discuss recently (when I attempted to interview personnel for the project when I was writing my e-book about the IoT the company’s PR department flatly refused. Hmmm…).

One particularly interesting aspect of the program is that it uses a RED (Radiation Data Exchange) technology “that boosts effective operating ranges in austere power and network coverage environments.”  As Rezendes points out, using the RED system doesn’t rely on transmitting massive amounts of real-time data, which would create headaches in terms of big data processing and also would require larger energy supplies for the sensors. Instead, it reports “short bursty data” based on exceptions to the normal data, which would indicate out-of-the-ordinary occurrences such as harvesting of one of the trees.

Here’s how it works:

“Smaller than a deck of cards, the tiny tracking device is camouflaged in a resin case made to blend in with the trunks of trees. Ten of the devices were covertly installed in remote active harvesting areas deep in the jungle. In addition, specialized night vision cameras were installed in nearby trees to capture visual evidence of illegal logging activities. The sophisticated power management system of the Cinterion module provided superior power efficiency allowing the device to operate reliably in the field for over a year without recharging batteries. When lumber gangs harvested a tagged tree, the solution immediately began sending alarms to law enforcement officials. Cargo Tracck’s leading-edge geo-location algorithms, along with the R.E.D. boosters provided unprecedented location accuracy, delivering tracking data and alarm notification to officials as soon as harvested trees passed within 20 miles of a cellular network. This allowed officials to remotely track trees and intercept and arrest thieves in the act of selling timber at sawmills, which ultimately led to quicker prosecution.”

Is that kewl, or what?

As Rezendes points out, the system is a win-win one for all of the major publics concerned with the rainforests: residents, those licensed to responsibly harvest the trees, the government — and the planet.

Perhaps an ad hoc assemblage of discrete projects such as this one in the Amazon can achieve the vision of the “central nervous system for the planet” on the cheap.

Bravo, Cargo Tracck & Gemalto!