Amazon Might Be Working on an Alexa-Enabled Sleep Apnea Gadget

Illustration for article titled Amazon Might Be Working on an Alexa-Enabled Sleep Apnea Gadget
Photo: Grant Hindsley/AFP (Getty Images)

Amazon might be working on an Alexa-enabled device that could potentially track sleep and detect sleep apnea, according to a Business Insider report.

Advertisement

Citing anonymous sources and an internal Amazon document, Business Insider claims the device is about the size of a person’s palm and looks like a hexagonal pad with a metal wire base. It’s meant to be placed on a person’s nightstand. The interesting bit is that the device will purportedly be contactless, utilizing millimeter-wave radar to track breathing and movement during sleep to detect whether someone may have sleep apnea. The device will probably also connect to other devices, as well as have a companion app for notifications. Internally, the project is supposedly called “Brahms”, after the composer Johannes Brahms. You know, the guy famous for writing lullabies, possibly because he, too, suffered from obstructive sleep apnea.

The report goes on to note that in the past year, Amazon has expanded the team responsible for building this device, and plans to build a “sleep-analysis” program that goes beyond sleep apnea.

Gizmodo reached out to Amazon regarding Business Insider’s report but did not immediately receive a response.

If true, this isn’t terribly surprising news. In recent months, Amazon has signaled many times that it’s interested in expanding its healthcare and wearable tech business. Since November, Amazon has launched its Amazon Pharmacy service, added fitness tracking features to its Echo Buds, and also launched Halo, its very first fitness tracker.

The fact that Amazon may be targeting sleep apnea also makes sense. Sleep tracking devices aren’t new, and to set itself apart, Amazon would likely offer a feature that currently isn’t available. Of the medical conditions that health and wearable tech might be able to detect, sleep apnea is still up for grabs, affects an estimated 22 million Americans, and isn’t particularly easy to officially diagnose. Apple claimed its stake on atrial fibrillation via an ECG app way back in 2018 with the Apple Watch Series 4—and it took until 2020 for Fitbit and Samsung to catch up. Samsung has focused heavily on monitoring blood pressure. Meanwhile, Fitbit has been banging on about potentially detecting sleep apnea for years now, starting with the introduction of SpO2 sensors in its Ionic smartwatch. However, it wasn’t until early 2020 when it finally released its Estimated Oxygen Variation metric. At that time, Fitbit noted it was seeking FDA-clearance for a sleep apnea detection feature. Withings also announced its ScanWatch smartwatch last year, which also claimed to detect sleep apnea, though it’s still pending clearance from the FDA. Here we are a year later, and crickets.

Advertisement

On top of that, sleep tracking has become an increasingly desirable feature, despite questions about overall accuracy. Apple finally added native sleep tracking with watchOS 7 in 2020. Recovery-focused, sleep tracking wearables like Whoop and the Oura Ring also nabbed headlines last year, partly because these devices were being used in studies to see whether they could detect covid-19. In any case, the global market for sleep tracking devices is expected to grow nearly 16% to $43.5 billion by 2026. You know Amazon wants a piece of that.

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

DISCUSSION

Oh hell no. I don’t want Amazon to have my sleep data. Or any medical data from me.

As someone with sleep apnea, your medical privacy is at risk every time you go to sleep as most modern apnea machines have internet access and are sending your data to someplace in the cloud.

Is it a big risk to have that? Yeah. Sleep apnea is an indicator of risks of heart disease, COPD, Asthma, diabetes risk, obesity, etc. And what do you think Amazon would do with your account information (assume you also use their pharmacy services they’re wanting to have) regarding your purchases and preferences?