Comcast reportedly expanding into health care with new smart speaker

Comcast is reportedly developing a smart speaker-like device similar to Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Nest Home speakers with a health assistant focus, anonymous sources told CNBC. The expansion into health care is a first for the home cable and internet company that has more than 20 million customers.

The ambient listening device will monitor things like frequency of trips to the bathroom and time spent in bed. Pilots may begin later this year, while the device will reportedly be made commercially available in 2020.

The device won’t search the web and do things like play music or search the web like other AI assistants, but it will speak, have a personality, and, unlike Google Assistant and Alexa, will be able to make 911 phone calls.

Also being made by Comcast are devices with sensors for fall detection. Apple Watch 4 can also detect falls and atrial fibrilation.

Comcast has implemented a number of services to makes its own offerings more like Google Assistant and Alexa, with features like voice control and the ability to control smart home devices from popular manufacturers like August, Ecobee, Philips Hue, and Nest.

The news follows the introduction of health care Alexa skills for Echo devices earlier this year. Amazon’s HIPAA-eligible skills are being used to do things like allow health care providers to schedule same-day appointments or check a patient’s latest blood sugar readings.

Specialized robots are also being made for patients to use at home, such as Mabu, a robot in trials with Kaiser Permanente congestive heart failure patients.

For health care professionals, Moxi is a robot trying to help address a shortage of nurses in hospitals, and Nuance Communications began to develop an AI assistant and smart speaker for doctors in 2017.

In other health care and AI news this week, Google’s Verily today established partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to begin clinical trials. On Monday, Google also shared a new AI model on average better than human radiologists with years of experience at detection of lung cancer.

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