has captured our attention and spurred us into action.
Amazon: The New Leader in Digital Health?
June always tends to be a heavy month for innovative new technology. In the last few weeks we’ve seen new gadgets from Apple, Google, and Amazon, all preparing to get beautiful new experiences that allow for incredible functionality into the hands of their customers.
This year, in the heat of wearable fever, there has been an increased focus on the potential for healthcare and health data applications that make use of new sensor technology in our devices. Tech companies are looking for ways to track not only steps and calories but also things like heart rate, lung function, metabolism, and other rich health data that both consumers and doctors can make use of. Wearables like the NYMI concept (my personal favorite) and data aggregators like Apple’s forthcoming Healthkit and Google’s Fit, are about to make us more aware than ever before of all of our personal physical issues. Oddly enough, of the tech giants, only Amazon left healthcare-specific functionality out of their new product announcement. The new Fire Phone is the company’s first and, as such, the pitch focused on building a sleek device, with powerful specs and a user experience that truly integrates Amazon’s core competency, shopping.
Despite the lack of explicit healthcare functionality, articles like this one from Venture Beat have already been speculating about how one of the phone’s most unique features could be used for advanced healthcare applications. Fire Phone includes something called dynamic perspective that uses four sensors on the phone’s face to track head and eye position and movement to display certain information in 3D. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this feature since Apple ended up making a lot of people sick when they tried to do a shifting perspective. However, the acute motion tracking does allow for some interesting capability on the healthcare front that can differentiate the Fire Phone in this market.
So let’s examine, shall we?
What makes the Fire Phone’s sensors stand out among the crowd is that they don’t really cater to patient self-care like the options from Apple and Google. Rather, the Fire Phone’s capabilities seem tailor made for doctors to get unique insight in ongoing treatment. Imagine a patient seeing a dermatologist for an irregular mole. Rather than wait 5 months and come back for a follow-up, the doctor could simply install an app on the patient’s phone and have the patient take pictures periodically through the app. Along with the visual that would allow doctors to examine surface-level data, the Fire Phone’s sensors would include data about height, width, placement, etc., on a user’s body, and could (theoretically) compose a 3D scan of the afflicted area for the doctor to manipulate. This would allow patients and their care team to communicate and manage treatment on a very personalized and advanced level.
The article also mentioned uses for home-based physical and neuro-therapy. Now, while I hesitate to compare this phone to the technology in the Microsoft Kinect, I do agree there is some potential for therapeutic benefit. I can see this technology succeeding as a sort of advanced Lumosity-esque program, where patients who have suffered head trauma or brain injury use the advanced sensors and 3D display to play games that stimulate neural activity or work core facial muscles. Though technology is becoming more and more central to the recovery process, I can’t really see the Fire Phone becoming a program in and of itself, but rather an adjunct piece for on-the-go therapy. Despite the incredible sensor capabilities and the beautiful display, the device is still a phone and thus (arguably) can’t create a truly immersive experience like virtual reality or even console/TV applications.
This is definitely an area that pharmaceutical brands can use to enhance their brand value among both doctors and patients, especially in categories where the disease manifests itself visually and on the surface. The important part for marketers like us will be to ensure that the technology has a practical application that enhances treatment and makes sense coming from a brand. It will be interesting to see how health-centric developers build on this technology and we will certainly keep an eye out for any updates on the Fire Phone and any early projects.
Let us know your reactions to the new Amazon Fire Phone and what you think it might be used for in the comments!