On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission gave the e-commerce giant approval to make bedside radar devices that would track how we toss and turn at night. And while Amazon puts the best face on innovation, it’s still about those ad dollars.
Bloomberg was first to notice that the agency had quietly filed one note which authorized the e-commerce giant to develop and distribute an “unlicensed radar device” intended to track nearby movements. This was in response to one first request which Amazon submitted to the agency almost three weeks ago, where the company described the vision for “Radar Sensors”. These devices, Amazon said, would shoot high-frequency radio waves to map the movements of everyone nearby.
And because the FCC is the federal body responsible for polish the air waves, Amazon var legally obliged to get the go-ahead before they started marketing this as yet unlicensed radar unit.
“By capturing motion in a three-dimensional space, a radar sensor can capture data in a way that enables non-contact device control,” Amazon wrote. “As a result, users can engage with a device and control its functions through simple movements and gestures.”
This type of non-contact device control, Amazon went on to explain, can be a gift for disabled or elderly customers who cannot use the company’s giant of voice-assisted assistants because they cannot speak. And Amazon is absolutely right. Despite the ever-growing list of privacy and Safety concerns packed with Echos and Alexas, we have already seen that these devices can be life-changing for people who are blind or wheelchair bound. Amazonas done his best to make these devices equally accessible to the deaf or hard of hearing, but there is only so much you can do when these tools are based on speech.
Thanks to this supplement, Amazon has free rein to roll out a new version of the echo that allows you to set alarms or turn off your TV with a nod or a hand wave or – maybe! hopefully! -sign language. It’s an objectively fantastic idea! Less amazing was the other reason Amazon wanted this supplement: contactless sleep tracking.
“These devices will allow users to estimate sleep quality based on movement patterns,” Amazon wrote in first archiving. “The use of radar sensors in sleep tracking can improve awareness and management of sleep hygiene, which in turn can provide significant health benefits for many Americans.”
Amazon’s pitch sounds almost like that from countless sleepy starters with names like Beddit or SleepScore operating in the area “nearables. “As you can probably guess from the name, these are the kind of sleep trackers that sit on your bedside table or pillow while you sleep (instead of on your wrist) and monitor the movements in the middle of your sleep to see how ~ relaxing ~ your rest actually was. It makes sense in theory, but to extrapolate someone’s sleep quality from their general movements is super controversial among mortals in the sleep research community. Critics will point out that data obtained from nearby radars may be inconsistent-or completely wrong in some cases – and so will those who work in the field completely agree that the sleep technology industry needs to standardize its scoring systems.
In other words, the “significant health benefits” that Amazon promised the FCC when they juice its sleep-tracking radar technology could have been a bit exaggerated.
Amazon, on the other hand, gets some very real benefits from this deal. Adding sleep tracking to technology means that Amazon is one step closer to offering all the same watches and whistles you will get from the two undisputed masters in the world of health monitoring: Apple and Google. Last summer, Amazon took an even bigger step then introduced The Halo band, a durable bracelet meant to go toe-to-toe with the Apple Watch, or the Google-owned Fitbit. (It did not. At all.)
Amazon’s original FCC archives describing sleep tracking technology are predictably unclear on the details, and the company has not yet responded to our request for comment. However, because the data retrieved from this type of device tends to fall into a weird legal gray area, and because Amazon is … Amazon, it is worth assuming that your sleep habits are transformed into ad-targeted feed soon enough.