Amazon Echo can now inform, motivate Fitbit users

By Jonah Comstock
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Amazon Echo, the company's Bluetooth speaker that doubles as a voice control hub for connected home devices and services, can now tell Fitbit users about their sleep, activity and weight, the companies announced today. Amazon Echo's personal assistant component goes by the name, Alexa.

“Our integration with Alexa gives you hands-free access to your data, so you can find out when you walk in the door at the end of the day what your step count is in seconds, and know if you need to go on a quick walk before dinner," Tim Roberts, Executive Vice President, Interactive at Fitbit, said in a statement. "As we look at how this integration could evolve in the future, there is an endless world of possibilities from fitness coaching and nutrition tips, to guidance before bedtime to help you get a more restful night’s sleep.”

Although there's a certain convenience factor of the hands-free device, the integration is more about offering Fitbit users a new way to interact with their data -- one that's casual and conversational. Users can ask Alexa: "How did I sleep?" or "How am I doing on steps?". Alexa will respond not just with data but with a small motivational message tailored to the time of day.

The integration will work with all Fitbit's wearable trackers, since it's tied through the Fitbit app. Fitbit previously had voice interaction through an integration with Microsoft Cortana, but that was more about users logging food and activity by voice, rather than using voice interaction to check up on their activity. So far, Fitbit is not integrated with Google Voice or Siri.

Fitbit's API has allowed it to integrate with everything from smart desks to smart water bottles, as well as retail businesses like Walgreens and Dick's Sporting Goods and a number of other apps.

Amazon's Echo has been something of a surprising hardware win for the company. It's now their third-bestselling device, and they just introduced two new products in the Echo line: a smaller device, called Echo Dot, for those who are more interested in the voice control hub than the speaker, and a portable version of Echo called Amazon Tap. Both will work with the new Fitbit integration.

"We’re thrilled to add the Fitbit skill to our Alexa-enabled devices—this skill brings a whole new level of convenience for customers who are looking for new ways to keep track of their health and fitness goals,” Rob Pulciani, Director of Amazon Alexa, said in a statement. “With the recent launches of Amazon Tap and Echo Dot, even more customers will have access to unique and helpful Alexa skills such as this integration with Fitbit. More experiences are moving to voice, and it’s only going to get better for our customers.”

So far, Alexa is far from a fitness coach, but the technology could be headed that way. In an interview with Forbes, Roberts said the future of the integration could lead to Alexa adapting her motivational style to users' needs, being more encouraging or more demanding, depending on what users want. But he was careful to say they wouldn't go too far -- I'm guessing we shouldn't expect anything like the snarky, trash-talking Carrot motivational app any time soon.