Did Amazon’s Alexa Just Become a Lifesaver?

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Sure, accessing games and music on your smart home device is entertaining. Setting timers and alarms is useful.

Checking your calendar, the weather, and calling an Uber are convenient. But did you ever consider that your digital smart home assistant could actually help save your life, or the life of a friend or family?

That day might be here.

Amazon and the American Heart Association have announced new Alexa skills that can help users learn more about the warning signs for a heart attack and for a stroke, and that can provide instructions for using CPR.

In an emergency, the actions of those on scene, before the medical professionals arrive, could mean the difference between life and death, so this is an awesome addition to the Alexa skill family.

With more and more homes adopting the use of this voice-controlled, connected smart home assistant, it’s great to see it becoming more useful in practical ways. We’re starting to see what happens when we think about smart home technology beyond entertainment purposes.

While the skill is not perfect, it is a great start. One thing that I’d like to see in a future update is the distinction between the warning signs of heart attacks for women versus men. The symptoms are very different, and it’s important that both sexes’ symptoms are addressed.

This is not only a move in the right directions toward saving lives, it’s also crucial to prevent undue panic or misdiagnosis (we all know how damaging self-diagnosis based on Internet information can be).

In order to use this skill, as with any Alexa skill, the user must first activate the skill. This is done in the Alexa app on a smartphone or tablet, or by saying “Alexa, activate the skill American Heart Association.” Once activated, simple voice commands can bring the information to the ears of anyone in the home.

Users just need to say something like “Alexa, ask American Heart Association how to perform CPR,” “Alexa, ask American Heart Association to tell me the warning signs of a heart attack,” or “Alexa, ask American Heart to tell me the warning signs of a stroke.”

These commands will make sure that the information that is being given is the actual, factual information from the American Heart Association, and not from other skills.

Strokes and heart attacks happen daily in America, in public and in private homes. It is most dangerous to have a stroke or heart attack at home, since you may be less likely to receive medical attention or CPR while you wait for medical personnel to arrive. Many times, this is simply because those nearby don’t know how to respond.

This Alexa skill can help. The first thing the skill will do is remind people to call 911 in an emergency; this may sound silly but people can forget what to do once an emergency hits. The skill doesn’t just shout out orders either, it assumes the person in the emergency might have trouble thinking straight and offers to bridge that gap with information like give chest compressions to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive.”