back to article Alexa, am I having a heart attack? Here's how smart speakers could detect their masters spluttering to death

Digital assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home may be able to automatically detect when someone is having a heart attack, and call for medical help, one day, according to this latest research. Smart speakers are always listening for wake words, and recording everything they hear to improve their neural networks and …

  1. Stuart 18

    Doubt I'm the first...

    … definitely not to have 'thunk' it!

    "agonal breathing event" - "Oooh Yeah [baby]"-- non gender specific endearment of your choice!

    "Just there"

    1. Skizz

      Re: Doubt I'm the first...

      Oh good, wasn't just me that saw these reasearches as just a bunch of old pervs then.

      Womder if it'll be linked to the advertising platform?

      "oh oh oh"

      "Would you like some Durex Ultrasensitives with that?"

      Well, that would be better then:-

      "You seem to quite active this month, should I book an appointment with the clinic?"

      1. NATTtrash

        Re: Doubt I'm the first...

        I think that for the "oh oh oh" part you'll be pretty safe...

        I'm more worried about those lonely gentlemen...

        The system is based on a type of machine-learning algorithm known as support vector machine (SVM). It can be trained to listen out for the wheezing and gasping associated with shortness of breath...

    2. spold Bronze badge

      Re: Doubt I'm the first...

      ...unwanted responses....

      Alexa: may I suggest some music if this is the same person as last Tuesday...

  2. big_D Silver badge


    You are breathing it wrong!

    Mine's the one with a cone of silence* in the pocket.

    * read your Frank Herbert, you young whippersnapper!

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Siri...

      I was thinking more "Get Smart" but you'd have difficulty getting one of these in your pocket:

  3. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Think of the income stream

    This will be sold as 'public service' then eventually become a mandated thing.

    We can't have the data source (& upgrade cash) checking out before extracting every last penny possible.

  4. adnim Silver badge

    Rather die

    Than give a corporate kudos for saving my life.

    Viva revolution!!

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Dedicated monitors required

    It's almost touching to read this shit, but the ability to infer something because you've got an always on bug in the room, is not a good reason for having that bug in the first place!

    If you think that someone is likely to have problems then a monitor on their wrist or recorder next to their bed is the way to check. What is often not the case, however, is that monitors don't record the data, or at least not in a form that they can access, because there are indeed often events before a severe one that presage problems.

  6. Drew Scriver

    It'll be an "opt-out" feature...

    First you'll have to opt in. Then somebody dies, and Amazon will make it (or be forced to) opt-out. Wait for it.

    Generally speaking, with these smart devices, only one of you gets to be smart. Either the device, or you. But not both.

  7. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Not convinced

    If this is as successful as monitored burglar alarms have been, an ambulance won't actually be called until someone from a third party company has called you and asked "are you actually having a heart attack or is it a false alarm?" And I'm not prepared to be a key holder for this.

  8. Chozo

    Just out of curiosity...

    Over here in the UK ambulance response times can be a tad variable with patient in need of urgent attention sometimes waiting hours for help, so what's the situation like elsewhere around the globe?

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Just out of curiosity...

      >so what's the situation like elsewhere around the globe

      Where I live the response time is in the order of minutes with response being either the Fire Department EMTs or a franchised private ambulance system.. The nearest trauma center is a mile or so away. and its got good facilities for dealing with intensive care patients.

      The bad news is that I live in the US so that ride to the hospital is going to start at $500 and go up in fairly large increments. Setting foot in the Emergency Room for real starts the meter running so the bill for service there will be a minimum of several thousand. If you end up in Intensive Care....

      We do have insurance, although it varies from carrier to carrier. My insurance is through what's called a Health Maintenance Organization which is a vertically integrated provider that operates a bit like the NHS. This trades choice (increasingly an illusion, BTW) for managed costs -- I think the most I'll be called on to pony up per year is $1500. Like other insurers they do have reciprocal arrangements for emergency treatment so if I ended up in the local facility then I'd be transported to their facility once I was stable enough to move.

      The UK government seems to want to privatize the NHS, handing it over to large for-profit insurers and systems like United Healthcare. Their softening up process is to starve it of funding so its services get run down (they've done it for everything else....). Before you get conned into accepting this check out the HMO model; these systems are generally not-for-profit and are incredibly efficient. They're also quite popular.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Just out of curiosity...

      I live on a decent mainish route between two villages, the closest anyone has got to my house, is the track 100 metres to the south of my gate. Tha track takes them into the countryside where the wild pigs live.

      A Spanish ambulance in emergency mode seems to have a maximum speed of about 65 KMH (40 MPH), so I'm not planning on having ambulance worthy agonal breathing any time soon.

      As for smart speakers, I rate the normal two state speaker (on/off) as smart enough for me.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's nice, but could they make it administer a fast acting general anaesthetic directly into your cartoid artery?

    1. veti Silver badge

      We're still a long ways from that. But it'll come.

  10. Rol Silver badge

    Going to hell in a handy basket of apps

    This is why the world is so messed up - those dumb enough to buy the state and other agents of the devil's surveillance toys, are also getting a pampering service that keeps them living longer, while everyone else with a shred of sense has to rely on the neighbours noticing a strange rotting smell coming from your abode.

    As they say - the devil looks after his own - and hence Facebook's and Google's subservient masses are getting a proper looking after.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Going to hell in a handy basket of apps

      If trading some of your (increasingly illusory) privacy gives you a longer and richer life, why do you call it "dumb"?

      We've been making trade offs like that since before we were even humans. It's sometimes called "the social contract" - it's the same thing.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Going to hell in a handy basket of apps

      In The Marching Morons, we were never really treated to the details of the story of how they got there. But we do seem to be living the run up to it right now.

  11. martinusher Silver badge

    I do hope Alexa remembers to dial '999'....

    Although I've never tried it I reckon that '911' will probably work in the UK because its imprinted in the population by movies and TV.

    There's also supposed to be a '222' Euronumber but I don't know if that works in the UK at the moment (and post Brexit....).

    (BTW -- It may come as a surprise to many but the universal emergency services number is quite a recent innovation in the US. When I first arrived here in the 80s you had to call for service using a normal seven digit phone number.)

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: I do hope Alexa remembers to dial '999'....

      Here in NL the emergency number is 112 but 911 will work too. Looks like 112 is the European standard.

      112 is a single emergency telephone number that allows European citizens and travelers within EU to contact emergency services for assistance in all Member States.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: I do hope Alexa remembers to dial '999'....

      I hope they have the new number for Emergency Services...

      0118 999 881 999 119 725 ...3

  12. DougS Silver badge

    No chance you'd want to trust an advertising company with this

    The privacy policy for Amazon or Google is horrible. They'd use the information they collect from this to sell you anything from prescription drugs (in the US) to stop snoring solutions to cough drops.

    It pretty much has to be a dedicated medical device, or at least something that's sold AS a product, not something sold subsidized because YOU are the product.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: No chance you'd want to trust an advertising company with this

      ...and funeral plans!

  13. Nick Kew Silver badge

    A great thing in the right place

    Could be a lifesaver. Like those alarms recommended for old people who get a bit frail, that can summon help if they fall and can't get up.

    And therein lies the answer. I'd like to see this widely available, but as an enhancement to those old peoples' alarms. Not in a context like alexa or siri, where surely it's in direct conflict with the expectation that it needs a wakeup keyword before it'll pay attention!

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