The cable giant everyone loves to hate is reportedly planning to expand into a hardware category dominated by Amazon and Google, with a device along those lines coming as soon as next year.
Comcast has been working for more than a year now on a healthcare-focused device described as similar to the Amazon Echo, which the company hopes to start a pilot test for later this year. That’s according to a Tuesday report from CNBC, which notes that the device as envisioned wouldn’t be used for tasks like turning on lights or surfing the web.
Instead, it would rely on ambient sensors to monitor user health. The idea being that it could see, for example, whether you’re getting up too often at night when you’re supposed to be sleeping to go to the bathroom — or, speaking of the bed, whether you spend too much time there. The device might also be useful in detecting when a user has slipped and fallen.
This project is apparently far enough along that Comcast is not only at work on the hardware but in talks with large hospitals like Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, according to the CNBC report. Reportedly of interest is the possibility of using the device to help cut down on frequent hospital re-entries by patients, which is something the federal government penalizes hospitals for when that happens too often.
This device wouldn’t be the first hardware offering from Comcast outside of the cable and Internet service it’s better known for among the general public. But while it has other products focused on areas like home security, this would be the company’s first direct foray into health care — an area the company has had its sights on for a while now, as its partnership launched last year with insurer Independence Health Group indicates.
One obvious challenge, of course, is that moving into health care pits Comcast against established competitors like Amazon and Google. That’s while Comcast is often mentioned as among the most “hated” companies in America, certainly a potential obstacle in getting users to feel comfortable enough to bring this into their home.