Merck Aims to Harness Capabilities of Amazon Alexa to Tackle Type 2 Diabetes with Alexa Diabetes Challenge

On April 10, pharmaceutical giant Merck announced the launch of the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, a competition aimed at encouraging the development of software applications that use Amazon’s Alexa technology to help patients with a recent diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. The competition builds upon Merck’s exploration of the capabilities of Amazon Lex, the machine learning technology that undergirds Amazon Alexa by facilitating the development of “conversational interfaces” for applications, to enhance and enrich capabilities to manage and ameliorate chronic diseases. Kimberly Park, Vice President, Customer Strategy & Innovation, Global Human Health, Merck, remarked on the significance of Merck’s usage of Amazon Web Services to address chronic diseases as follows:

Merck has a deep heritage of tackling chronic diseases through our medicines, and we have been expanding into other ways to help, beyond the pill. We are excited to leverage the AWS Cloud to find innovative ways to leverage digital solutions, such as voice-activated technology, to help support better outcomes that could make a difference in the lives of those suffering from chronic conditions like diabetes.

Here, Park comments on Merck’s expansion into modalities of treatment that range “beyond the pill” in what amounts to a disruptive expansion of the company’s traditional business model. Powered by Luminary Labs and sponsored by Merck, the Alexa Diabetes Challenge will provide incentives for selected applicants to use Amazon Alexa as well as Amazon Web Services. In the first round of the competition, five entrants will be awarded $25,000 in addition to $100,000 in AWS credits. The entrants will subsequently receive access to mentoring resources about their proposed solutions and have the opportunity to further develop and refine their apps before vying for the grand prize of $125,000. The Alexa Diabetes Challenge illustrates increased interest in exploration of the intersection of machine learning, cloud computing and healthcare on the part of both technology companies as well as healthcare organizations and pharmaceutical firms. Moreover, in the case of AWS, the collaboration with Merck underscores Amazon CEO Bezos’s interest in embracing the contemporary trend of machine learning and artificial intelligence as elaborated in a recent letter to AWS shareholders. Learn more about the Alexa Diabetes Challenge here.