This article was provided by Mike Clark who blogs about Telecare, Telehealth, Telemedicine, mHealth, eHealth & digital health. For more content like this, follow him on Twitter @clarkmike.

Just imagine if you could speak to a device in your home and request anything from a pizza to a taxi to a bank statement and you could get an almost instant response?

Well, with Amazon Echo that is possible now in the United States.

Echo (with its trigger word ‘Alexa’) builds on similar voice-controlled approaches used in Siri (Apple) and Cortana (Microsoft) but can link directly into other supplier on-demand platforms with a simple voice command.

So, if you can call for services and expect a fast response, why not technology-enabled care services such as home sensor alerts and carer support when you need it?

Imagine the conversation - ‘Alexa, care please’ and the automatic response ‘Kate, will be with you in 7 minutes’.

The world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is moving very quickly.

It was thought that it would take another ten years for a machine to beat a human at the Chinese game of ‘Go’ – but it is happening now with Google Deepmind which has been designed to adopt an intuitive, human-like style of gameplay.

This form of deep learning uses large data sets, algorithms and neural networks to teach the AI how to perform a particular set of tasks.

Complex activities which are difficult to predict such as diagnosing a patient could then become much easier with AI.

Imagine that you could be chatting to a care robot in your home with emotional responses and artificial intelligence (AI) built in that also connects to a physical and virtual support network.

Well, the first of such robots are starting to appear.

So when we join some of these developments together we have the basis of technology-enabled care and virtual assistants that can learn about our needs and lifestyles and connect to services on demand – such as friends, families, healthcare practitioners and homecarers.

Indeed, when connected to personal and home monitors and your health records, AI could predict physical and mental health crises and take earlier action – for instance, your insulin pump sensor could communicate with your virtual diabetes nurse and await advice, a smartwatch could predict the possibility of a heart attack and call 999.

We already have situations where people search for symptoms on Google and your doctor has access to decision support, NICE guidance and thousands of journal articles.

Meanwhile, AI systems such as IBM Watson are working through thousands of pages of journal articles alongside medical records of people with particular conditions.

Of course, there are many ethical and moral challenges to address – what happens when your own AI virtual assistant powered by Google comes up with a different diagnosis from your doctor’s virtual assistant powered by IBM Watson?

The technology and its ability to learn means that we could have whole platforms supported by AI that connect your care, your home and your physical and virtual communities within the next 5-10 years – we should be thinking about the benefits & challenges now.