Samsung lays roadmap for health-tracking wearables, starting with Simband

29 May 2014

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The design for Samsung's Simband, an 'investigational device'

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At an event in San Francisco, Samsung Electronics revealed its plans for the health-focused wearables market, though its early-stage products may well be blown out of the water by Apple next week.

At the event, Samsung Electronics president Young Sohn debuted the Simband, a wrist-worn healthtracker that, as it stands, has little to differentiate it from wearables already on the market.

The Simband contains a modular array of sensors to track things like heart rate and oxygen levels, and a snap-on battery that can be charged without having to remove the device. Inside, the Simband is powered by a 1GHz dual-core ARM A7 processor, and comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless connectivity.

Not only do these features offer nothing fresh to the wearables scene, the Simband is not even ready to enter the market any time soon. The device on show at the Samsung Health event was referred to as ‘investigational’ as some of its next-generation sensors are still in development and manufacturers are still trying to figure out how to keep the battery powered up 24/7.

SAMI

Thankfully, Samsung had more to talk about than an early-stage device, revealing much more extensive plans for the growing health-focused gadget market. The Simband is just one element of a healthcare platform Samsung plans to launch called Samsung Multimodal Architecture Interaction – or SAMI, if you want to use an acronym that bears only a passing resemblance to the actual title.

The SAMI platform encompasses both hardware, such as the Simband, and a cloud-based back-end to collect and sort through the data collected by these devices and other health sensors.

Samsung plans to release its healthcare APIs for developers later this year and took the opportunity last night to launch a US$50m digital health challenge to assist research groups working on healthcare tracking – be it hardware, next-generation sensors or data analytics.

All eyes on Apple

So, what possessed Samsung to reveal something that’s still at such an early stage of development? Well, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicks off next week, and the US tech supremo is expected to launch its own health-tracking wearable device coupled with a cloud-based health platform.

If this happens, Samsung has at least pre-empted Apple’s move by announcing its own intentions in this space. And, even though SAMI and the Simband might have a ways to go yet, it will likely be a more open platform than the iOS competitor.

Samsung sees wearable healthcare technologies as the next big consumer tech upheaval since the smartphone and, like the smartphone, it looks like Apple might just get in there first with the device that defines this market.

Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com