When Samsung’s Galaxy S5 went public in February at Mobile World Congress, a number of tech analysts (though liking Samsung’s Gear Fit fitness band) criticized the Galaxy S5’s heart rate monitor, saying that any serious health fanatic wouldn’t give the heart rate monitor the time of day.
Samsung’s recent actions indicate the company’s commitment to health, and Android’s largest manufacturer is out to prove the opposite: it is serious about health and improving the lives of its customers.
Making its announcement at the Voice of the Body event in San Francisco a few days ago, Samsung introduced two new devices: a Simband “investigational device” (according to the company) that comes with health sensors that track medical data and information. Samsung wants the Simband to become a brainstorm endeavor where other developers come along and add health sensors to the device as well.
The last introduction at Voice of the Body wasn’t a device, but a program called Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions (or SAMI), that will bring together Samsung and a number of third parties in an effort to track the data of users that is then collected and used in the creation of other health apps. We imagine that this user data will be used to help build other medical and health apps that will enhance the human condition.
Some analysts believe that Samsung’s Simband and SAMI introduction this week were nothing more than the company’s attempts to pull out in the health department ahead of Apple’s iWatch, but this response seems overly critical. Samsung’s heart rate monitor in the GS5, not to mention its Galaxy Gear and Gear 2 smartwatch offerings, track the steps walked, calories burned, and heart rate of Samsung users who engage those devices. Keep in mind, too, that Samsung did introduce its own Galaxy Active line with the Galaxy S4 Active, a device that Samsung designed specifically for the health-conscious among us. Apple’s never released a smartphone specifically intended for health-conscious customers, although Apple was quick to show in a recent commercial that the iPhone 5s can monitor your heart rate, too.
The Simband’s uses are endless, but some of these relate to measuring heart rate and determining regularity or irregularity of a heartbeat; monitoring blood flow, body fat, and hydration levels; stress levels by way of measuring the electrical levels of the skin; and skin temperature, as well as blood pressure and other vital signs that can indicate a health problem is on the horizon. To add to its health-conscious endeavor, Samsung looks to invite third-party developers to create health apps and is teaming up with the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), and IMEC to improve its Simband and SAMI program over time. Health activity tracker TicTrac will work with Samsung to make sure that health data is used to provide accurate health information. In other words, Samsung’s new Simband may go a step further in providing an on-the-wrist doctor should the need arise in the future. The company has also pledged $50 million towards digital health research to help startup companies who want to advance innovation in the area of digital health.
Samsung’s announcements come just as the Lancent Medical Journal published a study that finds that approximately 2.1 billion world citizens are considered to be obese or overweight. While there are no direct indications that obesity leads to disease and sickness, some studies say that those with an overgrown wasteline have a higher risk of diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart attack. The genetically disabled, those who have a family history of these illnesses, could still suffer them – even if they are within an ideal weight range.
While the Simband is an up-and-coming project for Samsung, the Korean manufacturer looks to debut its Gear Solo smartwatch this summer. The Gear Solo operates as a standalone smartwatch that doesn’t need a smartphone or Bluetooth connection to let you check emails, send text messages, and browse the Web. It will come with Samsung’s own manufactured SIM card, and the company is currently talking to carriers worldwide about enticing customers to invest in the Gear Solo by way of a small upfront fee with a two-year agreement.