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Samsung plunges into wearables with health focus

09 Jun 2014  | Rick Merritt

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Samsung Electronics will soon publish hardware and software interfaces for Simband, an open specification for a bracelet that can accommodate a wide array of fitness and medical sensors. Samsung's chief strategy officer Young Sohn gave a sneak peek of its wearable initiative at the annual Imec Tech Forum.

An alpha version of the Simband is already in the hands of about ten developers, mainly start-up companies. Sohn is also courting giants such as sensor maker Bosch whom he planned to visit on a swing through Europe.

"This whole area is in a very early stage and many start-ups need a platform, so our goal is to have 50-100 companies that plug into these interfaces," said Sohn.

Samsung will ship its own beta products at the fall event and anticipates commercial versions next year. It also aims to spend $50 million of its venture funds on start-ups who develop sensors or software for its platform.

So far it has announced two partnerships. The University of San Francisco will help validate its sensors, presumably at its medical school facilities. The Imec research institute is the first announced partner with a sensor, a multi-function device that measures electrocardiograms, bio-impedance, skin temperature, acceleration, and more.

"Think of it as Google Glass, our view of a wearable platform," said Sohn.


Figure 1: Samsung's Simband is an open specification for a bracelet that can accommodate an array of fitness and medical sensors.

Of course, Google already has its own recently announced platform called Android Wear. Sohn says Simband is not specifically tied to Android but will use Tizen and other mobile Linux variants including one developed by a software partner in England called TicTrac.

Samsung formally launched its initiative just days before Apple launched HealthKit and HomeKit, medical and home automation APIs in its iOS version 8. The APIs echo the name of the open-source WebKit software and leverage Apple's existing Made for iPhone programme, supported by chip and software companies including Broadcom, Cypress, Marvell, and many others.

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