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Samsung plunges into wearables with health focus

09 Jun 2014  | Rick Merritt

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Samsung may be a bit late to the revolution but it brings big guns and will attract followers, said veteran technology analyst Richard Doherty, principal of Envisioneering. "Samsung has clearly lowered the bar to entry by using its semiconductor and manufacturing clout to deliver a very powerful biomedical sensor array," Doherty said.

Sohn has his personal chops, too. The EE earned an MBA at MIT, then spent ten years at Intel before rising to lead a string of companies including Agilent.

He served on the boards of ARM, Cadence, and Cymer and was brought in as CEO to take start-up Inphi Corp. public. Now he is taking his corporate firefighter role to the next level at the world's largest electronics company, helping lead an important next stage of its mobile battle with Apple and others.

Simband chip

Figure 2: Simband includes a 14x34mm GHz-class SoC with two ARM Cortex A7 cores, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

To the tricorder and beyond

Donald Jones also wants to drive this revolution. While helping Qualcomm establish its digital health group, he created a $10 million competition to see who could create a real tricorder, the fictional gadget used to diagnose and treat everything from illnesses to gunshots in the TV series Star Trek. Winners will be picked in 2016.

Now as the chief digital officer of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, Jones works with dozens of mainly start-up companies already making tricorder-like gadgets or apps for treating diseases such as diabetes or heart disease or asthma or for simply delivering medications in a better way. The sector has become the fastest growing area for venture capitalists and a magnet for crowdsourcing, Jones said.

"We think watches will be a convenient way to interact with medical devices... smart patches are a billion-plus unit opportunity... [and] bodies will be nodes on the Internet," Jones said in a presentation at the Imec event.

Not everyone wants a revolution in medicine.

"Consumers are ready, the real question is whether traditional medicine is ready—but consumers will push it over the top," Jones said, giving examples of gadgets and apps already attracting millions of users.

"When the consumer has transparent information about quality, convenience and ratings for health care providers, governments will have to start responding," he said. But "borders around practicing medicine will blur, and governments will have trouble with it," he predicted.

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