Samsung unveils platform and cloud to collect health data for wearables

James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Samsung on Wednesday introduced a platform to collect data and help the development of sensors that will go into products focused on digital health.

The Korean electronics giant made the announcement during a press event Wednesday in San Francisco. The company's invites said it wanted to begin 'a new conversation around the future of health.'

The company even teased a wearable health-tracking bracelet called Simband, though Samsung said it is an 'investigational device, not available for sale.' The device is more ambitious than current smartwatches on the market, like Samsung's own Gear Fit, and is essentially a guinea pig band that developers can use to contribute their own sensors, algorithms and technologies.

As far as possible capabilities, new sensors in acoustics, optics, and electrical generation will be able to sense materials in the air, and track glucose levels in a user's blood.

'Our goal is someday you have sensors that know much more about your body,' said Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer of Samsung.

Join CNET's liveblog of the Samsung health event.

The software platform, called SAMI, or Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions, will have open APIs that let outside developers and other partners, including the University of California at San Francisco, collaborate with Samsung. A digital bio-journal aimed at researchers and developers will give them access to highly-detailed data on the human body, along with analytical tools.

The news is the first major initiative to come from Silicon Valley-based Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center. The group -- which is a part of Samsung's components business, not the devices businesses -- was formed in Menlo Park, Calif., to create new technology, develop partnerships, and make investments into hardware. Young Sohn, the executive running the group, also serves as president and chief strategy officer of the Korean parent company, Samsung Electronics.

When forming SSIC, Samsung also introduced a $100 million investment fund, the Samsung Catalyst Fund, to boost its US footprint and spur innovation in areas related to cloud computing and mobile privacy. Healthcare has been one of SSIC's first big focuses. In February, it announced a partnership with the University of California in San Francisco to create new sensors, algorithms, and digital health technologies for preventative health.

Health has become a big focus area for companies across the tech sector. Several have introduced health-centric gadgets, such as the Samsung Gear Fit or Jawbone Up24, and countless others are working on smart glucose meters and similar products. Other companies see an opportunity to mine patient data or collect readings on individuals to predict when they'll get sick and tailor treatment.

Apple, Samsung's smartphone arch rival, is also said to be investing heavily in health and fitness, and the next generation of the company's mobile operating system, iOS 8, will reportedly have a strong health-tracking bent with an app dubbed Healthbook.

This is a developing story...


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