Skip to main content

New Samsung Fitness Tracker Paves Way for Wearable Health

The Samsung Simband
Ram Fish, Samsung's vice president of digital health, showed off a prototype of the company's Simband at a San Francisco event on May 28. (Image credit: Rachael Rettner for Live Science)

SAN FRANCISCO — Imagine being able to check up on your body like you would a car — by viewing a dashboard summary of your vital signs and overall wellness, so you could know if something was wrong before seeing a doctor. Or what if you could find out how much your new exercise regimen decreased your risk of a heart attack?

Those tools may not be here yet, but technology giant Samsung says it wants to bring the world closer to such an era of wearable technology used for personalized medicine.

Yesterday, the company announced a new prototype wrist-worn fitness tracker, as well as a software platform that can run programs and would aggregate all the measurements from many different devices. Both the fitness tracker and the software platform are "open," meaning third parties can access them and use them to build new sensors or design new applications to analyze health data.

"We want to provide a platform to accelerate the speed of innovation," Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer at Samsung, said at an event here at the SF Jazz Center yesterday (May 28). [The Best Fitness Trackers (Full Reviews)]

The fitness tracker, called Simband, is not a commercial product, so consumers won't be able to buy it. Rather, it is a blueprint of sorts, intended to serve as a reference for the design of future wearables. Designed in sections, or modules, it lets other companies integrate their own sensors. The open platform will allow for the inclusion of sensors that no one has even imagined yet, said Ram Fish, vice president of digital health at Samsung.

Sensors in the works include PPG sensors to measure changes in blood flow and to monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, as well as ECG sensors to monitor the rate and regularity of the heartbeat. Fish demonstrated how a Simband prototype could continuously monitor heart rate and other vital signs.

The Simband could be charged with an attached "shuttle battery" while the user wears the device, Fish said.

Samsung's vice president of digital health speaking about the Simband. (Image credit: Rachael Rettner for Live Science)

The cloud-based open-software platform, called Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (SAMI), would allow a variety of devices and sensors to store data securely in one place. Developers and scientists could create algorithms to analyze the data and make  new insights, Samsung says. The personal data stored in SAMI would still be owned by the individual and remain totally secure, like money in a bank.

SAMI would allow your many health and environmental sensors to collaborate in the cloud. For example, your fitness tracker usually can't communicate with your thermostat, but through SAMI, developers could design an app to turn the temperature down when you come back from a run, Samsung said.

Samsung has partnered with the University of California, San Francisco to work on validating the technologies and algorithms that come out of the project, to ensure the technology is accurate. This will let health care professionals know they can rely on the devices, said Dr. Michael Blum, a cardiologist and associate vice chancellor for informatics at UCSF.

"This is a really exciting time for the medical community to engage with Silicon Valley," Blum said. "We can collect massive new datasets" to develop new understandings about how the human body works, he said.

Samsung said that SAMI and the Simband reference design would be ready by the end of the year.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.