We’re used to hearing about new devices from Samsung. But today, the Korean company was in San Francisco to preview something slightly different: a major new digital health push.
Called “The Samsung Digital Health Initiative,” it’s a mix of hardware, software and partnerships. Samsung promises that it will “accelerate the development of advanced sensors, algorithms, and data collection and analysis.”
There were two major components of Samsung’s announcement. The first is “Simband,” an “open hardware” reference design that is essentially a modular collection of biometric sensors that could live in a watch band or conceivably in other wearables. Samsung says that developers (and the company itself) will use Simband to help develop products. However it will not be sold.
The second major component of the digital health initiative is called “SAMI” for Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions. It’s a cloud-based software platform that will ingest data from wearables and other inputs and manage that data in the cloud. “It will allow devices and sensors to securely store data in the cloud regardless of the source’s format or structure,” explains Samsung. “SAMI’s job is to make more information available, to break open information silos and give applications and services access to large amounts of data to provide better insights.”
Samsung says that only the subjects will have access to the data and not third-parties. While it might be beneficial to public health agencies and medical researchers to access the aggregate data Samsung repeatedly (and rightly) stressed individual privacy and security.
Beyond this, Samsung announced a $50 million fund to support and invest in “start-ups and technologies in the digital health area.” The company believes that by building a developer and partner ecosystem around this new “platform” that it will dramatically accelerate personal health and fitness monitoring as well as benefit healthcare as a whole.
Samsung’s vision is far more interesting and sophisticated than the “fitness trackers” of today. There are also broad public health implications if lots of people actively monitor and access these types of readings on a regular basis (e.g., chronic disease prevention).
In many ways this is what Google Health should have been or might have been had it only waited a few more years for the mobile era. Now Samsung is trying to get a jump on Google or Apple in building a similar “platform” and ecosystem for a next generation of health-related apps and experiences.
Data from wearables combined with cloud-based data analysis will permit us to monitor our bodies at levels of detail not previously available. This is one future for healthcare in developed countries.
In that future, we’ll all have our own dashboards reflecting our personal health analytics. And we’ll be checking them as regularly as a search marketer checks Google Analytics in an effort to continuously optimize individual health and well-being.