Samsung Shows Prototype Health Wristband With Cloud Service

May 29, 2014 2:25 am ET

(Updates with analyst comment in sixth paragraph.)

May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled a prototype heath-monitoring wristband connected to a cloud-based service, which would allow consumers to share their statistics with developers of new mobile fitness applications.

The company demonstrated the device called the Simband, which can measure health indicators like heart rate and blood pressure, at an event yesterday in San Francisco. The Internet- based data platform is designed to promote consumer wellness and create a pool of information for digital-health researchers, the Suwon, South Korea-based company said.

“This is the beginning of our journey, the beginning of our platform,” said Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer of Device Solutions at Samsung. “What we need is a community of developers and disruptive technology players to work with us.”

Samsung, dominant in the maturing smartphone market, is now seeking to broaden its technology in wearable devices and is racing to put its stake in the ground in other new consumer technology areas like digital health. Global sales of smartwatches, glasses and medical products were about $10 billion last year and are forecast to triple by 2018, according to researcher IHS.

The wristband hardware platform would be open to other manufacturers to develop their own products, in the same way that chipmaker Intel Corp. and software maker Microsoft Corp. provided components to companies like Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. in the PC industry. Samsung said it also would create a $50 million fund to support third-party development for the device.

Exercise Regimes

“The smartphone business is clearly slowing so they are looking for new areas of growth,” Mark Newman, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “As the world continues to age and there is not enough doctors to go around, we are going to increasingly rely on personal-health gadgets.”

On the software side, a cloud data service called Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions would be a repository for information that consumers could opt to share with mobile app developers and which could deliver software that recommends exercise regimes or diets, among other things.

Samsung rose 1.9 percent to 1,460,000 won in Seoul. The stock has gained 6.4 percent this year, while the benchmark Kospi index is unchanged.

Testing Program

Researchers have expressed excitement about the wealth of data that fitness trackers and other digital health devices can collect from large pools of users, though such efforts have been stymied by a lack of common development and concerns about securing and sharing personal information.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Fit band and Galaxy Gear smartwatch can let consumers measure exercise routines and monitor some health indicators only as companions with the company’s smartphones and tablets. The prototype product would also be the first wearable health device to have a snap-on battery enabling continual use.

Samsung didn’t say how much the Simband would cost or when it might be available to manufacturers. The prototype features an ARM Holdings Plc dual-core processor, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connecting to and sharing data with other products. The company also didn’t give a time-frame for when the cloud service would be rolled out.

The company said it would open a testing program and deliver software development kits to outside developers by the end of the year.

--With assistance from Zeb Eckert in Hong Kong.