Samsung Puts Developers In Healthcare Driver's Seat

Samsung is hanging a $50 million carrot in front of developers, hoping they'll bite at the chance to tackle mobile and wearable healthcare apps. The company debuted a new set of platforms that lower the barrier to entry - but lock developers into Samsung's proprietary system.

The two-pronged attack is called the Samsung Digital Health Initiative. It contains the Simband reference hardware design and the SAMI -- or Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions - software architecture. Together, they are the foundation on which Samsung expects entrepreneurs to build the next generation of health apps.


Samsung created the Simband purely for developers. It won't be sold anywhere to anyone. The wearable, which goes on the wrist, has a modular design so developers can tinker with the functionality. They'll be able to tweak battery life, sensor placement, the form fator, and more. Though the Simband is the heart of the effort, it is really meant to collect and Parse data from advanced sensors that monitor heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and so on. It will then display that information a way that's friendly to consumers.


The other half of the project is called SAMI. Like the hardware Platform, this open, cloud-based software platform is meant to help cultivate apps and services based on what's collected and synced from the Simband. Though Samsung didn't spell it out, its home-grown Tizen platform is the basis for SAMI. Tizen is based on Linux and has its own developer channel. SAMI takes the health data and stores it securely online. The data will be accessible to the person who generated it, but won't be accessible by others.


The whole effort is aimed towards providing people with more information about themselves.


In order to further sweeten the pot, Samsung will help fund developers with good ideas. The Samsung Digital Health Challenge is backed by $50 million and is dedicated to innovative start-ups and technologies in the digital health area.


"Samsung’s Digital Health Initiative provides an exciting opportunity for the brightest minds in the technology world to come together to develop the products that will, for the first time, put individuals in the driver’s seat in understanding their own health and wellness," said Samsung's Young Soh in a statement. "At a time when healthcare spending is at record levels and when the number of people over the age of 60 worldwide is expected to exceed more than 1.2 billion by 2025, digital health is an incredibly important area for innovation. We believe this initiative is an essential first step and we invite developers and partners across the globe to join us in creating the technologies of the future that will help make people’s lives healthier."


Samsung was a bit short on important details, however. It didn't say anything about APIs or exactly what sensors are supported. It didn't specify how developers should approach the initiative, other than a generic sign-up page on its web site. The company also didn't say if the apps and services created will work with platforms other than its own. For example, will the Simband be able to send data to the iPad in a doctor's office, or will it be limited to Samsung's Tizen-based devices? These and many other questions remain unanswered.


Be sure to read the next Health article: Today in APIs: DocbookMD Links Physicians to Health Networks