Samsung looks beyond fitness, into chronic disease management for S Health

By Jonah Comstock
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Samsung SimbandSamsung launched its open access development platform, which include SAMI on the software side and SimBand on the hardware side, last month. The challenge for the consumer electronics company now is to get a critical mass of developers on board with the platform to drive consumer adoption.

"Our vision at Samsung is to empower people, to improve their lives through our digital health platform," Samsung Chief Medical Officer and VP for Global Healthcare David Rhew said from the keynote stage at the mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Maryland. "We know that, while we can do a significant amount in this area, we can’t do it alone. That’s really why we’re here at mHealth. We're counting on developers, mHealth companies, other key stakeholders, to help us create an open ecosystem so we can develop, test, validate these solutions and ultimately improve health outcomes through patient engagement."

Samsung's open platform goes significantly beyond the parameters of Apple HealthKit or Google Fit. On the sidelines at the event, Rhew told MobiHealthNews that as well as being a platform for developers to share data, Samsung's initiative adds a hardware infrastructure and the capacity for developers to share and build upon one another's algorithms. 

"While software is great and is very important, creating an actual hardware platform, an open reference design is important as well, because that allows developers to be able to manipulate sensors, and look at battery life, and create and innovate in that using this new hardware infrastructure," Rhew said. "I don’t know of too many or any of these open hardware platforms. And that’s an interesting piece... that was launched because we wanted developers to help us with these important things like how many sensors can we put in, what type of sensors, how do we improve the battery life, the usability, the overall experience. And that’s stuff that we’re going to continue to work on but we also leave it open for others to figure out."

Additionally, while other platforms are largely smartphone focused, Samsung's ecosystem works across its devices including phones, tablets, wrist wearables like the Gear Fit, and even the new Gear VR virtual reality device developed in partnership with Oculus Rift.

Rhew also stressed that S Health, which began as a consumer fitness application, was increasingly moving into the chronic disease and medical side. The company plans to make S Health work on the enterprise side, with hospitals and physicians, and is hoping that the open developer platform will promote those innovations as well as those that are consumer focused. That's the reason for the company's FDA clearance at the beginning of the year.

"At the core, it’s still about fitness and health and general wellbeing, but at the same time we’re exploring how we can apply this for patients that may have chronic diseases or may be those that perhaps we need to, provide other types of devices and applications that connect with the S Health application," he said. "We are trying to find ways to build on it. You have to start somewhere and we started with fitness. We’re finding that the opportunities go beyond that."