As it increasingly rolls out a digital health ecosystem to connect disparate devices and software platforms, Samsung could gain a distinct advantage over companies that are trying to solve one problem at a time.
At its second annual developers conference this month in San Francisco, Samsung made a big push to position itself as a thought leader and creator of innovative devices that serve key emerging markets, notably digital health.
The conference, whose focus also included smart home and virtual reality tools, introduced software development kits for these sectors, including the Samsung Digital Health SDK and a beta SDK for Samsung Smart Home. The company also released a Gear S SDK letting app makers create software that works with Samsung smart watches.
Samsung also touted Samsung Flow, an app of potential interest to multitasking clinicians, which allows users to access programs and information across its various devices. Using Flow, users could, say, start reading something on a phone and then switch to their tablets, or get notifications about incoming messages and calls—even on a Samsung TV.
Samsung's keynote also showed off the second generation of its Simband wearable reference design for future wearable devices. From its launch, the Simband contained sensors for measuring advanced health data, as well as the cloud-based Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (SAMI), which collects sensor data for use by consumers and providers. The second-gen version now includes extra embedded sensors and a new watch form factor. Samsung also released an SDK for the SAMI platform.
Obviously, even with its deep pockets, Samsung faces tough competition for control of the digital health space—notably Apple and Microsoft. It's hard to imagine that Google won't go full throttle into this area as well. (According to one analysis, it effectively already has. With its $3.2 billion purchase of smart thermostat company Nest, Google will ultimately be able to leverage the technology to connect medication bottles, scales, wearables and other digital health tools, according to the blog, Vector.)
But as it increasingly rolls out a digital health ecosystem which developers can use to connect disparate devices and software platforms, Samsung gains a distinct advantage over companies that are trying to solve one problem at a time. If it works as promised, the uptake on its reference wearables architecture and cloud-based SAMI data collection platform by entrepreneurs is likely to be high. While that doesn't guarantee success—much less domination of the digital health market—Samsung appears to be off to an excellent start.
Anne Zieger is a veteran journalist who’s been covering the U.S. healthcare scene for over 25 years. She provides “News with a Twist,” combining solid reporting with expert insights and analysis. Her opinions are her own. You can follow Anne on Twitter @annezieger.