If LG hopes to compete seriously with the deep-pocketed tech giants entering the digital health space, it will have to pull more than one rabbit out of its hat.
In a likely bid to unseat rival electronics maker Samsung, South Korean technology giant LG Electronics has gotten an FDA 510(k) clearance for a product called "LG Smarthealth." The move follows in the footsteps of Samsung, which got a related clearance for its S Health app last year, reports mobihealthnews.
To date, LG hasn't been publicizing the existence of Smarthealth on its website, but a number of its G3 smartphones do include LG Health, which tracks a range of activities including walking, running, cycling and inline skating, as well as and allowing users to set calorie or activity goals. As mobihealthnews notes, none of these functions require FDA clearance.
But with LG seeking FDA clearance, it's clear that the electronics manufacturer plans to roll out LG Smarthealth in a manner that provides explicitly medical functions. According to the agency's website, the 510(k) Premarket Approval is the most stringent type of device marketing application required by the FDA, suggesting that LG has something fairly sophisticated in mind. While the 510(k) doesn't spell out what LG Smarthealth will do, the technology is classified by the FDA under "Transmitters and Receivers, Physiological Signal, Radiofrequency" and was reviewed by the FDA's cardiovascular panel, suggesting that it will do heart rate tracking.
The clearance follows on LG's recent release of a wearable device, the LifeBand Touch, which does not do heart rate tracking, though it does integrate with heart rate tracking headphones.
Samsung, meanwhile, is well into the wearables game. Increasingly, Samsung is rolling out the key components of a digital health ecosystem connecting disparate devices and software platforms. Samsung entries in this market include its Simband wearable reference design, containing sensors for measuring advanced health data. Samsung has also launched the cloud-based Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions, a cloud-based platform which collects sensor data for use by consumers and providers.
And Samsung is far from the only giant fighting to become the digital health ecosystem of choice. Apple, Microsoft and even Google are each making plays to become the preferred digital health vendor and data manager, while well-funded startups fight for key slices of the pie. If LG hopes to compete seriously with these deep-pocketed techs -- which seem extremely serious about this market -- it will have to pull more than one rabbit out of its hat, and quickly.
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.