Samsung announced the Simband and SAMI health platforms yesterday — a new type of wearable that incorporates a variety of health monitoring sensors with an open software platform. The Simband will have sensors that claim to track glucose levels, measure heart rate, check blood pressure, and a slew of other metrics via attachable sensors.
SAMI is the software platform for the device. It spits out metrics such as wellness scores and collects all of your continuous data.
To be clear, Samsung is not interested in getting FDA approval for the Simband, they will leave this up to their partners. An analogous example is to think of Google’s foray into modular cell phone technology. Imagine that Android is Samsung’s SAMI platform, and the skeleton piece of the phone is Samsung’s Simband.
Samsung is working with partners to create modules that can be attached to the Simband, but is leaving it up to partners to actually create the end product, and then to get the necessary regulatory approval.
While I appreciate Samsung’s need to get out ahead of Apple’s expected announcement of their healthbook app, viewing portions of the keynote address showed Samsung’s clear disconnect with how wearables are currently being used, and even more concerning — their lack of understanding in the health metrics that doctors actually care about.
One of the many reasons why we are huge fans of Fitbit and Jawbone is their ability to gather key activity metrics that have tremendous bearings on health in an efficient and simple manner. They integrate well with other app API’s and create a sense of community. I was hoping Samsung’s keynote would show them creating a platform that kept it simple and worked on trying to improve users compliance with wearables — but I didn’t get this impression.
Their keynote starts with them using Simband and stating in a demo how they are collecting key health metrics — heart rate, heart rate variability, and temperature. They mention a slew of other metrics their partners are working on as well.
But let us delve into just a few of those key metrics.
Heart rate variability — there is weak data that shows HRV has potential to assess for cardiovascular and noncardiovascular disorders, but for the most part, HRV isn’t something that is taught in medical school or even in residency. It’s because we don’t know what to do with that data, and there aren’t landmark studies that show it’s a health metric we should readily take into account.
Temperature — cutaneous measurements of skin temperature have been shown to be unreliable. Further, if someone has variations in temperature readings, what exactly are they supposed to do with this information? What does this mean? If you tell your physician your wearable devices temperature readings are fluctuating, they will give you a puzzled look, and tell you to start using a thermometer if you’re worried.
Heart rate — this was the only legitimate health metric mentioned in the initial part of the keynote.
Samsung spent a lot of time on SAMI, the software that will record all of this continuous data, and analyze it. They stressed how the information would be securely stored — but my biggest concern isn’t privacy. How will this data actually help make life style changes, especially when there are so many various metrics being measured?
Again, the beauty of the Fitbit and Jawbone platforms are their simplicity. I love how easy they are to use, and how they don’t try to overcomplicate themselves. When the average American reads at a middle school level — I don’t see how Samsung will have a meaningful impact on health with such a complicated device, especially when it measures many metrics most doctors don’t care about.
Apple and others should see the keynote Samsung did and learn from it. Keep it simple. Your model should be Fitbit. It’s not about who can track the most random health metrics and create a wellness score as SAMI does. It’s about who can create the best community, who can track the most relevant information that actually impacts health, and who can increase compliance of these wearables.
It’s important to stress that Simband isn’t a product, Samsung is calling it a reference design, with potential use by academics and in studies. However, they had the opportunity to push the wearable market forward but didn’t capitalize and don’t even get me started on the pulse arrival time Samsung mentioned……