The Samsung Simband is cool, but the health platform is cooler

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The Samsung Simband modular sensor reference architecture.

Credit: Samsung

Building a digital health platform for the Internet of Things.

Samsung put its hat in the health wearables ring today with the introduction of Samsung Simband, a reference architecture for any manufacturer to build their own devices without needing to reinvent the wheel (or the pulse monitor, as the case may be).

Simband is a neat concept, with an array of sensors to gather everything from body temperature to electrocardiograms in real-time with high accuracy. With the Simband sensor module as an open blueprint, OEMs are theoretically given the toolset they need to build products that go beyond the current Fitbit/Jawbone-dominated health wearables market

But I'm way more interested in Samsung SAMI (Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions, because why not), the long-in-the-works open health data cloud platform that the Korean electronics giant formally introduced alongside the Simband architecture. And it sets an important precedent as we move into the era of the Internet of Things. 

SAMI is designed to be a vendor-agnostic and open platform to takes data from multiple sources via open API and run complex analytics on it for deeper insights into the user's health -- but SAMI got its biggest round of applause from the audience when Samsung confirmed that users would own their own health data. 

"Our ultimate goal is to connect more brains with more sensors," said Samsung VP Dr. Luc Julia on stage.

In the same way that a bank keeps your money, SAMI is supposed to be a storehouse for all your data and give you tools for doing more with it while still making you the exclusive owner, Dr. Julia says. Current wearables may gather data, goes the Samsung party line, but they hugely silo them from any other data source, diminishing the capability for innovation. 

The SAMI platform is designed with the Samsung Simband architecture in mind. But Samsung is boasting that any device can be made to shunt data to the SAMI cloud by way of that open API, available later this year. This means that it should be relatively trivial for a developer to integrate, say, a calendar app with a food diary app with a Simband-based fitness tracker.

As we see elsewhere in the Internet of Things space, it's all about context. Indeed, Samsung says that SAMI's primary use-case is for digital health, as focused on in today's announcements, but the ability to aggregate data into a single platform means that it potentially has broader applicability elsewhere. And while pricing wasn't discussed, it's not hard to imagine that Samsung may monetize SAMI by charging users for storage or developers for access. 

This all points towards the next wave of Internet of Things innovation: The success of Nest and Jawbone and rising stars like Kinsa Health prove that we have the sensors, the connectivity, and the expertise to make the Internet of Things (and by extension, wearables) work for a specific purpose.

But between Samsung SAMI and BlackBerry's Project Ion, we're entering a phase where the platform will matter as much or more than the individual thing on the Internet. 

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