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Samsung unveils 'Simband' wristband to measure health, fitness

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Christina Farr

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On the move: A close-up of Samsung's Simband health and fitness wristband.

On the move: A close-up of Samsung's Simband health and fitness wristband. Photo: AP

Samsung has moved deeper into the wearable technology market with a new wristband it claims can give a range of real-time health and fitness information.

At an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, the world's biggest mobile phone maker announced Simband, a new "investigational" device that can be used to measure body temperature, blood oxygen levels, motion and other metrics on a continuous basis.

The Simband sensor module.

The Simband sensor module.

The prototype smart band is not intended to be sold as is but serve as a "foundation" for third party developers to build a device that incorporates "optical, acoustic and electronic sensors," Samsung's vice-president of digital health Ram Fish said.

"We want to bring in talent from the outside," said Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer for Samsung Device Solutions.

Samsung unveiled the Simband at a time when Apple is said to be developing its own wrist device to compete in the wearable technology sector.

The Simband features a shuttle battery, which charges when the wearer is inactive, and is equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The device was developed in concert with researchers from Belgium-based electronics researcher IMEC and the University of California, San Francisco.

This new platform goes hand-in-hand with Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions, or SAMI, a "bank" to store sensitive health data on the Galaxy S smartphones. The goal for SAMI is to gather data from various health and fitness applications, and offer insights to consumers, Samsung said.

"Samsung doesn't own the data, you do," said Fish. "We are a custodian of it."

Samsung plans to market SAMI by hosting a developer challenge and setting aside a $US50 million fund for early-stage digital health entrepreneurs. Sohn said the company has already begun investing, recently providing funding to an early-stage entrepreneur building a non-invasive glucose monitoring solution.

The company has struggled to woo developers in recent years, notably with Tizen, its mobile operating system that competes with Google. Samsung may fail to gain much traction with wearable device makers, sources said.

Sohn declined to comment on Apple, which is rumoured to be building its own wearable smart watch dubbed the "iWatch".

Samsung's announcement could be seen as a pre-emptive move, with Apple hosting its much-anticipated developer conference in less than a week.

Samsung plans to provide more specific information about both new platforms at its own developer conference, which is expected to take place in November. Sohn said the research and development teams are already exploring "locations" for wearable devices other than the wrist.

Reuters