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Samsung Puts $50 Million Behind Health Care Initiative

The company unveiled what it hopes will be the start of an industry-wide effort.

While Samsung already has some proprietary efforts in the health and fitness space, the company also wants to see what the industry can do by working together.

At a San Francisco event on Wednesday, the company is announcing open software and hardware efforts along with a new $50 million fund designed to help companies looking to work together on Samsung’s Digital Health Initiative. Samsung also showed off a reference design for a wearable that could track heart and respiratory rates, blood pressure and other data.

“Samsung’s Digital Health Initiative provides an exciting opportunity for the brightest minds in the technology world to come together to develop products that will, for the first time, put individuals in the driver’s seat in understanding their own health and wellness,” Samsung Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn said in a statement. The announcement is really the first big effort from Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center, a year-old Bay Area initiative headed by Sohn and part of the company’s component unit, which makes memory, storage, chips and other technologies.

Samsung’s modular hardware approach, dubbed the Simband, is designed as a starting point, where other companies can add in their own sensors, algorithms and innovations in other areas, such as battery life. Samsung says it has no plans to sell the reference design hardware commercially. The sensors involved include the usual ones, but also some innovative ones, such as light and acoustic sensors to measure other things going on inside the body.

On the software side, Samsung is looking to a cloud-based, open source software platform it hopes will help bring together fragmented data from a variety of sources for more useful analysis. Samsung also has an earlier partnership with the University of California, San Francisco on a lab where all this health gear can be tested and validated.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Digital Health Challenge is a $50 million investment fund for connected health startups. It’s not necessarily new money, though, as that money is coming from an earlier announced $100 million Samsung Catalyst Fund.

The move comes at an interesting time, with Apple rumored to be introducing its own health ecosystem as part of iOS. That announcement could come as soon as next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

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