Samsung unveiled its vision on mobile health. The company wants to provide the “voice of your body” with two new intiatives: a sensor-packed Simband device for protoyping next-gen wearables, and the SAMI cloud platform that enables developers to generate insights from health data. The vision is spot-on when it comes to making software entrepreneurs the new heroes of health. Analyst Stijn Schuermans asks the question: what’s next for mHealth?
It used to be that the coach on the field or in the gym had all the wisdom to make you fitter and healthier. Ever since Moneyball, coaches have had a serious competitor: data. This trend has started to snowball in recent years with the advent of smartphones, wearable fitness trackers and connected devices (from scales and heart rate monitors to blood glucose meters).
Health IoT has moved from being a blue ocean market to red ocean status as competition increases. Fitness trackers, connected weight scales, sensorized running shoes… Already we see dozens of similar devices on the market. For example, Amazon.com shows 1,000+ results in the pedometer category; it lists products from Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike, Basis, Omron, iHeart, Striiv, Misfit and about 50 other known and less known brands. Even if many of these are not yet connected, they will be soon.
[tweetable]The current wave of health and fitness related IoT devices is just the beginning.[/tweetable] Once these devices become commonplace, what’s next?
From coder to coach: the role of software entrepreneurs in mHealth
It is well understood that the trend to approach fitness with devices and data will have far-reaching consequences for sports coaches, dietologists and medical professionals alike. If those professions want to remain the heroes of health in the future, they’ll need to partner up with new players in the game: software developers and data scientists.
[tweetable]The wheels are already in motion when it comes to making sense of health data.[/tweetable] There are already over 50K health apps on iOS and Android that help people to get fitter, increase their wellness or manage their disease. Insurance players like Aetna are working actively to get a full health picture. Their Carepass initiative helps their customers to get a full picture of all their app and device data in one place, and to set and track health goals. Propeller Health is combining IoT with environmental data to help patients to better manage asthma.
What’s being done for the developers who make all those apps? Programmable Web lists 100+ health APIs. Most of them are between 1 and 3 years old and will have matured quite a bit already. Companies like Human API and Validic provide middleware for health data, making it easier for software entrepreneurs to build interesting applications. Another company that has clearly understood the message is Samsung. Their “voice of the body” concept is spot on. With today’s announcement of the SAMI platform they’ve taken a big step in enabling developers to make sense of data. SAMI, an unwieldy acronym that stands for Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions, is described as an open cloud-based sensor data platform that helps developers to go “from big data to contextual insight”.
[tweetable]IoT and wearable will win by communities of software entrepreneurs that will make sense of all the data they generate[/tweetable] and help you improve your health, no matter what your current level of fitness is. The smartest of these entrepreneurs will combine data from many sources to arrive at the best possible recommendation or diagnosis. Platforms like Human API or Samsung’s SAMI will make that possible.
Incidentally, Samsung has signaled clearly today that developers and entrepreneurs are crucial to the future of mHealth. Developers being involved long before a consumer-ready device is available – the same developer-first strategy that Google followed with Android or, say, Google Glass. The Korean electronics giant is also putting its money where its mouth is: it will invest a handsome $50M in a Digital Health Challenge to stimulate innovation within the global developer ecosystem.
Next stop: users
Samsung’s Voice Of The Body announcements illustrate the evolution in IoT maturity nicely. First come sensors and devices, represented today by the Simband “investigational device”. (Simband is a wristband packed with novel sensors to measure your body. It’s more of a reference design rather than a commercial product.) Then, empower hardware makers, developers and entrepreneurs to experiment with the new technology (via Simband) and with the data it generates (via SAMI). Samsung obviously hopes that this will result in more component sales. But before that will happen, a final piece in the puzzle needs to fall into place.
Simband and SAMI, despite all the talk about developer-entrepreneurs, are still very much focused on solving technology challenges. The aim is to reduce the cost and complexity of building valuable applications. What’s missing is a vision on how to connect these developers and their apps to the users who needs them. Where will the demand for wearable health sensors and health apps come from?
We can draw an analogy with smartphone platforms. The Android ecosystem consist of a software platform (the Android Open Source Project, or AOSP), plus the Google Play app marketplace and a set of critical apps and APIs (more in our Naked Android article). AOSP is open, the Play store and Services are tightly controlled by Google, as they represent the connection with users. Demand for Android phones is driven by Android apps, which are built with Play APIs and available on the Play store. [tweetable]The SAMI platform represents the AOSP of wearables.[/tweetable] The equivalent of the Play services is nowhere to be seen (yet).
The crucial question for Samsung and other players in the space is this. Will they stop at technology? Or will they continue to evolve into a full-fledged computing platform and ecosystem that connects users with a community of software and hardware entrepreneurs?
Interestingly, more so than almost any of its competitors, Samsung has a large amount of existing users that could be connected to valuable health solutions. If Samsung pulls this off, they have an opportunity to start the network effects that will eventually lead to a winner-takes-all outcome. [tweetable]Will Samsung seize the day in IoT and create the next dominant computing platform?[/tweetable]
What do you think?