Samsung launches “S Health” brand

Amongst a flurry of announcements surrounding the launch of the new Samsung flagship Galaxy SIII Smartphone (in a fortnight carriers around the world presold more than 9 million devices making it the fastest ever selling smartphone) Samsung has made a bold move and announced the launch of it’s own mHealth brand: “S Health”.

Very positive news and well timed

This follows some key new hires from the healthcare industry and it’s very positive for the mHealth community that this has received branding consistent with the “S Voice”/”S Beam” naming strategy as this will ensure it’s a key part of the core consumer brand proposition going forward for the worlds biggest mobile handset manufacturer.

Timing couldn’t be better, the world is set to see much more of this device and it’s health/sport associations as it’s the “official” NFC mobile of the 2012 Summer Olympics and there will be a “Visa payWave” special edition being distributed to select/sponsored athletes.

Details of the announcement

Details so far are sketchy and there’s no dedicated S Health website or videos (which might be a good thing going on past form at this type of thing) but what we do know is there’s not much functionality being offered here than what we’ve had with the Nokia Wellness app back (available publicly since Nokia World in 2010) and you can piece together similar offerings yourself from most of the popular app stores.

the app is available for the Samsung Galaxy S III, and collects a variety of data about the user to help maintain a healthier lifestyle. It is compatible with sensors like blood glucose and blood pressure monitors – sending the data via Bluetooth or USB… …Rather than simply acting as a warning system, S Health is able to present the collated information in easily-understandable formats like graphs and tables, giving the user the ability to track trends and monitor changes over a period of time

Key Strategic move

Senior level decision makers at mobile device makers used to be very cautious about making announcements like this for risking fear of upseting telco partners and it’s not clear how this will complement or compete with the various telco mHealth initiatives but I guess the telcos need Samsung to upset things in 2012 when Apple is so clearly pushing the boundaries of what used to be considered the telcos crown jewels eg. VAS content sales, mobile payments, calls, mobile wallet, forging key global enterprise relationships, etc

With Apple offering a locked OS and refusing discounts and exclusives to big healthcare buyers (why should they when they have big MNOs prepared to subsidise them?) a massive appetite has emerged for an alternative ecosystem and after pushing Nokia off the top spot the worlds biggest mobile manufacturer (with it’s own successful OS in the line up) Samsung’s perfectly positioned to pick up on this growing opportunity.

Could Samsung have picked better partners?

To those who are familiar with the Continua Alliance (an organisation that Samsung contributes to) the medical device partners are no surprise (they’re all “Continua Approved” Medical Devices) but I think for anyone watching sales volumes the advantages of this certification are increasingly becoming irrelevant.

Whilst such certification might help when approaching healthcare buyers there is no evidence that consumers/patients are even aware of it and if Samsung’s focus was healthcare buyers it probably would’ve skipped on mentioning the prospect of uploading data to twitter (more likely we’d have seen a tie up with a Healthcare platform like Microsoft’s HealthVault etc).

More importantly I think it’s obvious that these medical device partners don’t have the best understanding of mHealth or the speed with which the mobile market moves. Unlike most of the mHealth peripherals we’re seeing retailing in the Apple Store these are devices that have been built for another era.

In my opinion Samsung should have started with medical device makers that can assume a clean slate, understand the importance of consumer branding which really isn’t rocket science (Compare “OMRON Body Composition Monitor HBF-206-IT” or “A&D Body Composition Monitor UA-321PBT-C” with “VitaDock’s Target Scale”, “Withings Body Scale”) and start from the assumption that these devices will always be operating as a connected service teamed with a Samsung Smartphone.

Here’s why I think these devices are outdated and will disappoint:

OneTouch UltraMini/UltraEasy Blood Glucose Meter

Apple made similar noises over a JnJ LifeScan tie up 3 years back and I’d be amazed if this USB device with it’s “500 test memory” takes us any further.

Check out the 49 page instruction manual and you quickly realise the worlds biggest mobile manufacturer working with this is akin to investing in horse feed tech when Model T’s were rolling out of Piquette Avenue in Detroit…

To get an idea of how a blood glucose monitor looks when it’s designed for the mHealth market check out VitaDock’s GlucoDock for iPhone:

OMRON Blood Pressure Monitor HEM-7081-IT & A&D Blood Pressure Monitor UA-767PBT-C

I fail to see how “25 measurement memory” is going to interest someone when the device is linked to their 16/32/64 GB smartphone with expandable MicroSD card (something you’ll probably never get on an iPhone) and a 2 year subscription to a 50GB Dropbox!

Similar in the mHealth era an “extra-large 3-line display for easier reading of results” is as dated a concept as building a qwerty hardware keyboard on a mobile phone when your customers want Swype.

As a golden rule, if an 18 year old looks at your instruction manual and thinks of keeping it as tech memorabilia you’re doing something wrong…

Wake up call for the medical device market

Of course recognising that we live in a time of change isn’t easy but I’m surprised that S Health isn’t all about devices and services that are designed to be used with a mobile (and preferably a Samsung Mobile, TV, Tablet, etc).

Samsung has superceded Nokia (the brand that defined the last decade) and it’s now primed to define this next decade. Medical device brands should recognise that it’s now the biggest brand for screens, batteries, computer processors, alarm clocks, calendars, calculators and as such offers them the opportunity to grow their business into a future healthcare landscape in which the mobile is the primary device that patients and providers will use to interact with their increasingly valuable healthcare information.

It might be uncomfortable but imagine you could no longer sell your device and think of all the things you’d of wished you’d added to your product line up before that day arrived? Imagine the innovation you could unleash if you sacrifice your LCD’s today for tomorrow’s bright AMOLED mobile video screens? Imagine your devices charged anywhere there was a USB/MicroUSB socket or induction loop? Imagine that direct link with patients using your devices?

At the moment the stage is set for “S Health” to be the healthcare brand of 2020 so it might be worth stepping up a crack team to work out your new role…

So what would S Health look like if I worked at Samsung

> Partner with a global Healthcare IT specialist and start earning trust and making security assurances

A partnership similar in nature to the mutually beneficial data storage relationship with DropBox with a global health data platform like Microsoft HealthVault would be a prerequisite as health data needs to go somewhere and many of the share by default policies of advertiser funded social networking sites etc aren’t going to be sustainable as healthcare info makes individuals very vulnerable to fraud and opens up complex privacy issues and responsibilities.

> Create S Health as a HTML5 standards based platform and let the market use it to grow

As we saw with Orange’s stand alone Health brand (now disbanded) and O2’s Health still stumbling initiative it’s unwise to brand things until there’s some take up. Apple’s been doing this with it’s app store letting competition weed out the also rans and allowing success to highlight features that it should be taking native.

The risk I see in branding a collection of wellness apps rather than a platform that other brands wellness apps can run on is that you’re immediately discouraging potential partners eg. a firm like WeightWatchers or the NHS want to own the branding as much as they can on these things. The idea of baked in competitive apps from a device maker is only going to encourage more investment in other platforms that don’t have this yet (like iOS).

> An on device wallet

Everyone benefits when health data can be trusted so any extra security provisions that can be built into the device or a ring fenced part of the device would be very attractive.

> The S Health App Store

I could imagine an App Store that was secure and free from adverts and incorporating strict data controls would be very welcome amongst the care provider community. It would also slow down regulators as the S Health store would be a much easier to control environment than alternatives.

> Target the Bring your own device (BYOD) Healthcare market

To appeal to this market I’d start making a line up of washable devices (to appeal to infection/hygiene control needs) as I’m sure the induction loop charging option on the S3 will ultimately help the seals on this device. Loading up the S Health app store with top medical content like text books, videos, CPD, etc, all designed to be shared with patients would be another big plus.

To try and drive uptake as the BYOD option for the healthcare industry I’d silo the apps and “at work browser” (maybe call it “S Web”) on a secure password partitioned internal part of the device (S Wallet), offer the healthcare provider a remote wipe facility (of this partitioned bit), auto sign out, etc… …oh and create a million $ X-Prize style competition for anyone who can find vulnerabilities.

> Tie in device partners to Samsung’s roadmap

In 2012 Medical Device companies shouldn’t really want to be making LCDs or batteries so I’d show them how a mobile can take this off their hands and let them innovate in ways that would amaze their customers. Imagine a Lifescan wireless patch that looked like a band-aid? Imagine a Omrom weigh scale that looked no different from a washable bath mat?

Imagine a AnD Blood Pressure cuff that was as comfortable (and cool) to put on as a captains armband?

> Easy to use mode

For success with mHealth we need to open up access to mobile data services and user experiences are at the heart of this. I’d make sure that at set up customers could select an “Easy” UI like the Doro Experience. After Samsung’s expensive efforts in the US with the Jitterbug I’m sure I’d be able to make the case for acquiring this senior market focused Swedish manufacturer just for that software and market know-how alone:

> Offer S Health software on every platform

As we’re seeing with Samsung putting remote control apps for their TV’s on iOS I’d extend this so patients/providers can experience before moving to a Samsung device for the full experience with all the bells and whistles.

> Use S Health to kill primary batteries in the home care market

Maybe I’ve heard of too many patients who’ve taken the AA batteries out of their weigh scale because those in their SKY TV remote ran flat but in 2012 is it not reasonable to think these devices should be able to charge from a MicroUSB? Should we really be looking at disposable battery powered relics as part of the S Health line up when Samsung SDI is the worlds biggest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries?

Unlike Apple (and now Nokia) who’ve not given customers the replaceable/back up battery option in their Smartphones (you need specialist tools to open and you void your warranty) Samsung has continued to support this option and it could pay huge dividends as Samsung expands beyond the mobile phone into other M2M opportunities.

Imagine if S Health meant your mHealth device had a quality Samsung mobile phone battery that could be swapped and/or recharged whenever needed? Imagine if all S Health devices had the ability to charge from a microUSB charger so patients no longer had to fiddle around and dispose of 3.0 Volt CR 2032 lithium batteries? Imagine how S Health and their retail partners could use this to add those all important green credentials at the point of sale?

> Create telco partnerships to enable free S Health data transfer

Imagine how a “S Health app data is free” when used with a SIM from a telco partner could engage patients, providers and allay bill shock fears amongst patients to give mHealth on Samsung a head start? Obviously when you read about patients having lifelines cut off for issues surrounding non payment the appeal of such measures is very obvious to those with a duty of care but I see no reason this wouldn’t have a similar effect for S Health adoption as Apple’s bundled data plans had as drivers of mobile data service adoption.

> Put S Voice and Camera software to work:

For any of this to make any sense you’ve got to see/experience what the Samsung S3 can do with it’s face detection software and S Voice. Literally the front-facing camera looks for you looking at it in a feature called “Smart Stay” and uses this information to ensure the display brightness doesn’t dim when it’s in use and you’re looking at it. This same tech could also be used as part of the password unlock process on your HealthVault record. Similarly the S Voice app (that let’s users verbally activate functions on the device) could enable data to be filed in your records by just saying something (eg. “My blood pressure is X over Y”, “My weight is 85kg”, etc) or pointing the video camera at your weigh scale (optical character recognition software would have no trouble with the high visibilty BP/Weigh Scale screen outputs of older “eHealth era” devices) and the Wolfram Alpha powered search could help patients find useful health video content etc. Imagine a patient asking for “A video on preparing for colonoscopy please S Health!”

Add a bit of Sizzle to the S Health Sausage!

Of course all the great ideas in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if it’s not communicated properly so I’d leverage Samsungs dominant position to force mHealth device brands to work together to make convergent devices that the world will fall in love with.

Imagine if you could buy a Galaxy S3 with a bedside wireless charging dock (this is yet another very cool feature that the S3 ships with) that ALSO incorporated a Biancamed sleep monitor, a speaker/sound system (letting the device double as a fully functioning Alarm/MP3/Clock/Radio/Sleep-Monitor-Coach) wrapped up with a VitaCardio BP Monitor cuff?

And how about a splash of fun with some exclusive Olympic branding on your “Bronze, Silver, GOLD!” themed Target Scale for your bathroom floor?

What would you like to see from Samsung S Health?

About David Doherty
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11 Responses to Samsung launches “S Health” brand

  1. Pingback: Samsung launches “S Health” brand | Digital Health Journal

  2. TomekA says:

    I’ve developed Health Diary App for iOS (, a long time ago. I’m indie developer from Poland.

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