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How Samsung and Apple stack up in the race to dominate digital health

Wes Novack | June 6, 2014
Samsung is way ahead of Apple when it comes to fitness wearables, but each company is pushing health tools for developers and users as well. Who's got the goods?

Additionally, Samsung announced SAMI (Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions), an open cloud services solution that wants to be the destination for all health data, regardless of what hardware or application collected it. Users could then decide control what data is shared with other apps or providers, allowing for a personalized experience.

The platform-agnostic approach could make SAMI a hit, if enough industry players adopt it. Imagine if your treadmill, running an unknown operating system, could send workout information to SAMI, and then your smartphone could aggregate that data into a portal that also includes the rest of your fitness activities. If everything could push and pull from one centralized data repository, perhaps we could finally get an ideal all-encompassing health and fitness tracking solution.

This week, Apple unveiled its new HealthKit developer platform as part of its iOS 8 preview. Similar to SAMI (which was developed with the help of a former Apple engineer), this new framework lets developers of health and fitness apps and hardware to report health-related data into a centralized database, as well as to share that data with other apps or with a service provider, such as your doctor.

At the very least, the HealthKit tools should lead to a surge in new health and fitness applications for iOS, and more interoperability between them. Initial partners include the Mayo Clinic, Nike, and Epic Systems (a healthcare industry software provider).

First-party 'Health' apps for everyone
Samsung currently offers its own app, S Health, which comes preinstalled on various Samsung devices like the Galaxy S5. S Health provides an exercise log, a food tracker, a walking mate, a comfort level detector (temperature and humidity), a weight diary, and more. Unfortunately, S Health is isolated to the Samsung ecosystem. You can pull in data from a Samsung Gear Fit, but not from a fitness app like RunKeeper or a non-Samsung device, such as a Fitbit.

Paradoxically, Samsung's SAMI platform is just about the exact opposite of S Health in its current form. With the SAMI platform promoting cross-platform health and fitness data warehousing and sharing, I can envision a future S Health app that integrates with SAMI to provide a holistic look at all your health data at once.

That's exactly what Apple's new Health app wants to do too. Previewed at WWDC alongside HealthKit, Health will give users a customizable view of data from a variety of sources. We won't know how well this new Health app works until iOS 8 is released later this year, but from the announcement we can see that the Health Data screen will offer menu options for Diagnostics, Fitness, Lab Results, Me, Medications, Nutrition, Sleep and Vitals.


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