Israeli start-up is Samsung’s secret weapon against Apple Watch
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Israeli start-up is Samsung’s secret weapon against Apple Watch

LifeBEAM’s bio-sensing technology will be embedded in the Simband platform for wearable health devices

Samsung CEO and CSO of Device Solutions Young Sohn introduces the Simband platform earlier this year (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Samsung CEO and CSO of Device Solutions Young Sohn introduces the Simband platform earlier this year (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Israeli’s LifeBEAM, a maker of bio-sensing technology to monitor pulse, calories, and other vital signs in athletes, is now a central player in the tech world’s next big product war.

LifeBEAM tech will power devices built using the new Samsung Simband platform, the Korean tech giant announced. Those devices are set to be Samsung’s answer to the Apple Watch – reflecting another facet of the ongoing struggle between the two companies for dominance in the device world.

Samsung and Apple have for years vied in smartphone sales. Apple’s iPhones are by far the biggest sellers in the US, accounting for about 40% of the market (that figure does not include data on new sales of the iPhone 6 series; statistics have not yet been compiled on those sales), with Samsung’s devices constituting about 25%-30% of phones sold. The two companies compete in the tablet space as well, with Samsung in second place in number of tablets shipped, behind Apple. At the end of Q2 2014, Apple had sold 16.4 million iPads worldwide over the previous 12 months, compared to 11.2 million tablets Samsung had sold.

Now, the battle between the two companies is shifting to wearables. Apple is releasing its first wearable, called Watch, which is due out next March. Samsung is already a veteran in the wearable space, already on the fifth iteration of its Gear watch – but as with other products, Apple’s entry into the wearable space means that competitors, Samsung included, are going to have to raise their game a notch in order to compete.

And Samsung is responding with the Simband platform, which the company hopes will outdo the Apple Watch as a health-focused device. The platform isn’t necessarily being deployed for use in consumer devices (although it could be used like that); Samsung, according to industry analysts, is hoping that developers will use the platform to build innovative health and fitness oriented applications and devices. The Simband platform will make use of six sensors to measure heart rate, blood flow, skin conductivity (how much a user sweats), skin temperature, and other data.

The platform will allow for the inclusion of other sensors, and for the development of applications for specialized products. As an example of what it means, Samsung at a developers conference demonstrated a tennis racket made by Balobat which uses the Simband sensors to help players improve their game by measuring their movements, using the sensors.

That’s where LifeBEAM comes in. The Israeli company’s algorithms are embedded in the Simband sensors, measuring heart rate, calories, steps and more. The LifeBEAM tech will work through Simband’s companion SAMIIO system; and SDK for SAMIIO was introduced earlier in November at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco.

LifeBEAM’s sensor algorithm technology is being used by a number of companies. LifeBEAM is a veteran of the aerospace industry, and has developed sensor equipment for use by pilots, astronauts, and special forces, designing what is says are very advanced and accurate sensor devices and algorithms. Now, the company said, it is bringing its “advanced technology to Earth to let you measure your own performance with the same lightweight, precision gear.”

The tech is also used in the company’s first product, a bicycle helmet that has gotten very positive reviews from biking enthusiasts and professional reviewers, with the general consensus that the helmet’s sensing capabilities – not just for heart rate, but for calories burned, distance, and other factors – are very accurate. That product – which was funded by a KickStarter campaign – went on sale in September, and the company recently began selling a baseball cap with sensors built in, to enable athletes to more accurately and easily measure their workouts.

By expanding the range of devices wearable technology works with, Samsung hopes to stem – or limit as much as it can the incursion of Apple into what could be the next major battle for market share. It’s a gamble, but LifeBEAM is in it for the duration, with its partner Samsung, said Omri Yoffe, CEO of LifeBEAM.

“Samsung is an innovative company with a vision to power the next wave of bio-sensing applications, and we see the company as one of our most strategic partners in bringing LifeBEAM technology to the consumer market,”said Yoffe. “During our collaboration on the Simband project, we’ve found a valuable synergy between our core capabilities and Samsung’s portfolio of wearable devices. Together, we’re giving consumers the ability to collect, integrate, display and communicate accurate biometrics in real-time. The wide range of applications in sports, health and medicine are very exciting.”

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