Researchers at Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center (SSIC) announced a new reference design for a sensor-studded wristband, with the goal of helping establish an open source standard for WellTech devices. They demonstrated their “Simband” last month in San Francisco. The new program is called the Samsung Digital Health Initiative, and includes both an open hardware platform and an open software architecture. The company hopes to accelerate development of devices and the related hardware and software components required to make devices and applications that will help users with fitness, health, and medical applications.

The Simband is based on a modular design, allowing for sensors that can track a wide range of health and fitness factors including heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and more. It uses a variety of sensing technologies. For example, electrical contacts measure bioimpedence, which can detect blood flow through vessels beneath the skin. It also uses LEDs of various colors that provide non-contact feedback about the presence of various chemicals in the body. The modular design lets developers incorporate their own sensors as they develop new ones.

On the software side, the Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (SAMI) is designed to handle a wide range of data from different sources so that it can be processed and analyzed in the cloud. Access to the data is controlled by the user, who can choose to share it with physicians, health care providers, and others.

Samsung is partnering with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Imec, a leading bio-sensing research institute. The project plans to create systems capable of delivering clinical-grade data, on a standard platform that can speed development of new products and ease integration of different devices. To help accelerate the process, Samsung has also created a US$50 million Samsung Digital Health Challenge fund to help innovative start-ups create new devices using Samsung’s open platforms.