Do you know your Body Mass Index (BMI)? It’s a widely-used metric to determine whether or not you’re overweight or obese. It’s a useful generalization, but it does not take into account the different types of tissues that make up your weight. Bone and muscle are generally healthy, while too much fat can be an indicator of possible health problems in the future. As a result, it’s important to be able to measure your body fat.
Samsung has applied for an international patent that turns a smartphone into a body fat measuring device. Electrodes on the phone or its case inject an electrical current into the user’s body and measures the impedance. This can provide an estimate of body fat levels; a similar approach is used by some digital weight scales.
This could be a useful feature, but keep in mind that the results can be affected by your level of hydration. Also, it does not report on the type of fat in your body; fat around your belly has different health implications than fat on your hips or internal fat deposits. Your body fat doesn’t change very quickly, so this is not a feature that you would need to use on a daily basis, or even monthly in most cases. Instead, the main value of this patent for Samsung is likely to be a way to differentiate their products in a market that is starting to go flat. It also helps Samsung plant its flag in the health and medical space for mobile and wearable electronics, which is likely to be important for the company’s growth in the near future.