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  • Writer's pictureCarolina MIlanesi

Samsung’s Mission To Support Customers’ Quest For Better Health

Within the Android ecosystem, Samsung has been quite successful with its smartwatch portfolio delivering on a multi-device promise that expanded what was possible with Android Wear. In 2021, Samsung and Google partnered to revamp the Wear OS mobile platform under the new name of “Wear” and combine Samsung’s Tizen and Google’s Android Wear to make for a faster, smarter, and more responsive wearables experience. While we are still waiting to see the real impact of this collaboration, Samsung has remained steadfast in delivering new fitness and health functionalities. The most recent update was the announcement of One UI 5 Watch for upcoming Galaxy Watch devices to bring a more personalized and intuitive health experience, including enhancements to support better sleep, new fitness features such as the personalized Heart Rate Zone and safety updates such as the option to activate Fall Detection by default for users of advanced ages to help decrease the risk of emergencies.  

When it comes to sleep, this update of the One UI Watch focuses on a more holistic and complete sleep experience by understanding personal sleep patterns, building healthy habits and establishing a sleep-friendly environment. Galaxy Watch users can now use metrics like snoring hours, blood oxygen levels and sleep phases to score their previous night’s sleep.  

One UI 5 Watch will first roll out to the upcoming Galaxy Watch series later this year, with further updates to be announced soon. Starting in May, Galaxy Watch5 and Galaxy Watch4 series users in the U.S. can register for the beta program via Samsung Members app. 

I talked to Dr. Hon Pak, Vice President and Head of Digital Health Team, Mobile eXperience Business at Samsung Electronics, about Samsung’s desire to be a changing force in consumers’ health. Dr. Pak is a seasoned corporate physician executive with over 25 years of strategic healthcare leadership in health information technology across the public and private sectors. He joined Samsung Electronics in 2020 as Chief Medical Officer, leading the digital health strategy for Samsung Electronics America. His passion for empowering consumers to be more in control of their own health through technology and data was evident throughout the interview.  

“We want to improve the health of billions of people that use their devices through connected care in the home. We aim to connect people, their doctors and telehealth services while leveraging the power of connected devices throughout the home. There is no doubt that connected care in the home is the future of healthcare as it is the lowest-cost care center and where health can be monitored regularly,” Dr. Pak explained.

The decision to start delivering more value to consumers by focusing on sleep was made for two core reasons: the impact sleep has on overall health and the immediate positive impact that technology can have on improving overall health by improving sleep. 

Sleep is a vital process for our physical and mental well-being. It helps us to restore our energy, regulate our hormones, consolidate our memory, and repair our tissues. However, many people need more sleep quality due to various factors such as stress, lifestyle, environment, or medical conditions.

Lack of sleep can negatively impact other aspects of health, such as stress and weight. When we are sleep deprived, our body produces more cortisol, a stress hormone that can increase inflammation, blood pressure, and appetite. This can lead to weight gain, cardiovascular problems, and an impaired immune system. Moreover, lack of sleep can affect our mood, cognition, and decision-making abilities. As a result, we may feel more irritable, anxious, depressed, or impulsive. We may also have difficulty concentrating, learning, or remembering things. Needless to say, this has a health impact and a direct cost implication when you think about productivity and education. 

Samsung recognizes that quality sleep is foundational to our holistic health and wants to move beyond helping customers track their sleep to driving behavioral change.  Samsung shared that approximately 50% of Galaxy Watch users track their sleep patterns at least once a week, with 40% doing so more than three times a week. Sleep Coaching supports that change in habits by using a personally tailored month-long program that tracks your sleep pattern over seven days and then assigns one of eight sleep symbol animals to represent it, making it more relatable to consumers. Sleep Coaching then sets you on a path to establishing healthy habits and routines to help you achieve a good night’s sleep. 

According to Dr. Pak, what is becoming increasingly clear is that cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and all these major chronic diseases that have considerable costs to society have clear associations with sleep. What is unique to sleep is also the immediate positive impact on health. “With sleep, there is no latency. If you smoke now, the risk is 10,20, 30 years from now. The same with working out. You feel a little better after working out, but the real benefits come over time,” says Pak, adding, “The benefit of better sleep is pretty instantaneous, and we believe that starting there can drive even more change in the future.”

As I was talking to Dr. Pak, it became apparent that Samsung is one of the few brands that could provide a holistic view of what impacts sleep because they have such a strong presence in the home. From SmartThings and connected appliances, Samsung can detect many of the things that could have an impact on sleep, from how long we spend on our TV, PC and smartphone screens to what level of noise there is around us to how often the lights in our bedroom are turned on during the night or even how hot or cold our room is. Dr. Pak shared my enthusiasm for the opportunity Samsung has in this segment and added that one critical component to success is brand trust, which is something Samsung already has across many homes. A second factor is the ability to build from a rich ecosystem of partners that can offer complementary devices such as smart matrasses or services such as telemedicine. 

Rolling out these kinds of end-to-end services is challenging as it requires the buy-in from the consumer first, but also other hardware providers, health providers and sometimes even health insurance providers. Yet, Samsung has already had some success engaging with crucial health providers such as Kaiser Permanente to conduct studies on the positive impact of technology on home rehabilitation. It will be interesting to see what new features will come to the next generation of Galaxy Watch expected in late summer and how many will be made available to previous generations. While Dr. Pak did not specifically mention the democratization of personal health, I would expect this to be part of what Samsung wants to empower. Over the years, their core health features have always trickled down to lower price points and previous generations as long as the hardware allowed it. 

Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and consultancy firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this column.

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