Samsung Introduces Bio-Processor for Wearables

The Korean Company Wants to Move Beyond Heart Rate Monitoring with More Stats.


It's almost the end of the year, and that means CES — the international Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — is almost here. Ahead of this news-heavy event in January, tech companies tend to let loose plenty of announcements and sneak peeks at upcoming products, and Samsung is no exception. 

The Korean consumer electronics company, which has released several wearables over the past few years — including the recent, well-reviewed Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch —just announced a chip for health-oriented wearables called the Samsung Bio-Processor. Keep reading for a look at what this means, both for the company and for activity trackers in general.

What It Is

I'll try not to get too technical and keep this section brief. The Bio-Processor is a small all-in-one advanced system logic chip that's apparently already in mass production. Samsung says it developed this technology to help advance health-tracking devices and fitness data.

Okay, now let's move on to a description that makes a bit more sense, by putting this technology's functionality into the context of activity trackers and their current capabilities.

What It Does

According to the company, the Samsung Bio-Processor can track five different biometric signals, which Samsung claims makes it the "most versatile health and fitness monitoring chip available on the market today."

While heart rate monitoring has long been one of the most advanced capabilities of health and activity trackers (see my review of the Fitbit Surge here for an example of a great device with this capability), it's not the only metric worth tracking. To that end, the Bio-Processor also includes monitoring and measurements for the following: bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), which measures body composition; photoplethysmogram (PPG), which tracks skin blood flow; electrocardiogram (EKG), which measures your heart's electrical activity; galvanic skin response (GSR), which measures skin conductance (as affected by sweat, for example); and skin temperature.

That's a lot of technical information; a lot of data, and maybe even a bit of mumbo jumbo, considering that most of the above terms aren't exactly familiar to consumers. More recognizable measurements handled by the chip include body fat, skeletal muscle mass, heart rate, heart rhythm and stress level. 

What This Means

As I mentioned in my post on what to look for in smartwatches in the coming year, one of the most popular wearable features has long been activity-tracking, since staying in shape and meeting fitness goals has been an easy value proposition for many consumes to swallow. Samsung seems to recognize the importance of developing these features, and its Bio-Processor will likely figure into the company's wearable plan over the months and product releases to come. 

In its press release, Samsung mentions wristband, board and patch-type device form factors as potential products that could use the Bio-Processor. And with CES just around the corner, there is a good chance that the tech world will get a look at some concepts for this technology in Las Vegas.

Furthermore, Samsung says it will be releasing fitness and health devices that incorporate this just-announced Bio-Sensor in the first half of 2016.