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Samsung unveils wristband that can measure health, fitness

By Christina Farr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd moved deeper into the wearable technology market on Wednesday as it unveiled a wristband that it claims can give a range of real-time health and fitness information.

At a press event in San Francisco, the world's biggest handset maker announced Simband, a new "investigational" device that can be used to measure body temperature, blood oxygen levels, motion and other metrics on a continuous basis.

The prototype "smart" band is not intended to be sold as is but serve as a "foundation" for third party developers to build a device that incorporates "optical, acoustic and electronic sensors," Samsung's vice president of digital health Ram Fish said.

"We want to bring in talent from the outside," said Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer for Samsung Electronics' Device Solutions.

Samsung unveiled the Simband at a time when Apple Inc is said to be developing its own wrist device to compete in the wearable technology sector.

Executives for the Korean company said Simband features a shuttle battery, which charges when the wearer is inactive, and is equipped with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The device was developed in concert with researchers from Belgium-based IMEC and the University of California San Francisco.

This new platform goes hand-in-hand with Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions ("SAMI"), a "bank" to store sensitive health data on the Galaxy S devices. The goal for SAMI is to gather data from various health and fitness applications, and offer "insights" to consumers, Samsung said.

"Samsung doesn't own the data, you do," said Fish. "We are a custodian of it."

Samsung plans to market SAMI by hosting a developer challenge and setting aside a $50 million fund for early-stage digital health entrepreneurs. Sohn said the company has already begun investing, recently providing funding to an early-stage entrepreneur building a noninvasive glucose monitoring solution.

The company has struggled to woo developers in recent years, notably with Tizen, its operating system that competes with Google Inc. Samsung may fail to gain much traction with wearable device makers, sources said.

Sohn declined to comment on Apple, which is rumored to be building its own wearable iWatch.

Samsung's announcement could be seen as a preemptive move, with Apple hosting its much-anticipated developer conference in less than a week.

Samsung plans to provide more specific information about both new platforms at its own developer conference, which is expected to take place in November. Sohn said the research and development teams are already exploring "locations" for wearable devices other than the wrist.  

(Reporting By Christina Farr; editing by Andrew Hay)

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