April 24, 2024
Samsung debuts a 'smart ring' with health-tracking features — its first foray into the product category
Samsung's Galaxy Ring, its latest wearable, is launching with tracking features including heart rate and sleep monitoring.

The Samsung Galaxy Ring has various sensors to track things like heart rate.

Samsung

BARCELONA — Samsung’s Galaxy Ring, its latest wearable, is launching with health-tracking features including heart rate and sleep monitoring while also giving users a score of their readiness for the day, a top executive told CNBC.

In a wide-ranging interview, Hon Pak, the head of the digital health team at Samsung Electronics, discussed the company’s first foray into the product category of rings, considerations for a subscription model for the Samsung Health app, and his vision for an artificial intelligence “coach.”

Samsung teased the Galaxy Ring in January during the press conference when it launched the S24 smartphone. The South Korean tech giant is putting it on display for the first time at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which kicks off on Monday.

Samsung Galaxy Ring features

Pak said the ring, which is fitted with sensors, will be able to give readings on heart rate, respiratory rate, the amount of movement made during sleep, and the time it takes a person to fall asleep once in bed.

He also said the ring will be able to give a user a “vitality score” which “collects data about physical and mental readiness to see how productive you can be.”

All of that will be accessible through the Samsung Health app.

The ring is set to go on sale this year, but Pak did not give a timeline or the pricing.

Pak also said the company is considering adding a feature that would allow the Galaxy Ring to do contactless payments, as with smartphones.

“We have a whole … team that is looking at that. But I think clearly looking at multiple different use cases for the Ring beyond just health, for sure,” Pak said.

The Samsung executive also said the company is working on non-invasive glucose monitoring as well as a blood pressure sensing through its wearable devices.

“I think we have some ways to go,” Pak said of non-invasive glucose monitoring. Currently, people use devices that pierce the skin to check glucose levels. A non-invasive way to do that would be a huge step.

Samsung ecosystem play

Samsung is hoping that various devices will boost its positioning in health, an area it has been working on for several years.

Samsung has its smartphones and smartwatches. The Galaxy Ring is the newest product category in health. Samsung said the decision to launch a “smart ring” was driven by its customers.

“Our own customers told us, I want choice. I want the ability to have other forms of wearables to measure health,” Pak said. “And some want to wear the watch, some want to wear the watch and the ring and get benefit from both. Some just want more simplicity.”

The Samsung Galaxy Ring will work in conjunction with Samsung’s smartwatches.

Samsung

Pak confirmed that when the smartwatch and Ring are worn together, users will be able to get different health insights.

Samsung is not the first company to launch smart rings. There are a handful of other players such as Oura.

Previous generations of Samsung’s flagship smartphone, such as the S7, have sensors that track things like heart rate. Users could put their finger on the sensor and it would give a reading. Samsung has done away with those sensors on its phones, especially since it has smartwatches that offer these features.

However, Pak did not rule out the possibility that future smartphones would have health sensors on them.

“Mobile is still very pervasive and so I think there are reasons why we may want to put a sensor on a mobile versus having it on a wearable,” Pak said.

AI ‘coach’

Pak discussed how artificial intelligence will play a role in Samsung’s health services. AI can help make sense of all of the data these devices are collecting. And ultimately, Pak’s goal is to get the AI to give deeper insights into a person’s health.

He said large language models, which are AI models trained on huge amounts of data and that underpin applications like chatbots, can help to give greater insights.

“Imagine that large language model, acting as my digital assistant, while looking at the context of my medical records, my physiological data, my engagement with a mobile device, the wearables during all of that … begins to bring greater insights and personalization opportunities,” Pak said.

“There’s a digital assistant coach in the future, because we think that’s absolutely needed,” the Samsung executive said.

Pak described a scenario in which a digital assistant offers health advice in the right tone and context, saying “our ability to change our behavior becomes much greater.”

Bixby, Samsung’s digital assistant, could have a part to play, Pak said.

“So we are exploring various different ways in which the human computer interface will change over time … And so we think Bixby with speech represents a significant part of that option. But we don’t think it’s the only option. But Bixby potentially combined with large language models can be a phenomenal game changer. And we’re obviously having that conversation,” Pak said.

The executive also said the company is “considering” a subscription service for its Samsung Health app, but that the capabilities and insights it offers need to be improved before that can happen. AI assistants can help.

“If you’re gonna really make me pay for something, you better give me something that’s more end to end that’s more comprehensive” in terms of health insights, Pak said.