The Korea Herald


Samsung Health bets big on sleep-tracking

Tech giant's health solution, running on Galaxy Watch, boasts 64 million monthly users globally

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : May 23, 2023 - 15:01

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Hon Pak, vice president and head of the digital health team at Samsung Electronics, speaks at a press briefing in Seoul on Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics) Hon Pak, vice president and head of the digital health team at Samsung Electronics, speaks at a press briefing in Seoul on Tuesday. (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung Electronics said Tuesday it is working on advanced sleep-tracking technology as it seeks to boost its burgeoning health solutions business on its smartwatches.

“Launched in 2012, Samsung Health has become a global health solution used by 64 million users around the world every month,” said Samsung Electronics Vice President Hon Pak, who oversees the digital health team at the mobile business division, to reporters in Seoul.

“Our goal is to help people manage their overall health in a personalized way, starting with sleep, since it’s a window to health.”

Samsung Health offers various health-related features, from virtual exercises to the tracking of sleep patterns, eating habits and physical activity levels. When it was first launched, it provided only a simple exercise record tracking function, but it has gone through a gradual advancement process with its smart wearable device, the Galaxy Watch series, since 2018.

Pak is a Korean-American who served in the US military for 26 years and was the first chief medical information officer and physician chief information officer for the US Army's medical department before joining Samsung in 2020.

While working as a physician, Pak felt the limitations of being able to check patients' conditions through appointments alone, and felt the need for health care in everyday life. Pak especially felt that good sleep is essential for managing our baseline health.

“Sleep is the beginning of personal health and unlike exercise or improvement in eating habits, good sleep has an immediate effect,” he said. “We will introduce more innovative features to help users better understand and stay on top of their health with Samsung Health and Galaxy Watch.”

According to the vice president, Samsung Health users are also interested in the sleep-tracking function. About half of the Galaxy Watch users track their sleep patterns at least once a week and 40 percent monitor their sleep more than three times a week, he said.

Users can check their sleep data through various sensors installed on their Galaxy Watch. For example, the accelerometer measures the degree of users’ tossing and turning during sleep to determine their sleep cycles and the optical heart rate monitoring sensor analyzes the depth of sleep based on users’ heart rate and oxygen saturation. The bioactive sensor also supports monitoring of the user’s heart health by measuring blood pressure and electrocardiogram, Pak explained.

Samsung also introduced a sleep coach feature. It studies users’ sleep patterns for a week and assigns them a “sleep animal” to match their sleep types. The program is designed based on cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps improve users’ sleep quality without medication.

“Context or health trends measured by the Galaxy Watch is not a substitute for medical information, however, it can be a technological solution to problems such as rising global health care costs and a shortage of health care professionals,” the vice president said.

While various health-tracking features to check blood pressure, the electrocardiogram and women's menstrual cycles are being updated, he hinted that the next-generation smart wearable device scheduled for release in the latter half of the year will provide users with a more personalized fitness experience and health monitoring functions.

Meanwhile, the company has left the door open to the possibility of turning Samsung Health app into a paid service. Pak said, "Although Samsung Health service is free for now, we may consider charging for premium programs in the form of subscriptions in the future."