Feb 24 2014, 5:36pm CST | by Forbes
So Samsung has launched the Galaxy S5 and played safe, claiming consumers don’t want innovative tech for its own sake. The S5 is more like an Apple interim upgrade, waiting on the big changes ahead. Samsung’s strategy still looks risky.
It has some interesting features. PayPal integration with the finger print scanner and health and fitness tracking are the most talked about so far, but it’s early days and we’ll find out more as the week wears on. Health and fitness though seems to be where Samsung wants to make its most significant mark in services.
The wearable monitoring device market is in the headlines along with the S5. The S5 it is integrated with the Gear and a fitness band and the Gear is now a TIZEN device, tempting people into new theories about where Samsung goes next. But let’s stick with health and fitness.
We now know Samsung wants to be a serious player here; so too does Sony and no doubt Apple. Yet only one of these companies features in a list of the top ten companies in wearable fitness and heath monitoring patents.
While smartphone companies are assumed to have a built-in advantage in wearable computing that might turn out to be a misconception. Patenting around important application areas like health and fitness is taking place outside the smartphone industry, with the exception of Apple.
I recently discussed this issue with the folks over at Innography , a company that provides market structure information from patent filings.
Their argument is that competitive advantage, and freedom to operate, is still shaped by patenting. And in the wearables market, at least as it pertains to applications in health and fitness, the chief patent holders are not smartphone vendors. Well there is one, as already mentioned, Apple.
The main competition in wearables right now comes from apparel companies Nike and Adidas, and companies with a long history in the monitoring business like Finland’s Polar. Nike owns 25% of fitness wearables patents published since 2012, followed by Adidas with 18%.
The number of patents in the area has been increasing considerably in the past three years, especially in the US, Europe and Japan.
This could turn out to be a headache for Samsung, though you have to assume they have their bases covered.
Innography data shows that the arena is thick with companies that like to litigate. Nike, Adidas and Apple are all strong litigators, as are smaller players like Jawbone, Icon Health and Fitness and Phatrat. This is likely to become a hotly contested area of business, based on the current litigation records of the main players and the desire of smartphone makers to step sideways into it.
As interesting is the fact that most of the main patent holders are American based. Only three of the top ten come from outside the USA. They are Adidas, Philips (the consumer lifestyle company based in the Netherlands) and Polar of Finland.
The seven leaders from the US are Nike, Aliph (Jawbone), Fitbit, Apple, Impact Sport, Phatrat, and Icon. But note that name Apple.
Samsung has not been exactly idle. 46 patents have appeared worldwide, in health and fitness, from Samsung since February 2013, 12 in the US. That doesn’t mean 46 inventions – many are the same specification filed in different jurisdictions.
The core of these patents, according to Innography data, are US20130261405 “Apparatus and method for measuring biological signal” & US20130282157 “Method of displaying multimedia exercise content” and the main differentiators, according to Innography, appear to be in image representation on the Gear 2, rather than in the actual measurement.
If you look at Samsung’s strategy right now from within the smartphone industry you might conclude it is ultra smart – moving into application and services areas where it is less reliant on its factories and manufacturing prowess.
But it is moving into areas where there a lot of resources have already gone into building IP. What’s the answer? It might be that the Galaxy S5 is the last time we see Samsung promote its flagship as an Android phone. It needs to move over to TIZEN and with the Galaxy we are seeing Samsung reward its TIZEN partner, Intel, with chip supply contracts for one of the LTE versions due later this year. Big question: will there be a Galaxy S6?
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.
blog comments powered by Disqus
The “geek mind” is concerned with more than just the latest iPhone rumors, or which company will win the gaming console wars. I4U is concerned with more than just the latest photo shoot or other celebrity gossip.
The “geek mind” is concerned with life, in all its different forms and facets. The geek mind wants to know about societal and financial issues, both abroad and at home. If a Fortune 500 decides to raise their minimum wage, or any high priority news, the geek mind wants to know. The geek mind wants to know the top teams in the National Football League, or who’s likely to win the NBA Finals this coming year. The geek mind wants to know who the hottest new models are, or whether the newest blockbuster movie is worth seeing. The geek mind wants to know. The geek mind wants—needs—knowledge.
Read more about The Geek Mind.