Samsung’s new processor aims at health market

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Samsung Electronics has become the first semiconductor developer to produce a chip that integrates two separate functions – measuring biological signals and processing the data into digital functions.
The world’s No. 1 memory chip producer said on Tuesday that it began making the health care chip called Bio-Processor this month. The chip contains a microcontroller unit, digital signal processor and internal flash memory. Existing bio chips require a separate semiconductor to process health-related signals.

“Mobile health care products that analyze an individuals’ health information collected through wearable gadgets, and provide comprehensive services, have been placed under the spotlight recently,” Samsung Electronics said. “We aim to more proactively cope with the market demand and secure leadership.”

The company also said it would extend its business arena to health care, going beyond its previous focus in the mobile system-on-chip sector. System on chip integrates all components of a computer or other electronic system into a single chip. Samsung’s Exynos brand, which is mounted on some Galaxy phones and Gear smartwatches, is an example.

The new Bio-Processor can measure a person’s body fat, skeletal muscle mass, heart rate, electrocardiogram, skin temperature and stress reaction, making it the most diverse chip developed. It can also compute blood pressure by combining heartbeat and electrocardiogram data.

“The Bio-Processor, as an integrated solution capable of analyzing various biological signals, is seen to contribute to expanding health care service on wearables to a greater extent,” said Huh Guk, director of marketing at Samsung Electronics’ system large-scale integrated circuit segment.

The company intends to distribute wearable prototypes equipped with the new bio chip – in bracelets and patches – to health care goods manufacturers for product development.

Next year will see an array of new Samsung-branded health care wearables that provide custom-made health information. The processor has the potential to expand into game and mobile devices, as well as smart cars.

The health care-related semiconductor market is projected to increase from $1.35 billion this year to as much as $2.51 billion by 2019, according to market researcher IHS.

Samsung Electronics has chosen medical devices and biopharmaceuticals as one of its next-generation growth drivers. The company competes in the bio-chip sector against STMicroelectronics of Switzerland, Texas Instruments of the United States and NXP Semiconductors of the Netherlands.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]