What are Apple, Google, Samsung and Intel doing in Health Care?

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Dr. Tawakalitu Oseni checks out Google Glass at a meeting of the American College of Surgeons in 2013. Oseni is a surgical oncologist at the Naval Medical Center San Diego. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)

What these four tech giants are aiming to do in health care is change your life in some way for the better. Like they already have with phones, search, televisions and computer processing.

These companies have decades of experience building consumer products that revolutionize how people live and work, and they have ample resources to throw at any problem. Here's a look at where they're throwing resources in healthcare, from personal health to disease treatment:


The Apple Watch Sport is designed for workouts.
The Apple Watch Sport is designed for workouts. (LMYang/Flickr)

Accomplishments? In the past few years, Apple has signaled a major interest in health care. The company announced a slew of products including the Apple Watch, which tracks everything from your steps to your heart rate, and ResearchKit, which allows researchers to conduct clinical studies using iPhones. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said he sees health care as one of the top three frontiers for Apple.

What can we expect? Some journalists (myself included) have speculated that Apple might delve deeper into diabetes management. The company has poached some top biomedical engineers, who were previously working on the holy grail for diabetes: a non-invasive device to monitor blood sugar continuously.


Challenges? Apple will face competition from Android, its chief rival, as the company attempts to push its operating system into health care. It may also need to grapple with federal regulators, like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, if it transitions from "wellness" apps and tools to helping the chronically-ill.


An experimental contact lens being developed by Google can painlessly measure glucose levels in tears.
Google is developing an experimental contact lens that would measure glucose levels painlessly in tears. (Google)

Accomplishments? Google's Life Sciences unit is putting its immense resources behind new initiatives to help people with diabetes live better. Researchers are currently working on a contact lens to measure blood sugar levels. The team is also developing products for other diseases, like the Liftware stabilizing spoon for people with Parkinson's. The spoon helps people with hand tremors lift food to their mouths reliably and comfortably.

What can we expect? Google will likely release its products for people with diabetes in the next five to ten years. Some hospitals are hoping Google will release software equivalent to Apple's HealthKit and ResearchKit, so they can develop programs to monitor patients who have Android devices. Google Glass, the company's Internet-connected headgear, is already showing promise for surgical training, telemedicine and other uses, and will continue to make inroads in health care.

Challenges? Google's first health product, Google Health, shut down in 2011 because of a lack of traction. And the health sector doesn't respond as well to failure as techies in Silicon Valley do. Google may need to prove it learned from its mistakes.


A Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which tracks steps and other health metrics.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch tracks steps and other health metrics. (Cheon Fong Liew/Flickr)

Accomplishments? Samsung has ambitious plans in health care. In the past few years, it has released wearable products with health-tracking capabilities (the Gear smartwatch and Gear Fit wristband), as well as an app called S Health that aims to be a personal fitness coach on a phone. The company has also developed a slew of medical devices, including diagnostic imaging equipment.

What can we expect? Like Apple, Samsung is on a mission race to develop more sophisticated health-tracking for its devices. I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung, like Google, were investing resources and energies into innovative ways to track blood glucose.

Challenges? Samsung faces strong competition from Apple and Google, particularly with its consumer health products. It may also need to work more closely with federal regulators in the near future.


Intel is still better known for its chip-making skills than its consumer health products.
Intel is still better known for its chip-making skills than its consumer health products. (Karl-Martin Skontorp/Flickr )

Accomplishments? Intel, the computing company that made a name for itself with semiconductor chips, now boasts a health and life unit. The company is delving into consumer health products with its recent acquisition of Basis, a health-tracking watch. The company is alsobuilding tools to help health systems deal with a massive amount of data.

What can we expect? Intel's health researcher Eric Dishman, who is also a TED speaker, is on a mission to provide more effective health care in the home rather than in the hospital. I hope to see more technologies from Intel that monitor people between doctor's visits, especially for people who are sick and/or aging.

Challenges? Intel hasn't achieved much success with its wearables, particularly with younger generations. Intel lacks a certain "cool" factor when it comes to consumer health products.