Samsung thinks it's about time that fitness trackers did more than monitor your pulse. It announced today that it's put into mass production a new chip that builds in support for measuring five attributes: body fat, skeletal muscle mass, heart rate, skin temperature, and stress level (although, "stress" appears to actually mean how sweaty you are). Samsung calls this chip the Bio-Processor, and fitness devices using it are supposed to start shipping in the first half of 2016.
Samsung is offering the Bio-Processor to other companies
Fitness trackers were, arguably, a lot more limited in 2015 than we had hoped. Early reports suggested that Apple planned to include many of these same sensors in the Apple Watch, though it ultimately ended up with just a heart-rate monitor. Samsung is clearly trying to take the next step before anyone else can. The question, of course, is whether the Bio-Processor can actually live up to Samsung's claims. There are plenty of step trackers and heart-rate monitors out there that don't do a very good job, so it'll be critical to see how Samsung's integrated sensors actually perform. A health monitor isn't useful if its data isn't any good.
The Bio-Processor will likely end up in a Samsung wearable pretty soon, but it sounds as though it could end up in other companies' products, too. Samsung is offering reference designs to other companies interested in making a wearable. It specifically says the chip is designed to "allow accelerated development" of new fitness and health products.
Samsung says gadgets that incorporate the Bio-Processor can take a number of different forms, including wristbands and patches, though it doesn't specifically name any products that we'll see it in. For now, please enjoy this goofy promotional video Samsung made for the Bio-Processor back in July: