Diabetics can benefit from a potential Apple Watch.
Apple is secretly working on a sensor that can constantly and non-invasively track a person’s blood sugar levels. If the project is successful, the technology will be incorporated into a future version of the Apple Watch to aid the boon for diabetics in managing their disease. At least, that’s the rumor going around, according to CNBC, which says Steve Jobs set up the project before his death.
Apple, according to the article, has secretly hired an anonymous-looking office building far away from its headquarters for its engineers to operate in secret. The company is thought to have been so effective that it is now testing the sensors at “clinical sites” in the San Francisco Bay Area. Indeed, progress has been so promising that Apple has now retained experts to assist it in navigating the arduous FDA approval process.
There are a range of practical challenges to address, including the difficulty of reading blood glucose using optical sensors. The planet is riddled with the bodies of organizations that have attempted — and failed — to use noninvasive monitoring to address this issue. For example, HealBe’s GoBe promised to count your calories without penetrating the skin, and we all know how well that worked out.
Currently, the only reliable method of constantly monitoring someone’s blood glucose level is to implant a sensor under the skin. Internal sensors are sometimes used in continuous glucose monitors that will be a boon for diabetics, which are connected to an external transmitter worn on the stomach, triceps, or thigh. And new wearables, such as KTrack, rely on tiny needles that burrow into the skin to work.
In 2014, the World Health Organization estimated that 422 million people worldwide were living with diabetes will have boon for diabetics. This is up from 108 million in 1980, a huge jump for a condition that causes blindness, kidney failure, strokes, and heart attacks. Furthermore, diabetes-related diseases are directly responsible for almost four million deaths per year.
If Apple can find a way to innovate when so many others have failed, the number of people who have a desire to buy a Watch would skyrocket.
Long-held reports of an Apple Watch with blood sugar monitoring have just been verified. According to the Telegraph and Forbes, UK health tech company Rockley Photonics recently reported in an SEC filing that Apple has been its largest client for the past two years and that the two companies have a long-term agreement to produce potential products. Rockley has been concentrating on sensors that track blood glucose, blood pressure, and even alcohol levels, implying that at least one of these functions will be included in a potential Apple Watch.
So far, Apple’s diabetic support has been limited to stocking third-party monitors in its stores.
There’s no assurance that the Rockley agreement would result in goods being shipped. Apple hasn’t shied away from emphasizing the Apple Watch’s health features, and there’s plenty of industry interest in developing needle-free blood sugar sensors. If Apple can integrate the technology into a popular product like the Watch, it could provide a boon for diabetics who are tired of self-injections.
Rockley’s other inventions could also be useful. Blood pressure monitoring may alert you to issues such as stress, while alcohol monitoring may help you drink responsibly. Whether or not it is possible is a different story. Even if the technology is otherwise ready, Apple must still weigh factors like battery life and price, so you will have to wait a while for any of these features (assuming they ever ship).