For Apple Watch users, blood glucose testing could become as simple as measuring your pulse.
According to sources close to the US company, Apple is already testing at the prototype stage a new type of sensor for measuring blood sugar that works without a sting. Initially, the device that uses light to take measurements was the size of a refrigerator, but Apple engineers have reportedly shrunk it down to the size of a smartphone, and it’s only a matter of time before the technology is miniaturized to the form of a module that can easily be built into the case of a phone or smartwatch.
Codenamed the E5, the project aims to make an idea first formulated by founder Steve Jobs a reality – the development of a non-invasive, continuous test for measuring blood glucose. If realised, the innovation could help millions of diabetics around the world, as well as providing a valuable aid to the early diagnosis of pre-diabetics. Often a symptomless condition, diabetes is one of the triggers for many other diseases that reduce quality of life and life expectancy.
Towards devices that use disposable needles and tests to measure blood glucose, the approach used by Apple relies on a miniaturized version of laboratory spectroscopy. Adapted using silicon photonics technologies, a dedicated chip will perform the entire measurement based on light absorbed at skin level. The system involves using a laser tuned to a specific wavelength so that light is absorbed by tissue beneath the skin. The target is the so-called interstitial fluid – substances that permeate out of blood vessels and absorb glucose. The light is reflected in such a way that glucose levels can be determined without the need for a blood sample.
Apparently the project carried out under the Exploratory Design Group (XDG) branch brings together the efforts of hundreds of engineers and includes numerous clinical trials carried out over at least the last 10 years. In typical Apple fashion, Apple representatives are refusing to comment on the unreleased products, but we can expect the new feature to make an appearance in one of the future Apple Watch generations.