Noninvasive blood glucose monitoring on wearables is nigh

Blood glucose monitoring is being touted as the next big thing for wearable devices like the Apple Watch. However, the hardware has yet to be seen in a commercially available mass-market device. That could change soon.

A team from Georgia Kennesaw State University claims to have developed a non-invasive blood glucose level measurement system, thanks to a device called GlucoCheck. It follows the same fundamental approach as the oxygen level analysis sensor in smart watches like the apple watch series 8 Y Samsung Galaxy 5 Watch.

Professor María Valero leads the team behind GlucoCheck. Kennesaw State University

Team leader Maria Valero, an assistant professor in the institution’s College of Computer and Software Engineering (CCSE), says the device offers 90% accuracy in analyzing glucose concentration in blood samples. The biosensor works in conjunction with a phone app, but the team is already working on the integration Amazon Alexa virtual assistant.

GlucoCheck lights up human skin, and then a camera captures the view from the other side. The objective is to study the variable level of light absorption by the blood flowing in the vessels to determine the glucose concentration.

The Apple Watch Ultra heart rate sensor is active.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The team has already filed a patent for the technology and now aims to test it on more body types to diversify the test data. This step is vitally important, because commercially available wearable devices, such as those made by Fitbit and even Apple, are known to be inaccurate in reading data from people with dark or tattooed skin types.

The latest development is notable because it achieves the holy grail of glucose level monitoring, which is to develop a non-invasive method that can be miniaturized and connected to devices such as phones. Currently, people with diabetes need to prick their fingers to obtain a blood sample to test their sugar levels.

Commercial players are on it too

This is not the first investigation of its kind. As of July 2020, Samsung exhibited a non-invasive method for monitoring blood glucose in collaboration with experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The same year, Movano revealed a portable device which can measure blood sugar levels using a light scattering method. But he didn’t do much else.

A year later, a Japanese company called Quantum Operation exhibited a sensor mounted on a wearable device at CES 2021 that was capable of non-invasive blood glucose testing. According to multiple reports that have surfaced in recent years, both Apple and Samsung are interested in promising technology for their smartwatches.

UK-based Rockley Photonics is also working towards the same goal, but instead of LEDs, the company is focusing more on laser-based analysis. Regarding internal technology, CEO Dr. Andrew Rickman saying Digital Trends which “collects incredibly rich data that we mine to measure, among other things, hydration, lactate, and blood pressure.”

In particular, Apple is said to be one of Rockley Photonics’ biggest customers and is rumored to include non-invasive blood glucose monitoring technology in the Apple Watch portfolio in the near future.

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