Wearables these days can offer a host of impressive features. But perhaps none would be quite so impressive as a device that can offer glucose monitoring. For those who have diabetes, the benefits of a device that could achieve this would be truly amazing.
Here, we take a closer look at whether glucose monitoring wearables are likely to appear on the market any time soon. And, moreover, whether or not they are likely to be worth the investment if and when they arrive.
Smartwatches and Health Monitoring
In the press in recent years, you’ll almost certainly have read stories about people who discovered that they suffered from a heart problem or other serious health issue only when their smartwatch told them to see a doctor. It’s clear, then, that wearables today have progressed considerably since the early days of just step tracking!
Now, wearables from some of the biggest names in the industry – Samsung, Fitbit, and Apple among them. Refer to their wearables not as smartwatches as such but as health monitoring devices. While some features these devices offer don’t yet have regulatory approval as official medical devices, they are still offering some impressive benefits.
Recent developments in the wearable arena have included ECG monitoring, pulse oximeters, and temperature skin sensors. All integrated into the design of smartwatches. However, one kind of biomarker and sensor that has yet to appear on smartwatches is the ability to monitor glucose levels non-invasively.
At present, devices are available that can monitor glucose levels and then be connected to a smartwatch or smartphone to supply the obtained data. However, no smartwatch has yet been invented that is capable of offering this feature independently.
Nevertheless, it’s something that people with diabetes would welcome heartily. Especially since it looks likely that more than 700 million people are likely to be diabetes sufferers within the next 25 years. And the benefits wouldn’t only be restricted to people with diabetes. Glucose monitoring could offer valuable health insights in general. Allowing parents to monitor their child’s glucose levels remotely or endurance athletes to monitor their nutrition for training.
So many people could benefit from the invention of a device with this capability. So why is it not yet on the market?
What is Glucose Monitoring, and why is it important?
Each cell in our body needs oxygen and food to produce energy. The “food” is the Glucose supplied to the cells through our blood system. By measuring the levels of glucose (sugar) in our blood, we are actually interested in knowing if the cells are getting enough sugar for generating energy. The insulin hormone is the “key” that opens the body cells to receive the sugar. The main idea is to understand if our pancreas is producing enough insulin and if our body is using the insulin well. If the last two don’t happen, we will get high or low sugar levels in our blood. Our normal Sugar Level in our blood should be between 70 to 100 mg per Deciliter of Blood (Not after a meal). An adult’s body has about 6 to 7 liters of blood. That means that if our blood level is 100, we have a total of 7 grams of Sugar in our blood.
A cup of coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar is more! But have no worries, not all the sugar that we eat and drink enters our blood. Most of it is is filtered at our kidneys.
The Problem Of Glucose Monitoring In Real-Time
It’s easy to see why a smartwatch that could monitor your blood sugar levels could be such a game-changer. Imagine a smartwatch that can detect a high sugar intake that causes blood glucose levels to soar and send the wearer a notification to take action. This could even benefit those who don’t have a glucose tolerance issue. If they could see in real-time what happens to their body when they consume sugar, would they really consume as much of it?
Of course, nobody wants to have to stab themselves with a needle to take blood to monitor their glucose levels. And while people with diabetes continue to have to do this regularly, the rest of the population would rather not. This is why a wearable that could track glucose levels could be such a hit. Monitoring levels non-invasively in the same way as a wearable can track heart rate would help more people stay healthy for longer without any effort or input on their behalf.
However, it’s challenging to monitor blood sugar levels in real-time. The traditional process involves taking blood or embedding a sensor underneath the skin. This wouldn’t be possible or practical in a wearable.
Yet, undeterred, companies are working on finding an alternative solution to take the invasive elements out of the glucose monitoring equation. So far, they’re working on an optical-based method. Similar to that used to measure blood oxygen, body temperature, and heart rate. The challenge is creating a device that’s capable of doing this and one that can do it accurately.
When it comes to people with diabetes, the chances of developing a device that is accurate enough any time soon are minimal indeed. It’s impossible to obtain that amount of data only from interstitial fluid – a drop of real blood is necessary.
How Important Is Accuracy?
Accuracy is absolutely essential for people with diabetes when it comes to advising on the correct dose of insulin to take. However, it may not be so vital for individuals who simply want to keep tabs on their changing glucose levels. For those who only want to optimize their diet and learn more about how exercising and eating different foods can impact their glucose level, the technology may not need to be extremely accurate. Just accurate enough to give a basic idea of the impact. In this arena, some of the big tech companies have already made impressive advances.
Glucose Monitoring – The Latest Developments
Apple is obviously a key player in this sector. Apple is believed to have been working on non-invasive glucose monitoring technology for some time. The company was granted a patent in 2018 for technology that sounds like non-invasive glucose monitoring. Involving the use of an optical light-based monitor to measure substances in the blood before checking how they change.
There has also been a recent revelation that Apple has made a deal with Rockley Photonics. A company that builds optical-based sensors which claim to deliver blood glucose data. This implies that, in the near future, Apple is planning to add this technology to their future Apple Watches.
Samsung, too, is looking at incorporating a similar feature into their next-generation smartwatches. While Fitbit has been making moves for some time to explore the likelihood of monitoring glucose levels using its devices.
This technology still has some way to go before it can be released onto the marketplace as a fully-fledged option for those who want to improve their well-being. However, it’s clear that within a few years, it’s a distinct possibility that we could all have a clearer picture of our blood sugar level just by looking at our wrists.
Does the possibility of monitoring your health from your wrist interest you? Read more about Fitbit’s research into devices that can accurately monitor blood pressure.
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Last Updated on February 7, 2023
Emma brings over a decade of freelance copy and content writing experience and is our Editor, Social Media Manager, and regular contributor. Specializing in long-form content such as blogs, articles, lead magnets, and white papers, Emma also provides businesses with email marketing, website copy, and landing pages.