Apple’s long-running quest to bring blood glucose monitoring to the Apple Watch appears to be moving forward. Bloombergsources claim the company’s no-prick monitoring is now at a “proof-of-concept stage” and good enough that it could come to market once it’s smaller. The technology, which uses lasers to gauge glucose concentration under the skin, was previously tabletop sized but has reportedly advanced to the point where an iPhone-sized wearable prototype is in the works.
The system would not only help people with diabetes monitor their conditions, but would ideally alert people who are prediabetic, the insiders say. They could then make changes that prevent Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.
Apple declined to comment. The project has supposedly been in development for a long time. It began in 2010, when an ailing Steve Jobs had his company buy blood glucose monitoring startup RareLight. Apple is said to have kept the effort secret by operating it as a seemingly isolated firm, Avolonte Health, but folded it into a previously unknown Exploratory Design Group (XDG). CEO Tim Cook, Apple Watch hardware lead Eugene Kim and other top leaders have been involved.
Any real-world product is likely years away, according to Bloomberg. The industry also doesn’t have a great track record of bringing no-prick monitors to market. In 2018, Alphabet’s health subsidiary Verily scrapped plans for a smart contact lens that would have tracked glucose using tears. Even major brands with vast resources aren’t guaranteed success, in other words, and it’s not clear how accurate Apple’s solution would be.
There are strong incentives to bring this tech to wearables. The Apple Watch is frequently marketed as a health device and can spot signs of atrial fibrillation, low blood oxygen levels and (as of Series 8) ovulation cycles. Non-intrusive glucose monitoring could make it an indispensable tool for those with diabetes — you wouldn’t need a dedicated device that invades your skin, such as a continuous glucose sensor that sends info from an electrode-equipped thin needle to an external receiver. That painless approach could give the Apple Watch an edge over competing smartwatches.