Apple’s long-running quest to incorporate blood glucose monitoring into the Apple Watch appears to be moving forward. Sources at Bloomberg claim that the company’s no-prick monitoring is now at a “proof-of-concept stage” and could be marketed once it becomes smaller. The technology uses lasers to measure glucose levels under the skin. It was previously tabletop-sized, but has reportedly advanced to an iPhone-sized prototype.
Insiders say the system would not only help people with diabetes monitor their conditions, but it would also alert people who are prediabetic. Changes could then be made to prevent Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Apple did not comment. Apparently, the project has been in development for a long time. An ailing Steve Jobs bought blood glucose monitoring startup RareLight in 2010.
In order to keep the effort secret, Apple operated it as a seemingly isolated company, Avolonte Health, before folding it into the previously unknown Exploratory Design Group (XDG). A number of Apple Watch top leaders were involved in the process, including CEO Tim Cook and Apple Watch hardware lead Eugene Kim.
Bloomberg reports that a real-world product is likely years away. No-prick monitors have also not been well received by the industry. Verily, Alphabet’s health subsidiary, scrapped plans for a smart contact lens that tracked glucose using tears in 2018. Thus, even major brands with vast resources aren’t guaranteed success, and there are still some questions about Apple’s solution.
Wearables have strong incentives to adopt this tech. Apple Watches are frequently marketed as health devices and can detect atrial fibrillation, low blood oxygen levels, and (as of Series 8) ovulation cycles. With non-intrusive glucose monitoring, people with diabetes won’t need a dedicated device that invades their skin, such as a continuous glucose sensor that sends data through an electrode-equipped thin needle. Apple Watches could win over rival smartwatches with that painless approach.