A new device shown off at CES may look like an Apple Watch knockoff, but its maker says it can do something Cupertino’s wearable can’t: accurately and noninvasively measure a person’s blood sugar level.
Japanese manufacturer Quantum Operation says its prototype employs a miniature spectrometer to scan blood in the wrist for biomarkers that reveal glucose levels. The user supposedly just puts on the smartwatch and activates the monitoring with a touch. After 20 seconds, the wearer receives the blood sugar data on the device’s screen.
“The company says that its secret sauce is in its patented spectroscopy materials which are built into the watch and its band,” Engadget says in its report on the prototype. “Quantum says that it expects to sell its hardware to insurers and healthcare providers, as well as building a big data platform to collect and examine the vast trove of information generated by patients wearing the device.”
Quantum Operation’s device supposedly packs other capabilities, including measuring heart rate and conducting electrocardiograms, two features Apple Watch already offers. There’s no word on exactly when it will be released or possible price point.
Noninvasive blood sugar monitoring: A holy grail
It remains to be seen whether Quantum Operation’s wearable works as promised. Demos can be misleading at the best of times. (Remember that Steve Jobs’ original demo of the iPhone took place on a barely working unit!) In a virtual environment, like this year’s online-only CES, it’s even tougher to validate demos. The real test will come in the form of peer-reviewed studies, medical device certifications and, ultimately, user testing.
Nonetheless, if this device delivers, it will be an exciting breakthrough. Apple has worked on solving this problem for a while, going so far as employing a “secret group of biomedical engineers developing sensors to monitor blood sugar levels,” according to a 2017 report from CNBC.
An Engadget article provides a brief potted history of efforts, by Apple and others, to achieve this milestone, which the publication calls a “holy grail for the medical industry“:
“This secret [Apple] team was apparently bolstered by the former employees of C8 MediSensors, a company which failed to achieve this task at the start of the last decade. It raised $60 million in investment from companies like GE, but failed to create a working product before it closed in early 2013. An MIT Tech Review profile of the company from 2014 said that C8 simply couldn’t fix the variability problem — where readings differ from person to person — before it ran out of money.
A technique called Raman Spectroscopy has seen some promise both in the above example and in other projects. In 2018, a group of researchers at the University of Missouri and MIT found that a laser, through a fiber optic cable, could be used to monitor for glucose when pressed against the wrist. At the time, researchers said that the system could offer readings comparable to a finger-prick test.”
Can Apple Watch pull it off?
However, to date we see no sign of noninvasive blood sugar monitoring on Apple Watch. With the large number of diabetes patients who require daily blood sugar monitoring, such a wearable would prove very exciting. Hopefully we won’t need to wait much longer to find out more.
Where would this rank on your wish list of future wearable innovations? Let us know in the comments below.