Biometric monitoring via wearables appears to be the Next Big Thing, as far as the biggest tech companies are concerned. Samsung is on its second generation of smartwatches (with a new generation already rumored), Google is expected to reveal much more about its Android Wear wearable platform next week, and Apple’s iWatch is allegedly coming to market this autumn.
However, for the perspective of the average user, biometrics are only so compelling. Sure, it’s neat to be able to monitor your heart rate from your wrist or track your steps, but that’s just it--they’re merely “neat” features. However, according to a Reuters report, the big aforementioned companies are all actively pursuing the ability to monitor blood glucose levels with their smartwatches.
Now we’re talking.
Reuters says that some 29 million Americans are afflicted with diabetes at a cost of about $245 billion per year (as of 2012), and the global blood-sugar tracking market will be worth over $12 billion by 2017.
More importantly, giving diabetes sufferers a simple, non-invasive way to not just check but actively track
their glucose levels would be a huge deal. Those awful finger pricks could be a thing of the past.
Artist rendering of Apple iWatch
What form this technology takes, exactly, remains to be seen. Wearable devices could use electricity or even ultrasound technology to measure glucose through the skin, or perhaps the devices could use a light shined through the skin.
The report states that Apple, Samsung, and Google are all busily poaching the best medical science researchers and engineers and are also determining what sort of regulations will and should be imposed on these technologies. (For example, devices that monitor glucose could be classified as medical devices and thus would be subject to oversight by the FDA.)
In any case, it would be quite a breakthrough for millions of Americans to keep track of their blood sugar just as casually and easily as they check their email and text messages.