Apple's Breakthrough Diabetes Monitoring Future on its AppleWatch Shows BigTech's Healthcare Prowess
🩺 Wearable devices that can do this will bring a "new normal".
It’s Saturday and I don’t usually write on the weekend, but sometimes I do when news is too good for me not to try to unpack. I’m not sure how much A.I is implicated in this no-prick glucose monitoring, but as BigTech enters the healthcare field more and more, it’s very impactful.
Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple are all really serious about the intersections with Healthcare.
I will try my best to cite the relevant sources but here I am curating directly the news from multiple sources. Apple has made notable progress on noninvasive blood glucose monitoring technology, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.
I guess Apple will push its AppleWatch devices with its own BNPL (called Apple Pay Later). How many of us can afford an $800 smart watch wearable device? But what if it helps you manage your diabetes? Inflation has increased the costs of healthcare in the U.S. to an enormous degree since the pandemic.
Silicon Photonic Chips that use Optical Absorption Spectroscopy
So according to the sources Apple has done the unthinkable in terms of innovation. To test glucose levels without blood, Apple is developing a silicon photonics chip that uses optical absorption spectroscopy to shine light from a laser under the skin to determine the concentration of glucose in the body. The technology is in a "proof-of-concept" stage that is viable, but needs to be condensed to a size that can fit into a wearable.
Think of it as LiDAR for your blood glucose levels and it’s shocking.
💚 This for a wearable device is literally the holy-grail of health tracking.
Engadget notes 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. Much of my coverage of A.I. at the intersection of healthcare has to do with early diagnosis, screening and more personalized patient-centric care. This truly does fall into that category then.
Type 2 Diabetes is very Common in the U.S.
More than 37 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10), and approximately 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it.
Apple is in the process of miniaturizing the device and technology. At the current time, the prototype device is sized similarly to an iPhone and can be attached to a person's arm. That is smaller than a prior version that was big enough that it required a tabletop.
BigTech Convenience Coming to Healthcare
What a different world this would be for diabetes treatment though? According to Bloomberg, the goal of this secret endeavor — dubbed E5 — is to measure how much glucose is in someone’s body without needing to prick the skin for blood.
Apple known for its secrecy, managed to disguise the work behind a secretive health-care startup
After hitting major milestones recently, the company now believes it could event eventually bring it to market, likely integrated with its AppleWatch product, likely still a few years away.
👩🏽⚕️ Ubiquitous Health Monitoring is Just Around the Corner
Apple who have increased their lead in the wearables market to an ungodly dominance, can now leverage this breakthrough for further entry into the future of Healthcare. It would literally be a game-changer for diabetes patients and the consumer wearables market.
Indeed in recent years the AppleWatch is the perfect tool for an aging population that directly interfaces with their health if you think about it. The Apple Watch has increasingly become more of a tool to monitor health, with features like a heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, body temperature sensors, assessing blood oxygen levels, and women’s health tracking.
While this isn’t strictly A.I. news, it really is related to my coverage of Healthcare in my “Benefactor” section of this publication, which you can dig into more with a premium subscription, free posts lock into the archives after a few days time.
The unique value proposition of being a paid supporter is following my relentless curation and coverage of the intersections of A.I. news in society and business. So this includes basically a lot more content (more than you can reasonably read in a given week, I might add).
A 600 Million Healthcare Condition
The market opportunity: Diabetes is a serious chronic condition in the US, with 37.3 million people (11.3% of the population) diagnosed in 2019, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But this is also about healthcare accessibility on a global scale. In 2021, Approximately 537 million adults (20-79 years) are living with diabetes. The total number of people living with diabetes is projected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045. 3 in 4 adults with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries.
Part of the Legacy of Steve Jobs
Engadget notes this endeavor by Apple perhaps actually began as far back as 2010, when an ailing Steve Jobs had his company buy blood glucose monitoring startup RareLight. RareLight’s founder, Bob Messerschmidt, told Bloomberg this could not have been a reality if Apple hadn’t purchased RareLight more than a decade ago.
Just like LiDAR has changed everything from archaeology to self-driving car sensors for autonomous vehicles, Optical Absorption Spectroscopy sounds like a very promising tech for a variety of things above and beyond Diabetes.
What I like about this story is the journalists and rampant speculation around the future of healthcare and new kinds of health monitoring in real-time. UK health tech firm Rockley Photonics recently confirmed in an SEC filing that Apple has been its largest customer for the past two years, and that it has a continuing deal to develop future products. Rockley's focus has been on sensors that track blood glucose, pressure and even alcohol levels, suggesting that at least one of these features will be available in a future Apple Watch.
Rumours around Apple products are pretty fun to follow if you are a tech geek of any kind, but the gadgets kind in particular. To be fair, I think YouTube is better for that than a Newsletter publication.
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