Image source: Polar

Polar is actively looking to build a smartwatch with real-time glucose monitoring

Polar is looking to integrate an electro-plasmonic chip in a smartwatch that would be able to monitor glucose through perspiration.

This is according to the Finnish Research Impact Foundation, a government funded organization that works to strengthen public-private partnerships research. Since its launch in 2019, the Foundation has invested some 2 million euros into 11 academia-industry projects. The goal is to reinvigorate the Finish industry through world-class research.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

As originally posted by one of the users on the Polar Vantage Users Facebook group, one of the projects funded by The Finnish Research Impact Foundation is a collaborative effort between the University of Oulu and Polar Electro Oy. And it’s a rather exciting project for those of us into wearable tech.

Founded 44 years ago, Polar is a well known manufaturer of fitness bands, smartwatches and other smart sports gear. In fact, the Finnish-based company is credited with developing the first wireless heart rate monitor. Its Vantage series is popular amongst sports watch lovers. The University of Oulu, on the other hand, is one of the largest universities in Finland. It boasts some 13,000 students and 2,900 staff.


Polar sweat tracking smartwatch

According to the project description, the University of Oulu and Polar Electro Oy are exploring whether an electro-plasmonic chip integrated in a smartwatch could be used to monitor perspiration. Sweat is one of the next frontiers when it comes to fitness tracking, along with hydration, glucose tracking and more.

The liquid contains a lot of information on a person’s health such as stress, muscle cramping, cholesterol – the list goes on. It can also be used to estimate blood sugar levels. Which is the ultimate goal of the endeavor – to develop something on your wrist that can be used for real-time, non-invasive monitoring of sweat glucose.

“A smartwatch could monitor sweat molecules and produce non-invasive information about the user’s health,” said principal investigator Jian-An Huang.

We are yet to see something that can be used to track sweat that works from the wrist. Perhaps the closest we’ve come is the Gatorade Gx Sweat Patch. But this is quite different as its a stick-on patch that mostly provides info on hydration. In our review we note that, it could be useful for those at least semi-serious about training to use once or twice but it has limited use beyond that.

Approved funding for Polar’s project totals 189 346 €. The website listing is very recent and is amongst other collaborative research efforts that were started in 2021.


This is the future

It is not at all surprising that Polar is conducting this type of research. But the Finnish Research Impact Foundation listing is the first concrete evidence we’ve come across that the company is looking to expand into glucose tracking.

We seem to be on the cusp of big developments in sensor technology. Blood pressure tracking from the wrist (which doesn’t need regular calibration with the traditional thing), is right around the corner. Valencell, amongst others, is putting the finishing touches on their approach to do this. Apple, Garmin, Fitbit and brands are also looking into other tech that has the potential to change the health and fitness wearable industry from the ground up.

Non-invasive glucose tracking has been on people’s wish list for a very long time. Polar’s approach is different from another approach we’ve heard so much about in recent months. That one comes from Rockley Photonics. They are apparently ready to test out a unique spectrometer-on-a-chip platform. If all goes according to plan, next year we might be getting watches that can monitor body hydration, alcohol, lactate, glucose trends and much more from the wrist.

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