Rockley Photonics has published a White Paper detailing the preliminary results of their study on measuring hydration. Their wearable will ultimately be able to provide a real-time hydration index customised to the individual user.
The company has previously published results of a number of other human trials. This includes core temperature functionality of their spectrometer-on-a-chip platform, along with a blood pressure study. Both were met with success.
A couple of months ago, Rockley announced it has teamed up with healthcare technology manufacturer Medtronic to further develop their platform. The partnership with the Minnesota-based company will help scale up the operating in preparation for public release. It will also help with getting the neccesary approvals from the FDA.
How Rockley Photonics will report on hydration
A further hint they are still on track to release their clinic-on-the-wrist in the next year or two comes with this latest hydration study. It provides the initial human testing results and details on how the technology will work.
Hydration tracking doesn’t exist on the current crop of fitness trackers and smartwatches. Most famously, an outfit called LVL ran a crowdfunding project a number of years back on a wearable which was supposed to be able to do this. They faced years of delays, frustrated and angry backers – and ultimately decided to give them their money back.
Since there it has been pretty quiet on this front and no wearable brand has made claims about hydration tracking. Having said that, we did review last year the Gatorade GX Sweat Patch. It has the ability to track hydration during exercise but this is a stick on wearable that you have to replace with another one after each use. So not quite the same thing.
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Rockley Photonics aims to fill this gap. Their photonics-based sensing solution has the potential to monitor body hydration levels on a continuous basis and provide real-time results. The company says the tech they’ve developed can measure concentration changes of water within the interstitial space. The multiple laser wavelengths penetrate the skin at varying depths to target water spectra features specific to water.
The sensor applies the principle that changes in the concentration of components within the skin (collagen, lipids, and water) can be observed by monitoring water absorption. As water in the dermis diminishes, the concentration of solutes become higher, thereby changing the degree of water absorption.
Here’s a diagram demonstrating the skin-probing capabilities of Rockley’s Spectrophotometer.
In their preliminary human studies, Rockley researchers examined hydration levels before, during and after exercise on 23 participants. The results show the Rockley model was successfully able to predict dehydration with high probability, before this becomes an issue.
The idea is to ultimately develop a Hydration Index. This would be tailored to the individual as we all have different hydration needs. The metric would boil all the complexities of hydration measurement into a colour-coded numerical indicator. It would, in real-time, provide people with a simple value they could view to understand their current hydration needs.
While these are still early stage results, they do provide hope we could soon see hydration tracking as part of the standard feature-set of smartwatches and fitness trackers. A number of large brands are linked with Rockley Photonics, including Apple which is said to be their biggest investor. We will continue to follow the company’s progress as its platform promises to change the wearables industry from the ground up!
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