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From finger pricks to lasers: Apple’s vision for non-invasive blood glucose monitoring

Apple is, reportedly, developing non-invasive blood glucose monitoring for a future version of its smartwatch. The technology employs optical absorption spectroscopy to test glucose levels without the need for a skin prick.

How does Apple’s non-invasive glucose monitoring technology work?

Apple has always been on the cutting edge of innovation, and its latest project is no exception. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the company is making significant strides in non-invasive blood glucose monitoring technology. When it becomes available, the technology will allow diabetics and others to test their blood glucose levels without the need for a skin prick.

Apple is working on a silicon photonics chip that will use optical absorption spectroscopy to shine a laser light under the skin to determine the concentration of glucose in the body. The technology is currently in the “proof-of-concept” stage, but it is viable and needs to be condensed into a wearable size.

The prototype device is currently sized similarly to an iPhone and can be attached to a person’s arm. This is a significant improvement from the previous version that required a tabletop.

The technology sounds familiar

Apple previously worked with Rockley Photonics to develop glucose monitoring sensors and chips. We actually had high hopes for that collaboration. The absorption spectroscopy Rockely was developing had the ability to monitor glucose, hydration, blood pressure, alcohol level, core body temperature and more.

The plan was for the first devices with the Rockley Photonics sensor to roll off the production line towards the end of this year or early in 2024. Unfortunately, in late January, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York. According to regulatory filings, this is less than two years after going public by combining with SC Health Corp. Apple was supposedly one of their biggest investors.

In its bankruptcy petition, Rockley listed assets of at least $50 million and liabilities of at least $100 million. The Chapter 11 filing allows the company to continue operations while a restructuring plan is approved. So perhaps it is not the end of the road for them.

It could also be the case that Apple is taking up the mantle and continuing to develop Rockley Photonics sensors. It is certainly a possibility.

Apple’s secretive Exploratory Design Group

Apple’s Exploratory Design Group (XDG) has hundreds of engineers working on this project, but the technology is still years away. So don’t expect to find glucose monitoring capabilities in the Series 9 watch.

According to Bloomberg, the XDG is Apple’s most secretive project, comparable to Google’s X research and development project. Apple has, apparently, spent millions of dollars developing non-invasive glucose monitoring technology.

Steve Jobs directed Apple to begin work on glucose monitoring after purchasing RareLight in 2010. Before transitioning to the XDG, Apple used a startup called Avolante Health LLC to work quietly on the project in a secret facility for many years.

The future of non-invasive glucose monitoring technology

For the past ten years, Apple has been testing the under-skin glucose detection technology on people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as those who have not been diagnosed with diabetes. Apple hopes to be able to warn people if they are prediabetic, allowing them to make lifestyle changes before full-blown diabetes develops.

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Bloomberg says, Apple’s regulatory team is in the early stages of negotiating government approval for the technology. When it finally makes its way into a real-word product – the technology will revolutionise the way we monitor glucose levels, eliminating the need for skin pricking for blood testing.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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