Image source: Rockley Photonics

From breakthrough to bankruptcy & back: The Rockley Photonics saga

Rockley Photonics, once on the brink of revolutionising wearable tech with its Bioptx sensors, encountered a significant setback with a bankruptcy filing earlier this year. But the company is now looking to get back on track.

The Rockley Photonics journey

During the second half of 2022, Rockley Photonics made headlines by securing its inaugural commercial order for the Bioptx biosensor-equipped wearables. The company was optimistic about delivering these advanced devices to its initial customers by year’s end. They had an ambitious strategy to ramp up production in 2023. Apple was rumoured to be one of its customers.

However, the journey encountered a significant setback. At the onset of 2023, Rockley Photonics found itself navigating financial challenges, leading to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in January. The company spent months dealing with these issues, concluding the bankruptcy process in the summer. But it seems, Rockley emerged from this period retaining all its key customer contracts and continuing its technological development initiatives.

In an announcement made yesterday, Rockley revealed that it has started the process of showcasing the Bioptx sensor and its cloud-based platform to potential buyers. The company is, apparently, seeking to re-establish its position in the market and drive forward its vision for wearable technology.

We don’t know what to make of this. Initially their technology seemed very promising to us – it looked like the next step in wearable tech. Let’s hope they really will get back on track.

What’s so special about the technology?

The tech company is hoping to be behind the revolution in next generation wearables. To this end they are developing a clinic-on-the-wrist tech solution. It works by utilising a unique spectrometer-on-a-chip platform. Rockley have managed to shrink down the size of a regular spectrometer and increase the signal-to-noise ratio as compared to a full size machine.

Rockley Photonics

An important difference with current LED technology is that the Rockley Photonics chip can capture higher wavelengths on the invisible spectrum (in addition to the visible spectrum). This allows it to capture a wider range of health data than typical sensors built into fitness trackers and smartwatches, non-invasively, continuously and with clinical grade precision.

What’s the timeline?

The company has been running a number of tests in the last two years to confirm accuracy of individual bio-markers. This includes human studies for the base metrics including heart rate, heart rate variability, breath rate, blood oxygen, core body temperature (which is better than skin temperature of current wearables) and hydration. The last of these is something that is not available at the moment from mainstream wearable brands. Imagine something on your wrist letting you know in real time, with medical-grade accuracy – how hydrated you are! Blood pressure is expected to follow 12 months later.

Here’s the timeline that was published prior to the bankruptcy announcement.

Rockley Photonics

Here’s a detailed timeline of product development from the investor presentation at the time.

Rockley Photonics

Bioptx band vs VitalSpex

The Bioptx band is a standalone wearable for medical settings. It is expected to have the core metrics. Apart from breath rate, all of these have been in the human study phase.

A more advanced Pro version of the band with additional metrics (glucose, lacatate and alcohol) was planned for the end of 2026. Additional vitals metrics to be added after that include urea, creatine, albumin, hemoglobin and bilirubin.

Parallel to the Bioptx band there is something called VitalSpex. This is the same tech but in the form of a chip that can be built into smartwatches and fitness bands. It can be used by other wearable tech brands with plug-and-play integration into their own products.

Rockley Photonics

Rockley says its technology is yet to receive FDA clearance, and the company is positioning its first Bioptx band iteration for casual use, highlighting that medical-grade devices are anticipated in the second generation. Currently, the device’s measurements are aimed at assisting in personal well-being management, not for diagnosing or treating medical conditions, as per Rockley’s statement.

Relatedly, Rockley Photonics is advancing in developing a noninvasive glucose sensor. The connected platform aggregates data into a cloud-based system, accessible via the new API Developer Platform. This allows researchers and companies to utilize Rockley’s technology, customizing the Bioptx hardware and software for their health-tracking purposes.

If all goes according to plan these will be exciting developments which will really shake up the wearable tech industry. Instead of fitness tracking devices, a few years down the line we will have true health trackers on our wrists.

Like this article? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and never miss out!

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.