Apple is reportedly close to creating a noninvasive glucose test for diabetics through a new sensor on its Apple Watch. The technology has been in the works since 2010, when then-Apple CEO and founder Steve Jobs bought out RareLight, a small startup that crafted ideas for noninvasive blood glucose monitoring.
The technology may still be years away, but if it is approved, sources told Bloomberg it will measure diabetics’ glucose levels but could also be used as a preventative measure, with the goal of also being able to alert people who are pre-diabetic. Apple uses a chip technology called silicon photonics combined with absorption spectroscopy, which measures reflected light to assess blood sugar levels.
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.
Although test data for Apple’s latest endeavor to calculate glucose levels have not been peer-reviewed, sources told Bloomberg it is in the proof-of-concept stage. Sources also told the outlet that the technology is too big at this point, and that it needs to be smaller in order to be used in a wearable device.
Apple did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 10 Americans are diagnosed with diabetes in the United States. Currently, they can manage their condition by pricking their finger to test their glucose levels or by attaching patches produced by Dexcom or Abbott Laboratories to their skin.
Apple’s goal of producing a noninvasive technology has the potential to offer a more convenient option for some of the more than 37 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. alone. However, the company’s data would need to be evaluated independently before its glucose technology could be released to the public.
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. The deal ultimately happened, he said, because of “Jobs’s vision of health care combined with technology.”